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The Social Effects of Drugs: How Addiction Impacts Your Life

A drug is defined as any chemical substance that impacts the mind and the body, but drug use can have major effects on the user’s social life and relationships. Many addiction sufferers experience a loss of status, friends, significant others, family, and connection. The good news is that with treatment, the vast majority of former drug users regain lost relationships and social networks and build new, healthier ones when in recovery.

6 Minute Read | Published Oct 06 2023 | Updated Feb 23 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Norman Chazin
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Norman Chazin
Reviewed by

What Are the Effects of Drug Use on Your Social Life and Status?

The Social Effects of Drug Addiction

How does drug use cause social effects? It does so in many ways, but the primary one is through the effects of addiction. While all drug abuse is negative, when it rises to the level of a diagnosable substance use disorder, these impacts are greatly magnified.

The Social Impacts of Drug Dependence

One of the components of addiction is dependence. A person who is dependent on a substance will experience extremely unpleasant symptoms known as withdrawal if they stop taking that substance or reduce their dose. These symptoms can be traumatizing and in the case of some drugs, fatal. 

Many users will go to any length to avoid withdrawal, including committing crimes or acts of violence, injuring themselves, and backstabbing loved ones, to get more of their substance of choice. As you would expect, this often causes damage to close personal relationships.

Lost Time from Drug Use

Another component of addiction is that sufferers dedicate increasing amounts of their time to acquiring,  using, and recovering from using their substance of choice. This is especially the case with many illegal drugs which can be expensive and have long recovery periods. This takes time away from social, personal, and familial responsibilities and damages relationships. Not only is critical time missed, but loved ones often fairly feel slighted and abandoned.

Effects of Drug Use on Social Circles

Addiction sufferers typically begin to spend more and more time with those who share their addictions, frankly because they have similar interests and experiences, and often encourage each other. At the same time, they tend to isolate themselves from non-users who often judge them and try harder and harder to conceal their behaviors to avoid being judged and feeling shame. 

These factors combine to form a cycle where addiction sufferers increasingly lose healthy relationships with healthy people, and come to rely more and more on unhealthy relationships with unhealthy people. These unhealthy relationships and unhealthy people often worsen addictions and cause social damage. Tragically, unhealthy people will often deliberately sabotage the healthy relationships of others for their own benefit. Eventually, many, if not most. addiction sufferers find that their only relationships are based primarily or exclusively on their shared substance abuse.

Absence Caused by Drug Use

Addiction can even physically remove you from your loved ones, either by death or incarceration. Every year, more than 100,000 people die from drug use in the United States and more than 375,000 are incarcerated for drug-related offenses. That’s almost a half-million families that are losing time with their loved ones, many of them forever. It’s difficult, if not impossible to build and nurture relationships with someone who’s just not there.

Stop the Social Effects of Drug Use: Get Treatment Today

Many addiction sufferers fear that it is too late for them to rebuild their relationships, but that is not true. Most friends and family will gladly welcome a loved one back once they have exited active addiction and entered recovery. In fact, most would tell the addiction sufferer that it’s their greatest wish.

If you or a loved one want to start rebuilding the social damage caused by drug abuse, you can do it today. The team at Better Addiction Care is here to help. Get in touch with our team at (800) 429-7690 to learn more about the free resources we offer to those seeking substance abuse treatment.


bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021).
"Drug Use and Its Consequences."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020).
"Substance Use: Social and Health Consequences of Drug Misuse."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021).
"Behavioral Health Barometer: United States, Volume 7: Indicators as measured through the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet World Health Organization. (2019).
"The Health and Social Effects of Nonmedical Cannabis Use."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2020).
"Drugs in Focus: The Social and Health Consequences of Drug Use in Europe."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet Drug Policy Alliance. (2021).
"Social Costs of the Drug War."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020
bullet National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. (2021).
"The Social Costs of Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use in Australia."
Retrieved on September 09, 2020

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