Drugs & Your Body

Addiction The Disease

Addiction is a disease that affects the brain deeply. Those suffering through addiction are typically unable to control certain impulses that are normally there for others. Overtime, addiction begins to affect the brain’s very neurological makeup, changing other factors of the body with it.

Changing Brain

One of the best known aspects behind long term substance abuse issues and addiction, are the changes that take place overtime on the brain. These changes sometimes rewire the very makeup of the brain, creating different neurological pathways that then inhibit the addiction further and further. Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, it can change the person’s brain to further substance abuse issues and addictions.

Slippery Mental State

Like doing a pull-up with sweaty palms, after addiction affects someone over a longer period of time, often times what’s most commonly reported is a feeling of surreality. Many addicts will report feelings of disconnection from reality. Due to the very nature that mind-altering drugs have on the brain, the newly created neural pathways can also affect the way the addict will view life and their surrounds. Many times, this is commonly irreversible.

Memory Deterioration

Having difficulties in memory is one of the most heavily reported effects from addiction issues. The memory center of the brain is often heavily affected from both the addiction in question and the physical substance affecting it. Fortunately, if acted on early enough, long term memory damage can often be reversible and completely avoided in many people.

drug effects on brain

This video from NIDA explains addiction in simple terms and how quitting drugs is extremely difficult because addiction is a brain disease.

Your brain is who you are. It’s what allows you to move, think, breath, speak, and feel. Here are the main parts of the brain and their functions.

Video: Courtesy, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health.

Dry And Crackling Skin

Most drugs by their very nature, have different consequences that affect the body and the way it affects the chemical makeup of the brain and everything relating to it. Those very issues are then transferred over to the physical body, starting with the skin. Having dry and cracking skin is almost a signature effect among many different drug users.

Breaking Out

Whenever people have breakouts across their face and skin, while it could be caused by something directly on and to do with the skin itself, often times it is caused by some neurological issue, especially brought about by drug use. This is also why people undergoing times of great stress also tend to breakout. Drugs, not only carry the same effect, but often times merely magnify the scope of the issue.

Quickened Aging

Aging rapidly typically happens to many people indulging heavily in substances that don’t typically belong in the body—such as alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. Chronic substance users typically are known to shed several years from their lives not only in looks, but also physically as drug addictions can easily take several years away from an otherwise healthy adult.

Irritated Skin

Due to the chemical reaction from different drugs and even alcohol, it is common for it to have several different adverse reactions on the largest organ on the human body: the skin. Users of methamphetamines typically report a burning and itching sensation rippling across their skin, which cause them to scratch uncontrollably at it, many times till blood is drawn. Chronic cocaine users often report that same symptoms.

drug effects on skin

Having combated addiction first hand, Raj discusses the impact that addiction has on individuals, families, communities and countries. He challenges us to rethink addiction and reform our government’s policies.

Click the image below to view the Faces of Addiction Slideshow

Video: Addiction 101 | Raj Mehta for TEDxUofM TEDx Talks / YouTube
Images: Broward Sheriffs Office

Growing Cancer

The human lungs—while ultra versatile—are typically heavily under equipped to deal with chronic substance abuse, especially that of substances that involve smoking. While cigarettes alone contain several thousand chemicals in every stick smoked, illicit drugs tend to have more chemicals that can create or speed up cancers.

Lung Disease

In addition to cancers in the lung, another even more probable outcome in many drug users, especially those who smoke their substances, is the probability of developing lung disease. Due to the effects smoking has on the lungs, mainly the respiratory aspect of it, lung disease typically forms naturally as users continue using and smoking.

Difficulty Breathing

For those who engage in chronic drug usage, after a certain period of time the foreign chemicals inside several different drugs—when smoked—interacts negatively with the lining of the lungs, irritating and occupying it. After prolonged use, breathing will become increasing difficult.

Gunk Buildup

Whether smoking cigarettes or any other drug, after prolonged use, chemical buildup will begin to mount on the lining of the lungs. If this buildup settles for long enough, it will then begin to fuse into the lungs and start affecting its physiological makeup. This condition is also known as crack lung.

drug effects on lungs

Dia Mirza explains the disease of alcoholism and her personal experience with the disease.

Click the image below to view the One year timeline when you quit smoking infographic.

Quit Smoking

Video: Alcoholism is a Diseases | Dia Mirza for TEDxIIMRanchi TEDxTalks / YouTube

Meth Mouth

While all harmful drugs affect the mouth, few have as devastating effects as that of methamphetamine. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth is the condition in which chronic meth use causes parts of the mouth to decay. These parts typically include the teeth, gums, and cheeks.

