Drugs & The Body
The Effects of Drugs
There is no question that drugs are horrible for your health and well-being. Drugs affect the entire organ system of the body from the brain to the skin. Several of these effects can lead to disease and premature death.
Liver, Kidney & Pancreas Damage
Drug abuse causes damage to the organs that are vital for our daily function, including the liver, kidney and pancreas.
Illicit drug users are prone to Hepatitis C, a virus which causes inflammation and sometimes scarring of the liver. Hepatitis C is bloodborne and therefore individuals who inject drugs are more likely to be infected.
Toxic substances found in drugs pass through the kidneys which causes scarring and damage. Drug abuse can also lead to the loss of vital kidney functions and kidney failure, which can be treated with a kidney transplant or dialysis but can be fatal if left untreated.
Substance abuse, including the use of drugs, can cause pancreatitis. This damage and inflammation to the pancreas causes severe stomach pain, diarrhoea and fever. Acute pancreatitis can cause irreversible damage and lead to chronic pancreatitis, which can be fatal.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can be transmitted by sharing injecting equipment and therefore often affects drug abusers. HIV attacks the immune system, subjecting the body to infections and disease. Untreated HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and can be potentially life-threatening.
A common condition and possible indicator of HIV/AIDS includes pneumocystis pneumonia, an infection in the lungs caused by fungus.
Veins & Artery Damage, Heart Attack & Stroke
Regular drug use can lead to high blood pressure, narrowed arteries and thickened heart walls. These factors all increase the risk of a heart attack.
Intravenous drug abusers subject their veins to irreversible damage with repetitive injecting and by using contaminated syringes which can cause blood clots to form in the veins. Blood clots can block the pulmonary arteries in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. This can be a life-threatening condition if not treated quickly.
Damaged blood vessels also put drug users at a higher risk of stroke. Stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, affect cerebral circulation and increase blood pressure which can lead to a haemorrhagic stroke, where a blood vessel ruptures and causes brain bleed. Drug abuse can also cause ischaemic stroke, where oxygen and blood flow are blocked from the brain, killing brain cells.
Oral & Skin Damage
Drug use can cause a toll on one’s physical appearance, particularly to the mouth and to the skin.
Drug abuse can cause extensive damage to the mouth and teeth. Drug-induced “dry mouth” and acid reflux lead to rotting tooth enamel, while stimulants commonly cause jaw clenching and teeth grinding which weaken and break teeth.
Drugs have long-lasting effects on the skin. Taking drugs can result in advanced symptoms of ageing such as wrinkles and sunken-looking eyes. Drug use also causes serious skin pathologies such as necrosis (death of skin cells), ulcers, rashes, skin eruptions and the blackening of palms which is often referred to as “crack hands.” Protruding veins also often appear through the skin due to damage caused to the veins by injectable drugs.