4 Health Impacts Of Substance Addiction

The moment that you drink any alcoholic beverage, smoke a cigarette or joint, pop a pill or inject any chemical substance into your body, you’re already conscious of the fact that you’re taking in foreign substances, even the dangerous kinds. At the heat of the moment, it seems like it’s the only thing to do, especially if it’ll help you feel better, get you high or acceptance among your peers. If you’re unaware of it yet, then do know that taking in addictive substances will put your health, and ultimately your life, in danger.

There are now over seven million people suffering from drug abuse, and one in four deaths arises from it. Additionally, health experts associate more disabilities, illnesses and deaths with drug use compared to other health conditions. People who are abusing dangerous substances also pose a higher risk of accidents, domestic violence and unintentional injuries. (1)

With that said, you might be wondering, how exactly do drugs affect the human body to the point that ultimately lead to one’s demise?

How drugs affect the body

Generally, narcotics change the way your body typically works. Even those that supposedly bring benefits (like marijuana) and prescription drugs (like Adderall) can have adverse effects. Essentially, when you consume addictive substances regularly, regardless of the usage, you’re only risking your physical and mental health.

For example, drug abuse or substance addiction will make you more susceptible to respiratory problems, coma, stroke, heart attack, blood disorders, panic attacks and the list goes on. Also, drugs can make you appear fatigued, malnourished and will have detrimental effects on your immune system.

As such, there are several studies showing that people who don’t seek immediate treatment for their drug addiction only have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. If you started using drugs at 18 years old and haven’t sought the help of reliable rehabilitation centres like Heal Behavioral Health, you might not exceed past 40. (2)

Unfortunately, only 14% of adults who have substance abuse sought treatment in the past year. Considering the impacts it brings, the estimated percentage is still too low. Thankfully, it’s still not too late to seek help if you or someone you know suffer from substance addiction. By admitting that you have a problem early on, the sooner you’ll get treatment, allowing you more time to rebuild your life. (1)

Health impacts of substance addiction

As mentioned, substance addiction can result in disorders or a wide range of short- and long-term negative effects. The health impact will also depend on the type of drug the person is using, how often and how much the person is taking the said drug. Drug dependency can also impact every organ in your body. (3)

To paint a clearer picture, here are some common health impacts of substance addiction:

  1. Brain function decline

The brain is wired in a way that if you do something pleasurable, it’ll command you to repeat the action. And this applies to any other activities like eating and exercising. Unfortunately, addictive drugs target the brain’s pleasure centres. So if you use a drug regularly, your brain will get used to the effect. If left unchecked, the drug will re-wire the chemical structure in your brain, changing how it reacts to pleasure. That’s why you may gradually crave a higher dosage to feel any effects.

Furthermore, since your brain is already dependent on a specific drug, you might find quitting difficult, especially since the withdrawal symptoms can be painful or difficult to manage. Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with withdrawal symptoms, so it’s still best to navigate through this road than become dependent on a dangerous substance.

Moreover, long-term substance addiction will affect how your brain functions. Drugs can cause memory loss, impaired judgment, difficulty learning and other cognitive difficulties. Specific drugs can also have severe effects on your brain. For instance, alcohol puts you at a higher risk for dementia. Inhalants can also damage your brain cells faster than any drugs. Lastly, marijuana is said to cause short-term memory loss. (2)

  1. Prone to cardiovascular and kidney diseases

As mentioned earlier, drugs can affect any organ in your body. Although any problems regarding your organs are a serious matter, one organ that deserves a spotlight is your heart. Drugs can affect your heart in numerous ways––from an abnormal heart rate to heart attacks. Additionally, injecting drugs can result in a collapsed vein and even bacterial infections of both your heart valves and blood vessels.

Here are some narcotics that can affect your heart:

  • Marijuana
  • Inhalants
  • Methamphetamine
  • Steroids
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin (4)

Furthermore, the use of MMDA drugs or any psychoactive drugs like ecstasy can interfere with your body’s ability to regulate your temperature. If abused, these drugs can result in temperature spikes (hypothermia), in turn leading to severe dehydration and long-term kidney failure or damage.

  1. Cancers

Generally, smoking any type of substance, like marijuana or tobacco, is linked to mouth, stomach, neck and lung cancers. Secondhand smoking will also increase the chances of an individual’s chance to develop lung cancer, among other health problems. If you don’t want to be prone to any type of cancer, it’s best to quit smoking and know some ways to detox your body properly.

  1. Harms the foetus

Substance addiction will pose a significant risk for both pregnant women and their babies. For one, drugs and alcohol contain toxic chemicals that are highly dangerous to an unborn baby. Also, a pregnant woman who uses drugs will harm the foetus due to the common side effects of drug they’re using, like exhibiting risky behaviours and neglect of one’s nutrition.

Drugs can also result in premature birth. Lastly, when a woman is addicted to a substance while they’re pregnant, the baby is prone to birth defects, as well as behavioural and learning problems.


As you can see, substance addiction presents negative health impacts. For one, narcotics can alter how your brain works, causing mood swings and even the ability to make proper judgments.

Drug use is also said to cause irreversible damage to your heart and kidneys and cause cancers. Lastly, it’s highly discouraged for a pregnant woman to use any illicit drugs. Not only will the drugs affect the woman’s health, but they may also bring irreversible damage to the baby.

It’s not too late to start anew. You can make the change today. Accept that you have an addiction and seek medical help immediately.

Author bio

Fortunate McKay has been in the rehabilitation industry for the past five years. His goal is to help those who are struggling to quit their dangerous habits. If he’s not conducting seminars and writing helpful blogs, he spends most of his time cycling and cooking healthy meals for his family and friends.


  1. “EFFECTS OF DRUG ABUSE AND ADDICTION”, Source: https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/faqs/effects-of-drug-abuse/
  2. “WHAT DO DRUGS REALLY DO YOUR BODY?”, Source: https://www.turnbridge.com/news-events/latest-articles/what-do-drugs-do-to-your-body/#
  3. “HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS”, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424848/
  4. “Top 10 Health Consequences of Drug Abuse”, Source: https://www.providence-recovery.com/blog/top-10-health-consequences-of-drug-abuse