What are the Physical Effects of Drug Use?

Drug abuse and addiction are widespread problems that infect all levels of society. The economy loses billions of dollars per year in lost productivity and wages from substance abuse disorders. And over 36,000 people will die every year from unintentional, fatal overdoses. More than 5 million people every year are admitted to the ER because of the dangerous physical effects of drug abuse and addiction. Furthermore, drug abuse and addiction can cause a wide range of long-term health consequences, such as cardiovascular diseases, depression, and certain cancers. The following article will explore the top 4 most commonly abused substances, and how they physically affect the user.

Physical Effects of Drug Use

What are the most commonly abused drugs?

In the U.S., the most commonly abused drugs are as follows:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription Painkillers
  • Cocaine

How does alcohol physically affect someone?

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the U.S., and unfortunately, long-term alcohol consumption can cause a host of adverse health issues. Also, many people will drink as a way to socialize. But unfortunately, the more a person’s blood alcohol level rises, the more quickly they will invite unintended consequences. Motor vehicle accidents involving drunk driving can severely injure and disable the driver. Alcohol abuse can cause the following health problems:

  • Cancer
  • Hearing loss
  • Anxiety
  • Gout
  • Anemia
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke

Blood alcohol levels, or BAC, is used to measure the amount of alcohol in the body. Weight, gender, and the number of drinks a person consumes all influence BAC levels. A BAC of .08 is considered legally intoxicated, and if a person is caught driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, they are charged with a DUI.

  • A BAC of .08 is approximately 3 to 4 drinks for a man who weighs 160 lbs, four drinks if he weighs 180- 200 lbs, and five drinks if he is 240 lbs.
  • A BAC of .13 to .15 would be approximately six drinks for men who weight 160 lbs, 6-7 drinks if 180 lbs, 7 to 8 drinks if 200 lbs, and 8-9 drinks if 240 lbs.
  • For women, a .08 BAC would be two drinks for a woman who weighs 120 lbs, 2-3 drinks if 160 lbs, and three drinks if 180 lbs.
  • A BAC of .13 to .15 would be four drinks for a woman who weighs 120 lbs, 4-5 drinks if 160 lbs, and 5-6 drinks if 180 lbs.

For BAC levels of .07 and .09, the person will experience euphoria and a minor impairment of speech, balance, hearing, or memory. At this point, most people’s inhibitions are lowered. People at this level often think they are less drunk than they actually are, and might attempt to drive.

At concentrations of .125, physical coordination and judgment are severely impaired. At .13 to .15, the individual may experience anxiety, restlessness, loss of motor skills and coordination. Vision is significantly blurred. Once someone reaches levels of .25 BAC and higher, they are at a significant risk of falling and getting injured, vomiting, and losing consciousness. Loss of consciousness can lead to a coma and death.

What are the physical effects of marijuana abuse?

The intoxicating effects of marijuana come from the levels of THC in the drug. The higher the THC levels, the less a person needs to take to experience a high. When someone smokes or ingests marijuana, they will experience a host of physical side-effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Orthostatic hypotension

There is limited evidence that suggests a person’s risk of experiencing a heart attack during the first hour after smoking marijuana is five times greater. Older individuals who have a baseline vulnerability for cardiovascular issues may be particularly susceptible to experiencing a heart attack because of marijuana use.

Marijuana Abuse

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How do prescription painkillers physically affect the user?

More than 5,000 people abuse prescription painkillers for the first time each day in the U.S. While most people use prescription painkillers responsibly, these types of drugs are incredibly addictive, and their physical effects on the user-marked. The most commonly abused prescription painkillers are Tramadol, morphine, Fentanyl, and hydrocodone.

When someone takes a painkiller, not only is their pain masked, they will also experience an intense euphoria and the following common physical side effects within the first hour after use:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle spasms and twitches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Loss of coordination
  • Drowsiness

Prescription painkiller abuse can lead to a fatal decrease in blood pressure and respiration, causing an overdose. There are many long-term health consequences related to painkiller abuse. Crushing and injecting painkillers directly into the bloodstream can cause cardiovascular damage and increase the risk of a fatal heart attack. Infections can also occur at injection sites, and increase the risk of contracting a bloodborne illness. Among long-term prescription painkiller abusers, there are higher rates of HIV and Hepatitis infections.

How does cocaine abuse physically affect people?

Cocaine is an illicit and powerful stimulant. Stimulants like cocaine give the user an elevated mood and increased energy and alertness. However, these physical side effects cause an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Long-term stimulant abuse can lead to serious cardiovascular issues and increase someone’s risk of having a stroke or a fatal heart attack.

Short and long-term drug abuse can lead to an array of severe physical side effects that put a person’s health at risk. Not only can drugs cause physical problems, but drug and alcohol abuse can also affect someone’s emotional and mental well-being. Many long-term drug and alcohol abusers will struggle with depression and anxiety during and long after the withdrawal phase.

Fortunately, medical detox and rehabilitation centers are designed to help people safely withdrawal from the physical and mental side effects of long-term drug abuse. Rehab centers can also help people get the treatment they need for any long-term mental or physical health issues stemming from drug abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified counselor today and get help.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance abuse issue, please contact our admissions team today for a free and confidential assessment. Find the care you all need.

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