Most people know that withdrawal is one of the main medical consequences of drug abuse. With some drugs, withdrawal can turn into a serious or life-threatening issue. However, there are many other long-term health risks related to drug abuse.
HIV And Hepatitis
Both of these diseases are spread through blood-to-blood contact. People who use injectable drugs face the highest risk of contracting them. HIV attacks the immune system, which is already weakened from drug use. Hepatitis C may take years for symptoms to appear but can cause tiredness, constant flu-like symptoms, jaundice and even death from liver failure if left untreated.
Drug abuse can lead to long-term heart damage and abnormal rhythm. Adverse effects may also be sudden and life-threatening or fatal. These are the other common sudden problems:
- Bacterial valve infection
- Collapsed vein
- Cardiac arrest
People who smoke their drugs can wind up with chronic bronchitis, which is painful and can be debilitating. Emphysema is even worse and causes a feeling of breathing in and not being able to completely exhale. It also makes breathing difficult. Lung blockages and worsening asthma are two other possible respiratory effects of drug abuse.
Stomach And Intestinal Problems
Drugs such as cocaine are known to cause stomach pain. Any drug can cause nausea and even vomiting after ingestion. The same is true with prescription painkillers. People who abuse drugs may wind up with these other unpleasant effects:
- Stomach ulcers
- Chronic indigestion and bloating
- Stomach pain
PCP, inhalants and steroids are known to cause musculoskeletal problems. They interfere with the body’s normal hormone balance and can trigger the hormones responsible for growth and healthy bones. For teens, abusing these substances results in stunted growth. For adults, they lead to weaker muscles and bones.
The kidneys are vital for carrying waste out of the body. Heroin, PCP and inhalants can lead to neuropathy from body temperature changes and muscle deterioration. This causes the kidneys to fail, which requires costly dialysis for treatment.
Abuse of prescription or street drugs can lead to irreversible liver damage. The liver cannot process all of the toxins and breaks down. Steroids, inhalants and heroin are three common offenders.
Mental Health Problems
Since all drugs affect chemicals and receptors in the brain, abuse can lead to long-term problems and imbalances that present as mental health changes. These are the most common effects:
Hallucinations and memory loss are two of the most common effects. Any substance that alters brain chemistry enough to cause euphoria can also cause irreversible damage. Some drugs drastically raise blood pressure, which can lead to a ruptured blood vessel and stroke.
Drug abuse disrupts hormone balance. This can lead to changes in mood or serious health problems. For example, steroid abuse can lead to infertility and testicular shrinkage in men.
Pregnant women who abuse drugs can cause their baby to be born early, have a low birth weight or have serious cognitive and developmental problems. Drug abuse can also lead to a miscarriage.
Some of these health problems that are caused by drug abuse can eventually turn into cancer. Mouth, throat, lung, stomach and liver cancer are common among people with a history of drug abuse. For example, a person with hepatitis C may wind up with liver damage, scarring and eventually liver cancer. A person who smokes illegal drugs may wind up with throat or mouth cancer.
The short-term euphoria is not worth the widespread health risks, chronic illnesses or death. For those who are willing to quit, treatment programs are available and highly effective. Short-term drug abuse may still lead to some permanent problems. However, proper treatment can lessen the severity of the problems or prevent additional ones from developing. There are also assistance programs for those who qualify.