Every time you drink a beer, you smoke a joint, you pop a pill, you take a hit – you make a choice. You make an active choice to put substances in your body because, in the heat of the moment, it seems like the right thing to do. It will make you feel better, it will get you high, it will be fun. This is what you tell yourself. But did you know that it is also putting your health (and your life) in danger?
We know you’ve heard it before. Your parents told you that drugs are bad. Your friends told you to stop drinking so much. Maybe a doctor has even said that your drug use has taken a toll. Not to mention, you know hangovers and come-downs quite well. Unfortunately, drug addiction is a persistent thing. It is your brain relentlessly telling you that it’s okay to take drugs, despite the physical consequences and the terrible aching your body experiences soon after. And it makes you wonder, what do drugs do to your body, exactly? Why do you feel this way, and why can’t you stop? What are the risks if you keep using?
How do drugs affect the body?
Drugs change the way your body works. Even seemingly “quiet” drugs like marijuana and prescription Adderall can have a detrimental effect. The truth is, any addictive drug, in any dosage, used for a prolonged period of time, can cause major damage to your physical health.
When you abuse drugs, you run the risk of respiratory depression, heart attack, coma, overdose, stroke, hypothermia, dehydration, blood disorders, gastric problems, panic attacks, and cognitive deficits. The list goes on. Drug use can make you look and feel weak, malnourished, and can destroy your immune system over time. Studies show that individuals who do not seek treatment for their drug problems only have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years after the onset of their drug addiction. This means that if you started using drugs at 18-years-old, and have continued to do so without professional drug treatment, your life expectancy will not exceed age 40.
What do drugs do to your body upon initiation?
When you take a drug, it enters your bloodstream and travels to the brain, producing a “high” or “rush” of pleasure, as well as to other areas of the body. The clinical team at Turnbridge young adult drug treatment knows the physical effects of substance abuse well. Here is what we know drugs will do to the various parts of your body:
- Your Brain – The way our brains are wired is that, if you do something pleasurable, your brain will tell you to do it again. And again. This is true for activities like eating and also for drug use. All addictive drugs activate the brain’s pleasure circuit. If you use a drug regularly, your brain will get used to it. The drug will actually re-wire the chemicals in your brain, changing how they work and respond to pleasure. Your brain may start requiring a higher dosage of drugs to feel the euphoric effects. If you’ve developed a tolerance, it may require more drugs just to feel normal. And when you stop taking the drugs, you may experience significant, often painful, withdrawal symptoms in other parts of your body. This leads to compulsive addiction.
- Long-term drug use affects brain functioning, causing memory loss, difficulty learning, impaired judgement, and other cognitive deficits. Certain drugs have more severe brain effects: For example, alcohol puts users at risk for dementia. Inhalants damage brain cells faster than other substances. Marijuana causes short-term memory problems and a decreased IQ over time.
- Your Lungs – When you think lung damage, you may think immediately of smoking. It is true that marijuana smoking (in addition to cigarettes) can cause respiratory diseases and lung infection. But did you know many illicit drugs, including prescription painkillers, can put you at serious risk for respiratory depression? Opiate drugs such as heroin and OxyContin can limit the amount of oxygen entering the brain, and can cause a coma or permanent brain damage. In fact, most opiate overdoses are caused by respiratory depression (suppression of breathing).
- Your Liver – Drugs are toxic. If you take a drug like heroin, or even binge drink alcohol, your liver has to work extra hard to break it down. This can lead to decreased liver function and long-term liver damage. Heroin, steroids, and inhalants, especially paired with alcohol, pose the most risk.
- Your Kidneys – Some drugs interfere with our bodies’ ability to regulate temperature. Use of MDMA drugs, for example, can cause body temperature to spike (Hypothermia) and can lead to severe dehydration, muscle breakdown, and long-term kidney damage or failure.
- Your Heart – Most drugs can damage your cardiovascular system in some way, whether that means heart attack or abnormal heart rates. Cocaine, for example, is known to cause strokes, heart attacks, and cardiac arrest in users, which can all lead to sudden death. Injecting drugs can also lead to collapsed veins and bacterial infections in the bloodstream and heart valves.
- Your Gut – Short-term nausea and vomiting are typical after a night of drinking or a stint of drug use. But certain drugs have other effects on your gastrointestinal system. Cocaine, for example, can cause bowel tissue decay. Opioid use can cause acid reflux and gastric ulcers. Many illicit drugs can cause a loss of appetite, leading to malnourishment and sudden weight loss.
- Your Muscles & Bones – According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroids use during your teen years can stop bone growth earlier than normal, leading to a short stature. Other drugs can cause severe muscle cramping, weakness, and muscle breakdown.
- Your Overall Appearance – Drugs do not just cause internal deficits, they can also damage what’s on the outside. Drug use can lead to problems with your skin, for example, such as acne and dullness (or grey-looking). This is because your skin is not receiving the proper nutrients and vitamins. Drugs also diminish your energy, making you look and feel weak and tired. Some drugs, such as meth, can lead to rotten teeth, gum disease, and bad breath, while others can lead to yellowed and sunken looking eyes.
The question, "what do drugs do to your body?" comes with many answers, and each answer is as significant as the last. Your body deserves the best. You deserve to be healthy, happy, and to lead a positive, productive life. Don’t let your drug problem get in the way of that. Don’t put your life at risk because of your drug addiction. Get the physical, the mental, as well as the emotional help you need to heal. Call Turnbridge today at 877-581-1793 to start your recovery plan. Or, visit our website to learn more about our Young Men’s and Young Women’s addiction treatment programs.