Top 10 Health Consequences of Drug Abuse

Oct 16, 2019 12:13:52 PM / by Providence Recovery Services

There were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017. Short-term and long-term health effects occur from repetitive drug abuse over the years. Specific effects depend on the person, how much is being used, medical history and, of course, which substance(s) are being used. 

Continue reading to find out the top 10 health conditions associated with drug abuse and how our staff can help you. 


The National Cancer Institute defines drug abuse as the use of illegal or prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in large amounts. 

General Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

  • Changes in physical appearance.
  • Changes in behavior with family or friends.
  • Being chronically late or not showing up for obligations or work responsibilities.
  • Limit time spent on social or recreational activities due to substance use.
  • Acting out of character.
  • Lacks energy when participating in daily activities.
  • Becomes defensive when confronted about their drug or substance use.
  • Urges beyond their control to use the drug or substance regularly.
  • Fails in attempts to stop using the drug or substance.
  • Increases usage of the drug or substance to get the same effect of smaller dosages.
  • Maintains a supply of the drug or substance.
  • Spends money on the drug or substance, even if they can’t afford it.
  • Continues use of the drug or substance, even after physical or psychological harm is apparent.
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using the drug or substance.

Physical and mental conditions can also develop for a loved one who suffers from a substance use disorder (SUD)


Health Conditions associated with Drug Abuse

Cardiovascular Diseases

Effects can range from an abnormal heart rate to a heart attack. Injection drug use can lead to cardiovascular problems such as collapsed veins and bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Drugs that contribute to cardiovascular disease include, but are not limited to:

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin 
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana 
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Steroids 


Smoking cigarettes has been linked to cancer of the mouth, neck, stomach and lungs. Secondhand cigarette smoke increases non-smoking individuals’ chances of developing lung cancer along with other health problems. Young adult males using marijuana who began their use during adolescence are at-risk for testicular cancer. Drugs that contribute to cancer include:

  • Marijuana 
  • Steroids
  • Tobacco 

Gastrointestinal Effects 

Many drugs cause nausea and vomiting after use. Cocaine use causes abdominal pain and bowel tissue decay. Opioid use causes abdominal pain, acid reflux and severe constipation. Drugs that contribute to gastrointestinal effects include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Heroin 
  • Khat
  • Kratom 
  • Nicotine

Neurological Effects 

Addictive drugs act in the brain to produce their euphoric effects. Some create damage due to seizures, stroke, and direct toxic effects on brain cells. Drug use often leads to addiction. Drugs that contribute to the neurological impacts, but aren’t limited to include: 

  • Ayahuasca 
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Ketamine
  • Salvia

Mental Health Effects 

Chronic use of drugs leads to both short- and long-term changes in the brain, which results in mental health issues, like paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, etc. Many who suffer from addiction are also diagnosed with a mental disorder. Drugs that contribute to mental health effects include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Cocaine 
  • Inhalants 
  • Ketamine 
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine

Hepatitis and HIV 

Drug use is associated with risky behaviors such as sharing needles and unprotected sex. This can also weaken the immune system, which dramatically increases the likelihood of contracting HIV, hepatitis and other infectious diseases. Drugs that contribute to contagious diseases include:

  • Cocaine 
  • Heroin 
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Prescription Opioids 
  • Steroids 

Musculoskeletal Disorders 

Steroid use during adolescence results in artificially high sex hormone levels. This can signal the bones to stop growing earlier than they usually would, which leads to short stature, severe muscle cramping and overall muscle weakness. Other drugs that contribute to musculoskeletal effects, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Inhalants 
  • Psilocybin 
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) 
  • Synthetic Cathinones

Respiratory Deficits 

Respiratory problems like smoking cigarettes are proven to cause bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Marijuana can also cause chronic bronchitis. Cocaine causes lung damage and severe respiratory problems. The use of drugs like opioids may cause slow breathing, block air from entering the lungs, or make asthma symptoms worse. Other drugs that contribute to respiratory effects, but aren’t limited to:

  • Ketamine
  • Heroin 
  • Inhalants 
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM) 
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

Kidney Damage 

Drugs may cause kidney damage or failure from dehydration, dangerous increases in body temperature and muscle breakdown. Drugs that contribute to kidney damage include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Heroin
  • Ketamine 
  • Inhalants 
  • Steroids
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids 


Drug-related deaths have more than doubled since 2000. There are more deaths, illnesses, and disabilities from substance use than from any other preventable health condition. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit or prescription drug use. 


Providence Recovery offers many services, all to help your loved one through their addiction recovery journey. 

From intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, medication-assisted treatment to sober living homes, Providence Recovery consists of a group of healthcare and medical professionals who are passionate about addiction recovery. 

We are positioned to provide patient-centered addiction treatment through multiple treatment therapies that cater best to your loved one’s recovery process. 

We understand that it will not be easy, but our support is unwavering, as we will be with your loved one every step of the way. Help your loved one avoid the top 10 health conditions mentioned above by talking about their addiction treatment program today. 



Tags: Drug Addiction, Recovery Treatment, drug abuse

Providence Recovery Services

Written by Providence Recovery Services

At Providence Recovery, we are a patient-centered addiction treatment facility located in Craig, Colorado striving to make an effort to empower our patients.