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Long-Term Psychological Effects of Addiction


If you or a loved one is battling an addiction, you know how challenging it may be to escape this vicious cycle. Addiction impacts every element of life; thus, recovery takes time and patience.

There are many long-term psychological effects of addiction. Among them include suicidal thoughts and feelings, depression, and anxiety. These problems may take months or years to resolve and require professional help.

Addiction and the Brain

Substance use affects the brain by changing the brain’s reward circuitry, making us more likely to seek out drugs.

Addiction and the mind are deeply intertwined. Substance use affects the brain as drugs can stimulate neurons because their chemical makeup resembles a natural neurotransmitter in the body.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is associated with reinforcing the abuse of drugs. It has both reward and pleasure aspects (like cocaine) and is responsible for feelings of motivation and drive (like alcohol).

Amphetamine and cocaine usage, for example, can lead to excessively high levels of natural neurotransmitter release from neurons or stop the process of normal recycling (reuptake). Additionally, this intensifies or obstructs neural transmission.

The dysregulation of neurotransmitters can explain why some people find it challenging to give up their alcohol or drug addiction. This happens even though they know how severe the consequences can be.

Because the drug has rewired their brains to become more dependent, many addicts relapse after treatment. 

What are Some Short-Term Psychological Effects of Addiction?

The short-term effects of drugs may be caused by withdrawal from the substance and can look like this:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite loss
  • Changes in libido

Symptoms may also be physical and manifest as headaches, stomach aches, nausea, and sudden weight changes.

Long-Term Psychological Effects of Addiction

The long-term effects of addiction aren’t just physical and psychological. They are all too often emotional, financial, social, and personal.

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth directly affect mental health. They cause damage to the user’s ability to regulate emotions and suppress urges. This leads to high rates of anxiety and depression and could also affect the user’s ability to feel empathy for others.

The side effects mentioned above explain why some addicts may destroy personal relationships. They do this by stealing from loved ones to support their habits and prioritize substances over their relationships.

A significant concern is that repeated exposure to drug abuse causes damage to the structure of the brain. This can lead to behavioral issues. Such issues can then lead to criminal convictions, homelessness, joblessness, and mental illness.

Can Long-Term Psychological Effects Turn into a Dual Diagnosis?

Although there is no definitive answer, research suggests that up to 49.4% of those who used illicit drugs in the past year also had severe mental health issues.

The likelihood of having at least one psychiatric disorder is higher than average among people with substance use disorders. Unfortunately, the same is true for people with psychiatric disorders: they are much more likely than others to depend on drugs or alcohol.

It’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms so treatment options can be addressed early on.

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

When someone has two or more mental health illnesses simultaneously, such as depression and drug abuse disorder, this is known as a dual diagnosis.

The effects of addiction may be long-lasting, which could cause other psychological issues later in life.

Some common disorders that can be presented along with addiction include:

People who suffer from these disorders and addiction often struggle to find treatment options. This is why it’s so important to find a treatment option that can treat all disorders associated with addiction.

Whether the mental health condition is the root cause of the addiction or the byproduct of long-term substance use, it’s critical to treat all aspects of the addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment and Long-Term Psychological Effects of Addiction

Dual diagnosis patients respond best to therapies that target their mental health conditions as well as their substance addiction concerns. This includes medication management, behavioral therapies, recovery support groups, and individual therapy.

Agape Treatment Center can address the dual diagnosis by creating a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan to ensure the individual receives a long-term recovery from their mental illness and addiction.

Some therapeutic methods offered at Agape Treatment Center are:

Do you want to learn more about Agape’s mental health treatment options? Give us a call or visit our mental health treatment page to learn more.

How to Get Help for Mental Health and Addiction

Addiction is a complex problem with no single cause or cure. It involves genetic factors, environmental influences, psychiatric disorders, biochemical processes in the brain, psychological responses, and social behavior.

Since addiction has many components, this also means that there are many ways to treat addiction. Treatment can be effective if it addresses all aspects of the user’s addiction.

If you’re interested in getting a free assessment or want to learn more about the admissions process at Agape Treatment Center, click here.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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