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Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Body

by Melissa Bell
4 minutes read

Most drug and alcohol abusers turn to those substances for their effects on the body and mind. However, what few early abusers realize is the long-lasting effects of drugs and alcohol on the body.

Of course, no one goes into taking a drug wanting the long-term adverse effects.

Most drugs target the reward center of the brain. With each hit, the pleasure center is flooded with dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure. After each use, your tolerance for dopamine rises, meaning you need more highs and higher doses to achieve the same level of pleasure.

Apart from the alterations to your brain chemistry, drug and alcohol abuse can also cause damage to other organs like the skin, liver, kidneys, and stomach. Each drug enters the body in a different way – inhalation, injection, ingestion – all of which affect how the drug will change your body.

In this article, we’ll discuss how different drugs and alcohol affect your body in the short and long term.


A common effect on the body as a result of drug or alcohol abuse is bodily injury.

Injuries can occur in many ways. Substances like alcohol can lead to tripping from a loss of balance, injuries from a fight instigated by aggression, or even severe trauma or death if a vehicle is involved.

Drugs like meth, cocaine, crack, and bath salts can all cause aggression which can lead to unintentional accidents, injuries as a result of fights, and domestic violence.

Of course, an overdose of any drug or substance can lead to death.

Internal Problems

Apart from bumps, bruises, and more severe injuries you incur as a result of being under the influence, several things are going on inside your body which can lead to long-term, permanent damage.

Let’s start with gastrointestinal disorders. In the short term, drug abuse can cause nausea and vomiting, plus abdominal pain. In the long run, cocaine can lead to more abdominal pain and bowel tissue decay. Opioid use can also cause abdominal pain plus acid reflux and constipation.

With alcohol and drug abuse, your liver will have to work overtime to metabolize those substances and detoxify the chemicals. This overworking can lead to severe liver damage or failure.

With extended drug and alcohol abuse, your immune system is weakened, leaving your body open to viruses and infections.

Another system that’s profoundly affected by substance abuse is the cardiovascular system. Drug use can cause abnormal heart rates or heart attacks. Injected drugs like heroin can cause veins to collapse or infections in the blood vessels and heart valves.

Brain Effects

We already touched on how sustained drug and alcohol abuse can alter your dopamine levels. More specifically, drugs that directly affect the brain’s reward circuit like cocaine, nicotine, and marijuana, can change those dopamine levels. But other adverse effects occur in the mind.

Prolonged drug and alcohol use can lead to seizure, stroke, and permanent brain damage which can lead to impaired memory, vision, decision-making, and confusion. Shortened attention span and mania can also be a result of extended drug abuse.

Changes in Behavior

With alterations in brain function also come behavioral changes. Here are some of the behavioral changes associated with commonly abused substances:

  • Alcohol – loss of interest, depression, restlessness, erratic and violent behavior
  • Cocaine – agitation, effusive enthusiasm, hyperactivity, involuntary movements
  • Meth – anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, paranoia, unpredictable behavior
  • Heroin – foggy mental state, alternating between sleep and wakeful periods
  • Mushrooms – changes in perception of time, intense emotions, paranoia

Seeking Help

While the short-term effects of getting that high are tempting, you must consider the long-term effects drugs and alcohol are having on your body. There are hundreds of people who recover from their addictions and live clean, healthy lives.

If you or a loved one has a substance abuse problem, visit addictiontosobriety.com to learn more about drug addiction and know how and when to seek help.

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Content Provided By Vanguard Behavioral Health – rehab center Tucson

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