It is common knowledge that prolonged substance use and addiction can have a significant impact on your body and influence several life-sustaining functions. What many people do not realize is that different drugs impact your body in different ways. Additionally, they can have both physical and mental health impacts that last for varying durations of time, depending on the drug, the period of addiction, or substance used. Many people believe these short- or long-term impacts won’t be an issue if they are just a casual user, but unfortunately, this is not the case. Many substances can start to affect your health immediately, and the effects may continue long after “one-time” experimentation.
Different Drugs, Different Effects
Different types of drugs affect the body in different ways. The effects associated with drugs can also vary from person to person. How a drug affects an individual will depend on a variety of factors, including body size, general health, amount and strength of the substance, length of use, and whether or not any other substances are in the person’s system at the same time. It is essential to remember that illegal substances are not controlled substances (prescription drugs are). Therefore the strength, chemical composition, and quality of the substance will differ from one batch to another.
Drugs affect the body’s central nervous system. This results in alterations in how a person thinks feels and behaves while under the influence of substances. The three main types of substances are categorized as depressants, hallucinogens, and stimulants.
Depressants are drugs that slow or depress the functions of the central nervous system. They influence the speed in which the body can send messages to and from the brain. In small doses, depressants cause a person to feel relaxed. Additionally, they tend to drop their guard and feel less inhibition and anxiety. In larger amounts, they may cause less desirable effects such as vomiting, unconsciousness, and death.
Depressants also affect a person’s ability to concentrate, slowing one’s ability to respond appropriately to situations. Their reflexes are inhibited, as are their ability to diagnose the potential danger in a situation accurately. Substances such as alcohol, cannabis, GHB, opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine), and benzodiazepines are all examples of depressant substances.
Hallucinogenic substances distort one’s sense of reality. While under the influence of a hallucinogen, a person may see or hear things that are not really there or see things in a distorted way. Other effects of hallucinogenic drugs include emotional and psychological euphoria, jaw clenching, paranoia, panic, nausea, and gastric disturbances. Examples of hallucinogenic drugs include ketamine, LSD, PCP, “magic mushrooms,” and cannabis.
Stimulants speed up or stimulate the central nervous system. They operate in almost the exact opposite manner as depressants. Simulants speed up the rate of messaging going to and from the brain, giving the person a sense of alertness and confidence. They can also cause increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, reduced appetite, elevated internal body temperature, agitation, and difficulty sleeping. In excessive or large amounts, stimulants may also cause anxiety, seizures, panic, paranoia, and gastric challenges in addition to the symptoms listed above. Examples of common stimulant drugs include nicotine, amphetamines (speed and ice), cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), and caffeine.
The effects of a drug and how long they last within the body, depending on several different factors. These include:
- The type and strength of drug used
- How the drug was made (substances manufactured in “home labs” may contain bacteria and dangerous chemicals. As their strength us often unknown, even one dose of these homemade substances can cause brain damage or death)
- The physical characteristics of the individual user (height, weight, metabolism, age, etc.)
- The dosage taken
- How often and for how long the substances are used
- How the substances are ingested (inhalation, orally or injection)
- The mental health state of the user (consumption of certain substances can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions)
- Whether substances are taken individually or mixed
Physical effects of substance use and addiction
Substance abuse can result in both short and long-term physical and mental health challenges. Some of these can be severe and potentially irreversible. Many of the most common drugs carry with them side effects and health consequences that most people do not take into consideration or even know about.
Also commonly known as hash, pot, weed, dope, and marijuana, cannabis is not a “harmless” drug, as most people often believe. Cannabis use results in feelings of relaxation and, sometimes, altered perceptions. It can also lead to elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate. Although cannabis use leads to feelings of joy and happiness in most cases, it can also cause lethargy, paranoia, anxiety, and psychotic events in other situations. If a user has a personal or family history of mental illnesses, the risk of extreme psychotic reactions is increased. Cannabis use has a known link to various mental health problems, including schizophrenia.
When smoked, cannabis can have a detrimental effect on the respiratory system. Its use over time has been linked to lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, and mouth and tongue cancer. When cannabis is mixed with tobacco use, it also increases the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases.
