The Physical And Mental Effects Of Substance Abuse

The Physical And Mental Effects Of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is the unsafe use of drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine. It might start innocently as a hobby, but weeks or months later, one becomes over-reliant on them. At this point, several physical and mental effects set in.

The consequences can be mild to severe, depending on the substances abused. Substance abuse affects one’s physical health, initiates neurological changes in the brain, and adversely affects emotional stability. Below are some notable physical and mental effects of substance abuse:

  1. Addiction: The inability to stop using drugs is one of the primary effects of substance abuse. If you continuously use the drugs, you’ll reach a point where you can’t do without them. Some signs of addiction are:
    • Drug tolerance: Due to the quantity consumed, one may consume larger quantities of the substance to get the desired effects.
    • Withdrawal symptoms: If you skip taking the drugs, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, or tremors.

      Drug addiction brings about long-term effects like respiratory diseases, depression, and liver, kidney, and heart damage. So if you’re going through drug addiction, it’s best to get treatment. The good news is that you can get help with the drug problem.

      An excellent approach is to enroll in a rehabilitation facility. They have treatment programs that can help you manage the problem. Facilities like or similar ones have helped thousands of substance abuse victims take control of their lives, and you may want to give them a try.
  2. Disorientation: Most drug users often appear confused. Substance intoxication typically causes delirium, which is characterized by confusion and hallucinations. It changes one’s attention span and concentration, which may affect your performance at work or school. You become disoriented and may lack the coordination to the point you can’t complete basic tasks like typing on the computer or organizing items on a shelf.

    Moreover, you may lack alertness. As a result, you get into a dream-like state and experience euphoria. For instance, you may force someone speaking to you to repeat themselves several times because you can’t grasp what they’re saying.

    Some substances that can lead to disorientation include alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opioids, hallucinogens, and stimulants. Unfortunately, the effects of substance intoxication will last for as long as you’re using them. Once you start to get off the drugs, they may slowly resolve.
  3. Sleep Disorders: Substance abuse often leads to sleep disorders like insomnia, where you find it challenging to fall asleep, and your sleep gets constantly disrupted throughout the night. It may stem from other underlying conditions like depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Poor sleep patterns lead to drowsiness and lack of alertness during the day.

    On the other hand, lack of sleep may coerce you into taking more drugs in a bid to kill time and drown your worries, not knowing you’re worsening the problem. You’ll often feel the need to use sedatives to help you catch some sleep.

    Substances like cannabis and alcohol may induce sleepiness and cause you to relax. However, this is usually only applicable to those who aren’t heavily reliant on these substances. Prolonged use usually affects regular sleep cycles and may lead to long-term effects on sleep quality.
  4. Slurred Speech: Excessive use of alcohol, heroin, and opioids causes slurred speech. This is because the psychoactive substances in the drugs get absorbed into your bloodstream and reach the brain, where they can tamper with the speech-controlling muscles. Besides, it can also cause facial paralysis, leading to tongue and throat muscle weakness. The condition is called dysarthria, wherein your speech becomes slurred and slow. However, speech therapy can help you regain your average talking ability.
  5. Dental Problems: Most drugs are taken via the mouth. As such, they have a terrible effect on your teeth and gums. Some oral health issues associated with drug abuse are as follows:
    • Alcohol: Regular intake of alcohol causes a dry mouth. That’s why most alcoholics have dry and cracked lips. Remember, a larger percentage of alcoholic drinks are highly acidic, which erodes your enamel and results in discoloration.
    • Tobacco: Smoking is associated with different types of cancer, including cancer of the throat and mouth. It increases the risk of gum diseases as well as darkening them.
    • Cocaine: Cocaine users sometimes rub it on their gum surfaces. It causes gum ulceration from the acid produced when it mixes with saliva. The acidity erodes the enamel and exposes the dentine. Such conditions facilitate the thriving of decay bacteria, further damaging your teeth. Cocaine also increases teeth grinding, hence weakening your crown.
    • Marijuana: Smoking pot can increase your chances of getting gum problems. It also causes dry lips and cracks.
    • Methamphetamine: It’s the leading cause of tooth decay because it’s highly acidic. The high acidic level erodes your enamel and can also lead to teeth clenching.
    • Heroin: If you take heroin through your mouth, you may increase your likelihood of getting gum diseases and discolored, broken, rotten, and missing teeth. Since heroin is a painkiller, it’s easy to ignore the pain from damaged teeth and gums, meaning the condition may worsen before you seek treatment.

