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Effects of Drug Addiction
People addicted to drugs experience a wide array of physical symptoms. A "cocaine high", for instance, is followed by a “crash”: a period of anxiety, fatigue, depression and a strong desire to use more cocaine to alleviate the feelings of the crash. Marijuana and alcohol interfere with motor control, and are factors in many automobile accidents. Users of marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs may experience "flashbacks": recurrences of the drug’s effects that may last weeks or months after use. Abrupt abstinence from certain drugs results in withdrawal symptoms. For example, heroin withdrawal symptoms include vomiting, muscle cramps, convulsions and delirium. With the continued use of an addictive drug, tolerance develops; i.e., constantly increasing amounts of the drug are needed to duplicate the initial effect. Sharing hypodermic needles used to inject drugs 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 disinhibiting effect of some drugs, puts them at a higher risk of contracting AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Because the purity and dosage of illegal drugs are uncontrolled, drug overdose is a constant risk. There are over 10,000 deaths from drug abuse in the United States every year; the substances most frequently involved are cocaine, heroin, and morphine, often combined with alcohol or other drugs. Many drug users engage in criminal activity, such as burglary and prostitution, to raise the money to buy drugs. Alcohol and other drugs are associated with violent behavior.
Addiction in Families
The user’s preoccupation with the substance, plus its effects on mood and performance, can lead to marital problems and poor work performance. Drug use 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. Pregnant drug users have a much higher rate of low birth-weight babies. Many drugs (e.g., crack and heroin) cross the placental barrier, resulting in addicted babies who go through withdrawal soon after birth. Fetal alcohol syndrome can affect children of mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy. Pregnant women who acquire the AIDS virus through intravenous drug use pass the virus to their infant.
Effects on Society
Drug abuse affects society in many ways. In the workplace, drug and alcohol abuse is costly in terms of lost work time and low productivity. Drug users are more likely than non-users to have occupational accidents, endangering themselves and those around them. Over half of the highway deaths in the United States involve alcohol. Drug-related crime can disrupt neighborhoods, due to violence among drug dealers, threats to residents, and the crimes of the addicts. In some neighborhoods, younger children are recruited as lookouts and helpers because of the lighter sentences given to juvenile offenders, and guns have become commonplace among children and adolescents. The great majority of homeless people have either a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness; many have all three.
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