Mouth Cancer

Although this is known more popularly through cases of tobacco use, there is also an increased risk of developing mouth cancer anytime a foreign drug is introduced through the mouth. In fact, even marijuana use has been found to heighten the risk of developing mouth cancer, similar to that of tobacco.

Chronic Bad Breath

Typically this occurs in people who introduce harmful substances in their body through the mouth. This is why cigarette and pill smokers tend to have such a difficult time managing their breath. The situation worsens when drugs such as crack, meth, marijuana, and even cocaine are placed into the mix.

Chronic Dry Mouth

Also known as cotton mouth, dry mouth is probably one of the most common effects felt by many different drug users. Dry mouth is a feeling of having a severely dry mouth, similar to that suffered by people who survive a snake bite. Sometimes this feeling of extreme dry mouth can cause an array of other symptoms. People suffering from dry mouth, commonly over hydrate due to a feeling of being under hydrated.

drug effects on mouth

This video from NIDA explains addiction in simple terms. You might think that only some types of people can get addicted to drugs. Addiction is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.

The mouth is the beginning of the digestive system, and, in fact, digestion starts here before you even take the first bite of a meal. The smell of food triggers the salivary glands in your mouth to secrete saliva, causing your mouth to water.

mouth quiz


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Video: Courtesy, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health.

Drug Induced Heart Attacks

Unfortunately, the heart is not only one of the main organs affected by drug use, but also the most heavily impacted one. Drugs such as meth and cocaine has long been known to cause heart attacks in its users. Because the heart is heavily strained and put under pressure by the drug in question, the heart then begins to work overtime and overexert itself, which can lead to a drug induced heart attack.

Low Heart Rates

Certain drugs and sedatives can sometimes lower heart rates down to dangerously low levels that can lead to a coma. Opioids—such as painkillers— if mixed together with other drugs or even alcohol, can not only lead to a coma, but sometimes even death.


The heart is the engine of the human body and by ingesting highly volatile chemicals, it gets put under tons of pressure that it sometimes might not be able to handle. Inhaling chemicals such as paint thinner, compressed air, meth, and even cocaine, has been known to lead to complications of the heart that ultimately lead to death.

Future Complications

Abusing drugs and alcohol for long periods of time, often ends up affecting the heart later on in life. Unfortunately, long term drug and alcohol use exerts a lot of stress on the heart, that over time, begins to gradually affect the working mechanisms of the heart. While it may not be noticeable immediately, often times long time users begin to pay the price later on in life when the heart begins to fail and the amount of heart complications double with every year. Thankfully, there are plenty of medications and treatments available to reverse some of the damage acquired.

drug effects on heart

What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari’s New York Times best-selling book ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.’

The blood provides your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. It also carries away waste. Your heart is sort of like a pump, or two pumps in one.The right side of your heart receives blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs.

heart quiz


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Video: Rewriting The Story of My Addiction | Jo Harvey for TEDxUniversityofNevada TEDxTalks / YouTube


Unfortunately, overdosing on drugs such as painkillers and heroin are currently on the rise across the United States, where nearly 2,000 people die yearly from overdoses relating to it. Overdosing can happen with nearly any drug and alcohol.

Under The Influence

One of the most commonly known methods for a drug or alcohol induced death, occurs behind the wheel of a vehicle. When it comes to driving while intoxicated, this doesn’t only affect the user, but also the innocent person that is sometimes involved.

Slow Death

When it comes to prescription drugs—such as Vicodin or Oxycontin—they can cause treacherously slow and painful deaths. Typically these drugs slow the heart rate and breathing down, until eventually death takes over.

Brain Death

Brain death occurs mainly in those who abuse prescription drugs—such as Oxycontin—and other opioids like heroin. Sometimes these individuals will go through all the same overdose symptoms as some others, however, while their brain would be medically considered dead, sometimes their body’s still perform normally, bringing the individual into a vegetative state. It has grown fairly common due to different and emerging technologies in life saving devices, for the numbers of people landing in a vegetative state due to drug overdoses to grow.

drug effects and death

Jo Harvey discusses the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our behavior, and how she rewrote her own story of addiction to alcohol.

Although intellectually we all know that one day we shall die, generally we as humans are extremely reluctant to think of our own death.

death quiz


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Video: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell / YouTube