How Drugs Negatively Impact Your Body

How Drugs Negatively Impact Your Body

Using drugs both short-term and long-term can negatively impact your health. While the effects vary depending on the type of drug, the amount and how frequently it’s taken – even short-term drug use can cause severe health problems.

Updated: 2023
Written by: Allendale Treatment

Factors that can impact how drugs affect someone:

  • The type of drug
  • Quantity consumed
  • The frequency of use
  • How it was taken
  • The strength or pureness of the narcotic
  • If it was taken with food or on an empty stomach (impacts absorption rate)
  • The size of the drug user
  • Gender
  • Other drugs or alcohol that was taken with it
  • Overall general health of the drug user

To understand how drugs impact our health it’s important to understand how they process through our bodies which occurs in 4 different stages:




After consumption drugs are immediately absorbed into your bloodstream. The speed of absorption depends on how the drug was taken (injected, snorted, inhaled, swallowed, etc.)




When drugs are circulating throughout your bloodstream, they get distributed throughout the body including to your organs and brain. This causes different effects depending on the type of drug consumed.




At this point, your body then breaks down the drug by metabolizing it into molecules so it can be easily eliminated. These molecules can also negatively impact your body.




During the final stage, the drugs finish processing through your digestive system and exit your body.

The amount of time it takes for your body to eliminate a drug depends on many factors, including the type of drug it is, your age, metabolism and your overall health. Once drugs have been eliminated from your body, you’ll usually start going through withdrawal. The side effects vary depending on what drugs were taken but some of the common ones include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty focusing

What Drugs Do to Our Body

Taking too much of any drug, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, can result in an overdose. Each person will react differently, but death can occur in some cases. Even if the person recovers there can be permanent damage to their body.


Drugs target the limbic system in the brain which is responsible for emotions. After repeated drug use the chemicals in your brain will start to get re-wired changing how they respond to things like decision-making or experiencing pleasure. Over time, your brain may need a higher dosage of drugs to feel the same euphoric effects or to just feel normal again. Long-term drug use can lead to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, impaired judgment, seizures and brain damage.


Smoking marijuana can lead to lung disease and opiate use can cause respiratory depression (breathing suppression) which is the leading cause of opiate overdoses.


Drugs are toxic and make your liver work extra hard to break them down. This can lead to a significant increase in the risk of liver damage or failure.


Some drugs interfere with our body’s ability to regulate temperature and can cause hypothermia which can lead to severe dehydration, muscle breakdown, and long-term kidney damage or failure.


Drugs can damage your cardiovascular system and cause a variety of heart conditions including abnormal heart rates, heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrest. Injecting drugs can also lead to collapsed veins and blood vessel infections.


Nausea and vomiting aren’t uncommon after drug use – so are changes in appetite or weight loss. Certain drugs like cocaine can also cause bowel tissue decay and opioids can cause acid reflux and gastric ulcers.

Muscle & Bones

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroid use during puberty can stop bone growth earlier than normal, leading to a shorter height. Drugs can cause muscle breakdown, weakness and cramping.

Immune System

Drugs can weaken your immunity and make you more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

Outward Appearance

Drugs can cause skin issues like acne and gray-looking skin and make you look constantly tired. They can also cause yellow, sunken-in-looking eyes and breast development in males. Drugs like meth can lead to rotten teeth, gum disease and halitosis.

Mental Health

Studies show that drug use has a negative impact on mental health and can result in mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. People who already have a mental health issue are also at an increased risk of developing a drug problem.

Drug Use During Pregnancy

Using drugs during pregnancy can result in miscarriages or stillbirths. Babies born to mothers who use drugs may experience birth defects, low birth weight, premature birth, small head circumference and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They can also have withdrawal symptoms up to 14 days after being born.

A Sobering Truth

Taking too much of any drug, including prescription and over-the-counter, can result in an overdose or death. Even if you recover from an overdose, you can cause permanent damage to your body.