The Many Harmful Health Risks of Drug Use

Everyone knows the saying “drugs kill,” and while true, they also do a lot of damage on the way there. The health risks of drug use are immense, affecting everything in your body, from your memory to your skin, heart, and teeth.

At GateHouse Treatment, we’ve seen every type of addiction and its consequences. While there is a lot of overlap between drugs, some come with unique risks and conditions. Here is a list of some of the most common health risks of drug use, so there is no mistaking their long- and short-term dangers.

Health Risks of Alcohol Abuse

  • Liver disease: Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage and, in severe cases, liver disease, such as cirrhosis.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Alcohol addiction can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Cancer: Heavy alcohol use can increase the risk of several types of cancer, including liver, breast, colon, and esophageal cancer.
  • Mental health problems: Alcohol addiction can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
  • Cognitive impairment: Alcohol abuse can cause memory loss, cognitive impairment, and other brain damage, such as problems dementia from long-term alcohol abuse, known as “wet brain.”
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Heavy drinking can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies in several essential vitamins that aid the immune system, brain neurotransmitters, cell growth, wound healing, and carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Social problems: Alcohol can spur dangerous, risk-seeking behavior by lowering inhibitions and increasing chances of bodily harm, accidents, or sexually transmitted diseases.

Health Risks of Heroin Abuse

  • Overdose: One of the most immediate and dangerous risks of heroin addiction is overdose, which can result in coma, permanent brain damage, and even death.
  • Infectious diseases: Injection drug use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, leading to liver disease and other health problems.
  • Abscesses and infections: Injecting heroin can also lead to skin infections and abscesses (pus collections from needle sharing on the skin).
  • Respiratory depression: Heroin use can cause respiratory depression, leading to hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) and brain damage. Long-term use can cause respiratory problems, including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Damage to the cardiovascular system: Heroin use can damage the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and valves, pulmonary embolisms, heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related problems.
  • Mental health problems: Chronic heroin use can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
  • Physical dependence: Heroin use can lead to physical dependence, which can make it difficult to stop using the drug and can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches.

Health Risks of Meth Abuse

  • Cardiovascular problems: Meth use can cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, plaque buildup and body temperature, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems like arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) and cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood).
  • Respiratory problems: Meth use can cause damage to the lungs and respiratory system, leading to shortness of breath, coughing, and an increased risk of respiratory infections.
  • Dental problems: Meth can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems, often called “meth mouth.”
  • Neurological problems: Meth use can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive problems.
  • Psychiatric problems: Meth can cause anxiety, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and other mental health problems, leading to suicide attempts, self-harm, or violence against others. These effects can instill feelings of psychosis, such as the bugs crawling under the skin.
  • Skin problems: Meth can cause sores, rashes, and other skin problems due to poor hygiene, reduced blood flow, and increased scratching. These are known as “meth sores,” commonly seen around the mouth and on the lips of addicts.
  • Infectious diseases: Meth use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, primarily through sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sexual activity.

Health Risks of Prescription Opioid Abuse

  • Overdose: One of the most severe risks of opioid addiction is overdose, which can be fatal. Opioids depress the central nervous system, slowing breathing and heart rate. An overdose can cause respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
  • Physical dependence: Opioid addiction can cause physical dependence, meaning the body becomes reliant on the drug to function normally. When opioid use stops, withdrawal symptoms can occur, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills, and muscle aches.
  • Mental health problems: Opioid addiction can also lead to mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and mood swings. In some cases, addiction can trigger or worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.
  • Chronic pain: Long-term use of opioids can do the opposite of their short-term effects and increase sensitivity to pain, leading to chronic pain conditions.
  • Respiratory problems: Opioids can depress the respiratory system, leading to breathing problems, including respiratory failure.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Opioids can slow digestion, leading to constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Long-term use of opioids can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, leading to various problems, including infertility, sexual dysfunction, and low testosterone levels.

Health Risks of Xanax Abuse

  • Overdose: Xanax can cause respiratory depression, which means breathing slows down. When Xanax and other depressant drugs (like alcohol or opioids) are combined, the slowdown can be dangerous.
  • Cognitive impairment: Long-term use of Xanax can lead to cognitive impairment, including memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and confusion.
  • Liver damage: As Xanax metabolizes in the liver, long-term use can cause damage to this organ. This damage can range from mild to severe, leading to liver failure.
  • Mood disorders: Xanax addiction can lead to the development of mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which may persist even after a person stops using the drug.
  • Cardiovascular problems: Long-term Xanax abuse can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Increased risk of accidents: Xanax use can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of car crashes or falls.

GateHouse Treatment and Fighting the Health Risks of Drug Use

You don’t have to quit alone. At GateHouse Treatment, our experts provide top-of-the-line care that treats not just the symptoms of addiction, but the entire person, deserving of dignity and compassion. On top of outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs, we also offer innovative wellness methods like adventure therapy and biofeedback training.

Reach out by (855) 448-3588 or write to us through our website and start the road to complete recovery.

GateHouse Treatment Editorial Staff
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