The Unseen Effects of Drugs and Alcohol Abuse

The Unseen Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

In recent years, substance abuse of drugs or alcohol has grown by a notable (and scary) amount. Statistics show that 19.7 million different Americans aged 12 and older grappled with some substance abuse disorder in 2017. Almost 74% of that population is dealing with alcohol abuse vs. drugs, and 1 in 8 are abusing both substances simultaneously.

While there are some surface effects of drug/alcohol abuse that are obvious to the eye, there are also a lot of unseen effects that get missed, but still, have a pronounced impact. Here’s a closer look at some of the more surprising ways that substance abuse can take over your life.

Financial Impact

There are a variety of different ways that substance abuse has a financial impact on both a macro and micro scale. On a macro level, substance abuse costs the U.S. around $740 billion a year. This primarily goes to:

  • Lost productivity at work
  • Crime-related costs
  • Healthcare expenses

On a micro or personal level, though, substance abuse can wreak havoc on your finances as well. Many drug abusers have a difficult retaining steady work, either due to failure to pass drug tests or inability to perform job duties while intoxicated. This creates a negative downward spiral where people need money to fuel their addictions but are unable to get a steady stream of income to do so, potentially resulting in dangerous or illegal behavior.

What about the other end of the equation, the so-called “functional abusers?” These people do exist, fully capable of maintaining a job while abusing drugs, but there is a financial toll. The money that goes towards their habits could be invested towards a more productive avenue, like retirement, college, or moving to a better place to live. 

Unprotected Sex

By nature, alcohol and other drugs lower your inhibitions, which increases the likelihood of sexual activity, particularly in unprotected sex. Drug abuse has been linked with STIs and diseases like HIV/AIDS since they first came to prominence mainly for this reason. Complicating things is the fact that certain intravenous drugs can become a vector for these diseases, even if you aren’t engaging in sexual activity due to sharing needles. Another potential consequence of unprotected sex is unwanted pregnancy. This creates an even larger issue, as a person dealing with drug addiction or abusive habits is likely unsuited for the rigors of parenthood.

Relationship Issues

An excellent social/support system is often a crucial part of a successful lifestyle, but by nature, substance abuse tends to erode at that. Many people who are stuck in the rigors of addiction may end up unwittingly alienating close friends and family, whether they are aware of the addiction or not. This is ironic considering that a support system is often helpful for stopping the cycle of abuse. 

Legal Impact

The legal impact can take a variety of different forms, from people stealing to fuel their addiction to crimes while intoxicated like drunk driving or assault. Besides, depending on the drug that you are abusing, merely possessing it at all may be considered a crime.

Disease/Death

While some may be quick not to label this as an “unseen” effect, the fact remains that repeated alcohol or drug abuse can lead to prolonged and sometimes chronic health issues. Perhaps one of the most common examples is the impact that prolonged alcohol abuse has on the liver, limiting its essential functions as well as contributing to major health issues like cirrhosis. Even if you never overdose or get in an accident in an impaired state, substance abuse still has an impact on health. 

It’s easy to forget some of the less than obvious impacts that abusing drugs and alcohol can have on your body and your lifestyle, which makes it all that more important to be vigilant. If you do want to drink occasionally, be sure to practice moderation, and make sure that you’re not sliding into abuse or using any substances that are out-and-out dangerous at any dosage. Equally important is making sure that if you do have a history of abuse, that you try to deal with some of these non-direct effects, like seeking out counseling and getting tested for HIV and STDs.