You know that drugs wreak havoc on your body, that they are bad for you. After all, anyone who’s ever taken a middle school health class probably sat through a lesson or two on drug and alcohol abuse and the importance of prevention.
However, if you’re like most people, you may also be unaware of the full extent of the destructiveness of drug abuse—which is often both invisible and irreversible. Here’s a closer look at five insidious ways drugs destroy your health, as shared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
1. Drugs damage the cardiovascular system.
“Researchers have found that most drugs can have adverse cardiovascular effects, ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attack. Injection drug use can also lead to cardiovascular problems such as collapsed veins and bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves.”
The list of drugs known to adversely affect the heart is long and includes cocaine, DMT, GHB, heroin, inhalants, ketamine, khat, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, mescaline (peyote), methamphetamine, PCP, prescription stimulants, steroids, synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinone, and tobacco.
2. Drugs harm the lungs.
When most people think of the drug abuse and respiratory problems, they think of tobacco. However, a number of other drugs lead to lung problems, including cocaine, DXM, GHB, heroin, inhalants, ketamine, marijuana, PCP, and prescription opioids.
“Drug use can lead to a variety of respiratory problems. Smoking cigarettes, for example, has been shown to cause bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. Marijuana smoke can also cause respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis. Smoking crack cocaine can also cause lung damage and severe respiratory problems. The use of some drugs, such as opioids, may cause breathing to slow, block air from entering the lungs, or make asthma symptoms worse.”
3. Drugs can lead to kidney failure.
Kidneys serve an essential purpose by preventing the buildup of extra waste and fluid in the body while helping to stabilize electrolyte levels. Healthy kidneys also support everything from red blood cell production to strong bones. According to NIDA, some drugs—including heroin, ketamine, inhalants, MDMA, PCP, steroids, and synthetic cannabinoids—“may cause kidney damage or failure, either directly or indirectly, from dehydration, dangerous increases in body temperature, and muscle breakdown.”
4. Drugs can alter the brain.
Many people take drugs because of the euphoric feelings they lead to. However, these temporary feelings come at a long-term cost, including everything from seizure damage, stroke, and the destruction of brain cells. But, says NIDA, there are other consequences as well:
“Drug use can also lead to addiction, a brain disorder that occurs when repeated drug use leads to changes in the function of multiple brain circuits that control pleasures/reward, stress, decision-making, impulse control, learning and memory, and other functions. These changes make it harder for those with an addiction to experience pleasure in response to natural rewards—such as food, sex, or positive social interactions—or to manage their stress, control their impulses, and make the healthy choice to stop drug seeking and use.”
Many drugs cause neurological problems, including ayahuasca, cocaine, DMT, DXM, GHB, heroin, inhalants, ketamine, khat, kratom, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, mescaline, methamphetamine, PCP, prescription opioids, prescription sedatives, prescription stimulants, psilocybin, Rohypnol, salvia, steroids, synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinone, and tobacco/nicotine.
5. Drugs can cause liver damage.
The liver performs many critical body functions, including everything from preventing infections to processing nutrients, medications, and hormones.
While most people are aware of alcohol’s toxicity to the liver, chronic use of other drugs can also cause liver damage, including DXM, heroin, inhalants, and steroids. According to NIDA, combining multiple drugs can increase the severity of the damage.
The harmful effects of drugs aren’t limited to these five areas of the body. In fact, drug abuse can lead to everything from infectious diseases, gastrointestinal issues, and musculoskeletal effects to hormonal and prenatal problems. The best—and only—way to immediately stop and, in some cases, reverse the effects of drug abuse? Stop using.
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