Individuals who suffer from addiction often have one or more accompanying medical issues, including lung and cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and mental disorders. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests show the damaging effects of drug abuse throughout the body. For example, tests show that tobacco smoke causes cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, blood, lungs, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix. In addition, some drugs of abuse, such as inhalants, are toxic to nerve cells and may damage or destroy them either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system. To learn more about our personalized alcoholism and addiction treatment, click here

Fifth Avenue Psychiatry - addiction treatment for professionals

Does drug abuse cause mental disorders, or vice versa?

Drug abuse and mental disorders often co-exist. In some cases, mental diseases may precede addiction; in other cases, drug abuse may trigger or exacerbate mental disorders, particularly in individuals with specific vulnerabilities. 

How can addiction harm other people?

Beyond the harmful consequences for the addicted individual, drug abuse can cause serious health problems for others. Devastating effects of addiction are:

  • Prenatal drug exposure on infants and children
  • Second-hand smoke complications
  • Increased spread of infectious diseases 

What are some effects of specific abused substances?

  • Tobacco smoke increases risk of cancer, emphysema, bronchial disorders and cardiovascular disease
  • Alcohol can damage the brain and body organs
  • Marijuana impairs short-term memory, learning, attention and coordination. It increases heart rate, affects the lungs and can increase the risk of psychosis
  • Inhalants are extremely toxic and can damage the heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain
  • Cocaine abuse can result in severe medical consequences on the heart, respiratory, nervous and digestive systems
  • Effects of amphetamines, including methamphetamine, are particularly long lasting and harmful to the brain. They can cause high body temperature and can lead to serious heart problems and seizures.
  • Ecstasy can increase body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and stress on the heart wall. It may also be toxic to nerve cells.
  • LSD is a very potent hallucinogenic or perception-altering drug. Short-term effects include increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, sweating; loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth; and tremors.
  • Heroin slows respiration and an increased risk of serious infectious diseases, especially when taken intravenously.
  • Opioid drugs such as morphine, OxyContin, Vicodi, and Percodan have legitimate medical uses. However, nonmedical use or abuse can result in similar harmful consequences to heroin abuse.
  • Prescription medications, such as painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants, are increasingly addictive and can be lethal.
  • Steroids abuse can lead to severe acne, heart disease, liver problems, stroke, infectious diseases, depression and suicide. 

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