      Drugs affect oral health in numerous ways. However, it’s possible to treat most teeth problems. For instance, cosmetic treatments such as veneers can improve teeth’ color, while dentures can replace missing teeth.
  6. Organ Damage: Some drugs can affect your internal organs. For instance, alcohol can eat up your kidney by giving it a difficult time detoxifying your body. Such a complex situation results in long-term effects such as kidney failure. At this point, you may need regular dialysis to filter the blood and rid it of toxins.
    Alcohol also compromises the body’s ability to absorb calcium, weakening bones. It makes one susceptible to injuries and bone fractures upon impact. Besides the kidney and bones, abuse of alcohol and other drugs also damages the following organs:
    • Heart
    • Nose, trachea, and lungs
    • Brain
    • Spinal cord
    • Digestive system organs like the mouth, stomach, liver, esophagus, and intestines
    • Excretory organs like ureters, urethra, and bladder
    • Reproductive organs like the uterus, ovaries, vagina, mammary glands, oviducts, testes, seminal vesicles, and penis

      Notably, drug abuse affects all the 10 major organ systems in the human body. It’s wise to quit drugs before incurring extensive damage to your health.
  7. Depression: It can be tempting to relieve stress and depressing thoughts with substances. For instance, someone going through a divorce may resort to excessive alcohol intake to drown the worries. It may work, but only temporarily Continuous and excessive drug use often leads to chronic depression, wherein sadness overwhelms you and can’t seem to go away.
    The Physical And Mental Effects Of Substance Abuse1

    The following symptoms also accompany depression:
    • Hopelessness
    • Guilt
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Physical aches and pain
    • Feeling agitated
    • Less physical activity
    • Isolation

      With such terrible feelings, drugs seem to be the only way out. But it’s usually an illusion, given that more intake exacerbates depression. At such a point, seeking medical attention is essential. Your health provider will suggest a suitable treatment method to help you recover from depression. It can be through the use of anti-depressants or therapy. You might need to enroll in a rehabilitation facility for three to nine months for complete recovery.
  8. Anxiety: People with substance use disorders are prone to anxiety attacks. They usually come when one stops using the drug and can be characterized by the following symptoms
    • Shakes and shivers
    • Depressing thoughts
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Fear of death or going crazy
    • Sweating
    • Numbness
    • Heavy breathing

      Anxiety can be treated using several techniques. First, your doctor may prescribe you some medicine to suppress the symptoms. However, this might not be the best option if you already have a background of addiction or drug dependency. In that case, therapy sessions may help you regain sobriety. During your recovery journey, you can join support groups comprising people with similar needs.

      Exercises such as yoga and meditation can also help you relax and control your anxiety. Alternatively, you can try hobbies such as playing musical instruments, watching movies, or going for nature walks.
  9. Aggression: Substance abuse is often associated with violence. First and foremost, when someone is under the influence, they tend to feel superior. The psychoactive ability of most substances brings about a change in behavior and perception.

    Note that some factors fuel violent behaviors. For instance, younger people are likely to get more aggressive than adults when abusing drugs. Additionally, specific situations can also fuel aggression.

    For example, an addict who goes home without food may be violent and aggressive toward family members for no apparent reason. Such instances may, unfortunately, lead to domestic violence where the family members of someone struggling with substance abuse are the likely victims. Aggressiveness can also lead to sexual assault. A heavy drug user may be oblivious to the other party’s agency and ignore their need to consent. Moreover, such feelings of superiority may lead drug users to rob with violence to get more money for drugs.


Substance abuse has severe health implications for drug users, both physical and mental, especially when the habit persists over several months and years. However, it’s possible to recover from drug abuse and reverse most effects.

You can enroll in a drug addiction recovery facility where professional therapists will work closely with you to stop the habit through evidence-based treatment procedures. An intentional resolve to change for good may get you permanently out of addiction. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.