Untreated addiction has devastating consequences, including disability, financial ruin and death. Although not everyone who does not receive treatment will face these devastating consequences, many will. Other risks of leaving addiction to drugs and alcohol unchecked include irreparable damage to one’s physical health, worsening mental health, legal and social problems, a breakup of families and interpersonal relationships as well as serious career setbacks.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a serious mental health disorder that can be successfully treated. But not everyone has access to treatment while others refuse to admit themselves to a treatment programme. Some people are court ordered into treatment if they remain unwilling despite the damage their addiction is causing to themselves as well as those around them.

Treatment can equip an addict with the critical components they need to get well and some people require a number of treatment episodes in order to become ready to recover.

However, those who do not get help risk long-term consequences that are sometimes irreversible.

Physical health

One of the main consequences of untreated addiction is a decline in physical health. Substance abuse takes a toll on the body, damaging internal organs and causing a range of health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, and lung problems. Chronic drinking and drugging can also weaken the immune system, making an individual more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Additionally, addiction can cause individuals to engage in risky behaviour, such as driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sex, which can put themselves and others at risk. Sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and hepatitis are some serious health risks related to unchecked addiction.

Mental health

Left unaddressed, addiction can cause or exacerbate existing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. It can also lead to the development of new mental health problems, such as problems with thinking, decision-making and memory. Some of this damage to the brain can be repaired but some is irreversible.

When an individual abuses drugs or alcohol, it can change the structure and function of their brain. For example, chronic alcohol use can shrink the brain and lead cognitive problems, long-term memory impairment and difficulties with problem-solving. Substance abuse can also alter the way the brain processes information, which can lead to the development of temporary or permanent psychosis.

The severity and frequency of permanent psychosis and brain damage can vary depending on the individual and the substance being abused.

Furthermore, prolonged drug and alcohol use can trigger intense withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia, which can cause significant emotional distress.

In some cases, untreated addiction to drugs or alcohol can lead to homelessness, unemployment, and other social problems. Individuals may also struggle with legal issues, such as arrests for drunk driving, drug-fuelled violence and being found in possession of illegal substances.

These can have a lasting impact on an individual’s life, including future job prospects and freedom to travel.

Relationship problems

Addiction almost always has devastating effects on an individual’s relationships with friends, family members, loved ones and coworkers.

The impact of addiction on families can be severe and long-lasting, leading to the estrangement of children, long-term resentments, and divorce.

Additionally, the behaviour associated with addiction, such as lying, cheating, and stealing, can also put a strain on relationships and damage trust within the family. It often takes a long time for an addict or alcoholic to win back the trust of their families after getting sober. This can be frustrating to the individual in recovery but a good treatment centre will help put this in perspective, encouraging recovering addicts to understand the full weight of how their using has impacted the ones they love.

Financial ruin and damage to careers

Addiction can have significant consequences not only on an individual’s personal life but also their financial stability and professional future. These problems occur as individuals may prioritise obtaining drugs or alcohol over paying bills or meeting other obligations.

The behaviour associated with addiction, such as neglect of responsibilities, poor work performance, and tardiness, can result in job loss or difficulty advancing in their career.

This is a particularly significant risk because it often impacts others, especially minors or others who may rely on the addict or alcoholic for financial support and to meet basic needs.

In some professions, addiction can also result in the loss of a license or certification, which can have significant consequences on an individual’s career and financial stability. For example, individuals in professions such as medicine or law may lose their license to practice if they struggle with addiction and are unable to meet the ethical and professional standards of their field. Addiction can also impact individuals in other careers, such as education, finance, and the arts, leading to difficulty advancing and achieving success in their chosen field.


Death is a tragic and all-too-common end result for many individuals who struggle with substance abuse, that can have a lasting impact on families and communities. One of the most common causes of death in individuals with untreated addiction to drugs or alcohol is overdose.

Suicide is another. Substance abuse can exacerbate existing mental health issues, and individuals may feel overwhelmed by the negative consequences of their addiction. In some cases, these feelings can lead to thoughts of suicide, and individuals may take their own lives as a result. Many also lose their lives as a result of accidents, particularly one the road, as well as due to violence or involvement with dangerous individuals.

The risks associated with untreated addiction to drugs or alcohol are severe and numerous. Addiction’s impact extends beyond the individual, however, and often families and entire communities suffer too.

Treatment can arrest the progression of an individual’s addiction and prevent some of these serious consequences. Accessing treatment has the power to prevent irreparable damage to an individual’s health, relationships and career as well as save their life.

Call us today on 081-444-7000 to find out more about our rehab treatment options at Changes.