Dependence is not the only problem that drugs can cause. Drug use can affect a person's physical and mental health, their family life, relationships, and their work or study. It can get people into trouble with the law, or into financial difficulties.
Drug use and Crime
Heroin users are often involved in crime, such as prostitution, burglary or shoplifting, due to the high cost of their drug habit.
Many drugs, especially alcohol, can make people more aggressive or violent.
Drug-related diseases can be caused by the drug itself, (eg alcohol and liver damage) or by the way the drug is taken.
Injecting drugs can lead to serious illness or infection, mainly through the use of unsterile or shared injecting equipment. These diseases include HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, septicaemia (blood poisoning), abscesses and gangrene.
For many drugs, their effect on behaviour is the most dangerous effect. Many drugs can reduce normal inhibitions or release aggression.
The lifestyle of some drug users can be harmful, especially where they neglect their diet, live rough or are involved in crime.
This lifestyle, combined with the harmful effects of the drugs, can lead to a higher risk of dying young.
The drug user is not the only person to suffer harm - family and friends are affected too. Drug dependence can affect the family income, as money needed for food, clothes, rent etc is spent on drugs.
Alcohol is known to be a major factor in domestic violence and marriage breakdown.
Being a parent of a drug user can be a stressful and frightening experience.
Effects on Society in General
Drug misuse has many broader effects on the community and society in general. For example, a large amount of taxpayers' money is spent on law enforcement and on medical care.
Most of the drugs we talk about on this website can affect a person's co-ordination, reaction time and concentration. This makes activities such as driving or operating machinery more dangerous, for themselves and others.
In the workplace, drug misuse can lead to problems such as absenteeism, more sick days, workplace accidents, lower productivity or theft.