Physical Drug Effects

Some physical drug effects may not develop until drug abusers are at an advanced age.

It is no secret that drug abuse takes a toll on the body and brain, especially when someone is engaged in long-term abuse. People who experiment with illicit street drugs like heroin or cocaine do so to achieve the short-term physical drug effects that these substances provide, such as euphoric feelings or increased energy. People who take prescription medications such as Vicodin, Ambien, or Xanax are motivated to reduce pain, treat anxiety, or combat insomnia. While nobody anticipates developing an addiction when they begin using drugs, most are aware of the risks or side effects that drugs can cause before they start taking them. However, there are also physical effects of drugs that are not well known. Many physical and mental effects of drugs may not even become apparent until later on in life, even after an individual has been clean and sober or off of certain medications for years.

There are many reported physical drug effects associated with opiates. Drugs that fall into this class include heroin, methadone, oxycodone, and others. These drugs can be potentially fatal as they carry a high risk for overdose. You can recognize short-term physical drug effects of opiates when these symptoms are present:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Pain relief
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation

However, long-term abuse of opiates can produce these symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Developed tolerance
  • Physical dependence

In addition to short and long-term physical effects of drugs, there are long-term mental effects of drugs that are not as well known. Drugs such as benzodiazepines, which include Xanax, Ativan, or Valium that are prescribed to treat legitimate medical conditions carry certain risks in the future that people may not be aware of when they begin taking them. Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications has reported that extended benzodiazepine use may raise the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This report is based on a study originally published in the British Medical Journal that suggests that the use of benzodiazepines may promote the development of dementia. While it has not been reported that benzodiazepine use directly causes Alzheimer's disease, a direct correlation exists between a person's cumulative dose of drugs in this class and his or her risk in developing Alzheimer's disease later on.

The study found that people who had taken benzodiazepines for a duration greater than three months and up to six months increased their risk for developing Alzheimer's by 32%. Those who took benzodiazepines for greater than six months increased their risk by 84%. These findings are both significant and alarming, as one would not expect such dangerous mental effects of drugs to be present in medications that are often prescribed for common medical conditions. Other substances that carry a high risk for dementia when used for extended periods include certain sleep aids and over the counter allergy medications. It is important to research any prescription or over the counter medications beforehand to learn all of the short and long term effects and risks associated with taking them.

Alcohol is a socially accepted and legal substance that causes both dangerous mental and physical drug effects as well. While alcohol does have a known risk for addiction and even poisoning when abused, it is also associated with mental and physical drug effects with long-term abuse that most people are not generally aware of. Commonly reported risks associated with long term alcohol abuse include heart damage, liver damage, pancreatic inflammation, certain cancers as well as disruptions in the brain that cause mood and behavior disturbances.

Mental effects of drugs that are not widely known, include the damage that can be caused by chronic alcoholism. As reported by the Alzheimer's Association, alcohol abuse can cause alcohol related brain damage (ARBD) as well as increased risk for dementia. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by drinking too much alcohol over several years. This condition causes difficulties in retaining new information, the ability to remember recent events, and long-term memory gaps.

If you are abusing drugs or alcohol, it is crucial to commit to getting clean as soon as possible in order to reverse any damage and prevent long-term mental and physical drug effects from occurring.




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