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6 Consequences Of Addiction You May Face If It Goes Untreated

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6 consequences of addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health, 10% of U.S. adults suffer from drug addiction at some point in their lives and up to 75% of these individuals never receive the treatment they need.[1]

Unfortunately, substance abuse issues are widespread, and many people struggle to accept professional help. Whatever someone’s reasoning is for avoiding addiction treatment, doing so could lead to an array of serious consequences.

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, which means it will only continue to worsen over time. As you struggle with addiction, the substances you are abusing will begin to change your behavior, priorities, physical health, emotional stability, and overall ability to function in your daily life. In other words, leaving your addiction untreated could cause every aspect of your life to become negatively impacted by the consequences of long-term substance abuse.

Six potential consequences of leaving your addiction untreated include:

1. Social Isolation and Strained Relationships

One of the first behavioral signs of addiction is social withdrawal. While there are many reasons your addiction could cause you to socially isolate, it is usually out of fear of judgment. Staying away from your friends and family means that they won’t be able to make comments about your drug or alcohol use.

While this will allow you to abuse substances without the watchful eyes of concerned loved ones, eventually it will negatively impact you on an emotional level. Social interaction is vital for humans, as it provides connection and attachment that is necessary to your mental health. If you are actively abusing substances and not receiving any form of social interaction, your addiction will likely progress rapidly.

Even if you are not socially withdrawn during your addiction, eventually your relationships with your loved ones will become strained. While the behavioral changes that occur due to addiction are unintentional, they begin to affect the people around you. Over time, your family and friends will have to create boundaries to protect their own emotional health, which usually means they will stop interacting with you when you are not sober.

When you are actively abusing substances, you tend to get mixed up in some dangerous situations. For example, if you abuse illicit drugs you have to interact with drug dealers and other drug users, putting you in situations where illegal activity is common. Additionally, being addicted to illicit substances means your likelihood of being arrested for drug possession is extremely high.

Aside from drug-related crimes, suffering from addiction puts you at risk of engaging in other illegal activities. Many addicts will do whatever it takes to obtain their drug of choice. Whether this means stealing from your loved ones or engaging in illegal money-making schemes, addiction puts you at an increased risk of legal issues and incarceration.

Prison and legal problems are real consequences of addiction for many people. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to 65% of the prison population in the United States suffer from addiction.[2]

3. Worsened Mental Health Issues

Oftentimes, people develop addictions to self-medicate their mental health conditions. While drugs and alcohol can temporarily numb your emotions and feelings, over time substance abuse tends to worsen symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

For example, abusing substances can cause the brain to release a rush of dopamine, making you feel happy and euphoric. However, when you do this repeatedly your brain begins to rely on the drug to cause a release of the pleasure-inducing chemical. This means that if you struggle with a condition that causes deficits in dopamine levels, continuous substance abuse could perpetuate this issue, leading to worsened symptoms.

In addition to worsened mental health issues, some substances can cause new psychiatric symptoms to occur. Stimulant drugs like methamphetamine are notorious for causing episodes of psychosis.[3] Psychosis is a serious mental health phenomenon that involves symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.

4. Severe Physical Health Complications

Long-term substance abuse of any kind can lead to direct and indirect physical health complications, many of which are severe and life-threatening.

Some of these health complications include:[4]

  • Vehicular accidents due to driving while under the influence
  • Increased risk of sexually-transmitted diseases and blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis due to unsafe sex and needle sharing
  • Diminished immune system functioning and infections
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Neurological issues
  • Harm to your baby if you are pregnant, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)
consequences of addiction

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5. Increased Risk of Unemployment and Financial Distress

When you struggle with addiction, it can be difficult to function in your daily life. Your priorities may shift, causing obtaining and using drugs or alcohol to become your number one priority. When this happens, your performance and attendance at work tend to decline, and you may experience work-related consequences from your addiction.

According to an article on CNN, “About 1 in 6 unemployed workers are addicted to alcohol or drugs — almost twice the rate for full-time workers.”

Substance abuse and addiction increase your risk of becoming unemployed. When you are not able to obtain or maintain a job, it is almost guaranteed that you will experience financial distress. And, not having enough money to afford your drug of choice often leads to illegal activity.

In other words, untreated addiction can lead to unemployment, financial distress, and eventually incarceration due to your likelihood of engaging in illegal activity to obtain the substances you are addicted to.

6. Life-Threatening Overdoses

One of the main risks of addiction is overdose. If you manage to avoid an overdose in the early stages of your substance abuse, the longer your addiction goes untreated, the more likely you are to experience one.

As your addiction progresses you will build a tolerance, causing you to take larger amounts of the substance to experience the desired effect. Eventually, this may cause you to take such a large amount of the substance that you experience a life-threatening overdose.

It is also important to note that fentanyl is currently being found in many different drugs on the street, ranging from heroin to counterfeit prescription pills. Even taking a small amount of a drug that contains fentanyl could result in a fatal overdose.

Treating your addiction is extremely important because allowing it to progress could result in adverse consequences including overdoses and death.

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Contact Woburn Wellness Today to Get Connected With Life-Saving Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one suffer from a substance use disorder, attending professional treatment could save your life. Leaving addiction untreated can lead to an array of social, physical, mental, emotional, financial, and legal consequences. Untreated addiction can negatively impact every aspect of your life, often ending in jail, institutions, or death. Addiction treatment programs like Woburn Wellness will provide you with the support and tools you need to gain and maintain long-term recovery. Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment offers a person-centered program that fully recognizes and adheres to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) newly established definition that recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.


  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives
  2. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/criminal-justice
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027896/
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/addiction-health
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Medically Reviewed By

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC Clinical Director
Learn about Inessa Maloney

Inessa Maloney, MS, LMHC has been dedicated to the mental health and substance abuse field for a decade, providing her expertise to guarantee quality and accuracy.

  • Specializes in outpatient services with a focus on substance abuse
  • Expertise in reality-based therapy, CBT/DBT, and motivational interviewing
  • Holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling
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