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The harmful effects of drug abuse include changes in the user's brain, body, and sprit. Drug abuse is an ever increasing epidemic spreading throughout the United States. People abuse not only street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crack, meth, and marijuana but also prescription drugs including Valium, Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Ritalin.
Drug abuse comes with a heavy price. The harmful effects of drug abuse on the user can range from mild itching to comas and even death. In addition to the physical effects of drug abuse, there are many psychological consequences too. Perhaps the worst psychological consequence is the drug abuser becoming addicted. Addicts find that they are no longer able to distinguish between right and wrong and make poor judgment choices.
Scientists have determined that most drugs of abuse initially affect the brains reward system. This part of the brain rewards us when we do the things necessary to survive such as eating, drinking, having sex to perpetuate our species, and so on. Cells in this part of the brain release chemicals that make us feel good (reward us) when we engage in these behaviors and teach us to repeat them. Drugs mimic the brain's natural chemicals. Instead of teaching us to repeat survival behaviors, drugs teach us to take more drugs. If drug use continues, the harmful effects of drugs abuse gradually change the user's brain and lead to drug addiction.
Another effect of drug abuse is tolerance which means increasing amounts of the drug are needed to duplicate the initial effect. Other harmful effects of drug abuse include sharing hypodermic needles. This dramatically increases the risk of contracting AIDS and some types of hepatitis. In addition, increased sexual activity among drug users, both in prostitution and from the uninhibited effect of some drugs, also puts them at a higher risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Many drug users also engage in criminal activity, such as burglary and prostitution, to raise the money to buy drugs. Some drugs, especially alcohol, are often associated with violent behavior.
Lastly, the effects of drug abuse can lead to the user's preoccupation with drugs, which causes changes in their mood and performance in life. This in turn can lead to marital problems and poor work performance or dismissal. The harmful effects of drug abuse can disrupt family life and create destructive patterns of codependency. That is, the spouse or whole family, out of love or fear of consequences, inadvertently enables the user to continue using drugs by covering up, supplying money, or denying there is a problem.
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