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Health Risks of Addiction

Substance use disorder, an addiction to alcohol or drugs, can have long-term health risks.1(know the risks of using drugs) Physical injuries, systemic health complications, sleep issues, and other problems can last for a lifetime, even if a person stops using the substance.1(know the risks of using drugs) While there may be many consequences of a substance use disorder, this article will focus on the health risks associated with addiction.

Factors That Increase Consequences of Addiction

With any substance, even one use can cause potential adverse effects. But, when a person develops an addiction, chronic use puts them repeatedly at risk for short-term risks in addition to long-term adverse effects. The type and severity of adverse effects experienced may depend upon a few factors such as:

  • How long a person uses it2(physical effects, intense nausea and vomiting)
  • What type of substance is used1(the risks are real)
  • How a person takes the drug3(long-term effects)
  • Previously existing medical conditions4(what are other health effects of methamphetamine)
  • Co-existing mental health disorders2(mental effects), 5(does drug use cause other mental disorders, or…)
  • Age of first use2(long-term effects)

Negative Health Effects of Addiction

A variety of short-term health risks are associated with addiction. Using any kind of injection drug puts a person at an increased risk of infections.5(what are the other health consequences of the drug) Infections such as HIV and hepatitis C are easily spread by sharing injection equipment.5(what are the other health consequences..) And serious heart or skin infections can develop from bacteria introduced to the blood from non-sterile injection practices.5(what are the other health consequences)

In addition, mental health disorders may be triggered or worsen in a person with substance use disorders.5(does drug use cause other mental disorders) Particular genetic or environmental vulnerabilities put people at greater risk for negative mental health effects associated with addiction.5(does drug use cause other mental disorders)

However, risks are largely dependent on which substance is used and may involve nearly any system in the body.5(what are the other health consequences)

Health Risks of Marijuana (Cannabis) Addiction

Though widely used, chronic marijuana use can cause serious short- and long-term dangers to health. Health consequences of marijuana use disorder may include:2(short-term effects, long-term effects, what are the other health effects…)

  • Impaired memory
  • Psychosis
  • Impaired development in thinking, memory, and learning ability
  • Breathing problems (such as frequent cough or lung illness)
  • Increased risk of lung infections
  • Increased risk of heart attack (by speeding up heart rate)
  • Negative effects on fetal development
  • Negative effects on nursing children
  • Chronic cyclic nausea and vomiting
  • Overdose

Alcohol Use Disorder and Health

The health risks of alcohol use disorder are well-studied and can cause many adverse side effects. Potential consequences of alcohol addiction include:6(whole page)

  • Stretching and weakening of the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Liver disease (such as fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, or cirrhosis)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Overdose

Potential Risks of Cocaine Use Disorder

Cocaine use is dangerous and repetitive use, as seen in addiction, increases the chances of serious health effects. The health effects of cocaine addiction may include: 3(short-term effects, what are the other health effects.., long-term effects)

  • Nausea
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rates
  • Loss of smell
  • Frequent runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic cough or asthma
  • Increased risk of infections, such as pneumonia
  • Bowel ischemia (decay from reduced blood flow)
  • Malnourishment
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Overdose

Opioid Addiction and Health Risks

Opioid use disorder can involve either prescription opioids or heroin, but misuse of either can have dangerous results. Opioid effects on health may involve:7(what are some possible effects of prescription…, what are the other health effects of opioids), 8(long-term effects)

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Hypoxia (not enough oxygen) and brain damage
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Collapsed veins
  • Damaged nasal cavities
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Overdose

Health Risks of Hallucinogen Use

Hallucinogens, which can sometimes cause addiction, may have adverse side effects with repeated or first-time use.9(are hallucinogens addictive, what are some other effects of hallucinogens) Their effects are largely psychological, but serious accidents from actions taken in extreme paranoia, psychosis, or during hallucinations may occur.9(classic hallucinogens short-term effects)Additional health effects of hallucinogens may be:9(what are some other effects of hallucinogens)

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Problems with sleep
  • Recurrent or persistent psychotic symptoms
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Other mental illness
  • Overdose

Long- and Short-term Health Risks of Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that can have sobering effects on your health. A few consequences commonly seen amongst people with methamphetamine use disorder include:4(short-term effects, what are other health effects of meth)

  • Decrease in appetite and extreme weight loss
  • Increase or irregularities in heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Comprised immune system
  • Faster progression of HIV/AIDs in those who have it
  • Brain damage that results in learning, coordination, memory, and emotional problems
  • Severe dental problems
  • Profound itching and resulting sores from scratching
  • Trouble with sleep
  • Higher risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Overdose (involving stroke, heart attack, or other organ damage)4(how can a methamphetamine overdose be treated)

Finding Addiction Treatment

The health effects of substance use disorder can be long-reaching, but help is available through alcohol rehab and drug rehab. Addiction treatment and abstinence may reverse some health effects and prevent existing conditions from worsening. Virtue Recovery Centers, with locations in Arizona, Oregon, and Texas, is equipped to help with many varieties of addiction treatment, including detox. Their caring and accredited staff are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help start your path to recovery. Call 866-471-3667 today to inquire; enrollment today could save your life tomorrow.


  1. SAMHSA. (2022, August 19). Adults & drug use: know the risks of using drugs.
  2. NIDA. (2019, December 24). Cannabis (marijuana) drugfacts.
  3. NIDA. (2021, April 8). Cocaine drugfacts.
  4. NIDA. (2019, May 16). Methamphetamine drugfacts.
  5. NIDA. (2022, March 22). Drugs, brains, and behavior: the science of addiction, and health.
  6. NIAAA. (2021). Alcohol’s effects on the body.
  7. NIDA. (2021, June 1). Prescription opioids drugfacts.
  8. NIDA. (2022, December 16). Heroin drugfacts.
  9. NIDA. (2019, April 22). Hallucinogens drugfacts.2

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