Cannabis use can also impact the fertility of both men and women. Long term use can reduce fertility odds in both sexes.
Commonly known as coke, blow, and rock, among other street names, cocaine has a stimulant effect on the body. The use of cocaine gives the user increased energy. It also makes the person feel happy, awake, and reduces their inhibitions while increasing their confidence. Unfortunately, the “come down” or withdrawal from cocaine is the exact opposite. The user tends to feel depressed and unwell as the feelings associated with taking the drug begin to wear off. Cocaine can increase the risk of mental health issues such as anxiety, psychosis, and paranoia.
Cocaine use can also have dangerous effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems. It impacts the heart, causing overstimulation, which can lead to stroke or heart attacks. Some medical records and statistics point to cocaine-induced heart failure as a cause of death. Cocaine use can also result in brain hemorrhage, seizures, and stroke, all of which can lead to sudden death.
Cocaine use also reduces the ability of the pain receptors in the body to communicate with the brain. Consequently, the user is more prone to severe injury. If snorted, cocaine can damage the lining of the nasal passages and the nose’s internal structures.
When mixed with alcohol or other stimulants, cocaine increases the risk of death from a cardiac event, especially in users with an existing heart condition or high blood pressure. If a woman uses cocaine during pregnancy, it can harm the baby and may result in miscarriage.
Ecstasy often goes by street names, including MDMA, E, and Eckies. Similar to other stimulant drugs, ecstasy can cause the user to feel alert, but it may result in feelings of anxiety, confusion, paranoia, and psychosis. The use of ecstasy can also cause normal things such as sounds and colors, to seem more vivid and intense.
Long term ecstasy use has been linked to memory loss and the increase of mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
Ecstasy can also have a detrimental effect on your urinary and kidney function. The use of the drug can cause a person to overheat and be dehydrated, causing the body to stop producing urine. This results in urine retention and tissue bloating.
Speed is also known as amphetamines and whizz, among other not so commonly used street names. The use of speed can make a person feel alert, confident, and energetic. However, these feelings are often followed by agitation, aggression, confusion, paranoia, and psychotic states. When used to excess speed can also cause the user to feel states of excessive depression and lethargy, which can last for hours or even days.
The use of speed can impact the function of your digestive and cardiovascular systems. Speed reduces a person’s appetite and can cause elevated blood pressure, which may lead to heart attacks or other potentially fatal cardiac events. The risk for these increases if the user mixes speed with alcohol or if they have a pre-existing heart condition or high blood pressure.
Ice is also referred to as crystal meth, glass, P, and crystal. The use of ice may result in feelings of pleasure, confidence, increased energy, and alertness. It may also cause the user to conduct repetitive movements like itching and scratching.
Ice causes enlarged or dilated pupils and a dry mouth. It can make the user grind their teeth, which can result in permanent dental and mouth damage. Ice can also have a detrimental effect on the cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems causing excessive sweating, reduction in appetite, and increased heart and respiratory rates. Ice can be snorted or injected; however, it can damage the nasal passages, resulting in frequent and heavy nose bleeds when snorted.
Many of the above drugs can be introduced to the system in different ways. When injection is the chosen route, the user is put at an increased risk of infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
Substance use and addiction can lead to multiple long-term health issues not mentioned above. Some of these include:
- Harm to systems and organs such as the throat, stomach, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, nervous system, and brain.
- Cancers (such as lung and mouth cancers)
- Infectious diseases (often from sharing equipment and increased incidence of risky behavior such as sexual encounters)
- Mental health issues such as depression, mood swings, erratic behavior and psychosis
- Dental disorders such as tooth loss, cavities, and gum disease
- Accidental overdose, suicide, and death
A person does not need to be a long-term user for the impacts of substance use or addiction to affect their entire body. Many drugs, both prescription and “street drugs,” can quickly cause complications in the most critical body systems, including the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory systems. If you are struggling with substance use, no matter the duration or if you believe you have an addiction, and are ready to stop using, don’t try to quit alone or without support.
At The Hills, we create customized treatment plans for each of our patients. Since substances affect everyone differently, and each person experiences withdrawal differently, it is essential that your treatment plan meets your specific needs. If you are ready for sobriety, give us a call at The Hills today.