Substance abuse or addiction means chronic use of drugs and alcohol. Your one drink a day can quickly become a bottle if you do not control your addiction. The unfortunate thing is that alcohol abuse can make a person susceptible to other forms of addiction, such as taking harmful drugs like marijuana, heroin, etc. Using either alcohol or drugs can start as a hobby that can slowly turn into a full-fledged addiction. However, long-term substance addiction can result in significant health complications that quickly escalate into life-threatening conditions. Listed below are some of the harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse. 

1. Short-term effects

The exact effects of substance abuse vary from person to person and depend on the chemical compounds present in each drug. Depending on the intensity of use, a drug and alcohol addict can develop short-term and long-term effects. Short-term effects usually depend on the specific drug used, mode of intake, and the amount. For instance, misuse of prescription medication or occasional opioid use can have short-term effects like slurred speech, loss of coordination, insomnia, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, and so on. 

However, when the abuse has been extensive, the effects are drastic, indicating that it is now time to seek professional help. People suffering from substance abuse are best treated at places that offer an intimate environment for treatment. Facilities like The Palm Beach Institute are some of the best in the state of Florida, also known for the widespread use of narcotics. Similarly, a quick search on the internet can help you find rehab facilities near you. It is essential to realize that you do not need to wait for the addiction to go out of hand before you approach such a facility for help. Once you start to notice the short-term effects, you should immediately seek professional help. 

2. Effects on brain function

Drugs and alcohol attack your brain’s reward system as your brain is wired to repeat the experiences that make you feel relaxed and happy. The reward circuit is part of the limbic system, which affects mood and instinct. These drugs specifically target this part of the brain to release large amounts of a chemical that regulates feelings of pleasure – known as dopamine. This is where the “high” feeling comes from when you take drugs. It may seem like a relief after initial use, but consistent use alters brain function and builds a dependency. 

It can change your brain’s various chemical systems and affect your ability to learn, make decisions, judgment, and memory. Over time, your brain gets used to the extra dopamine, and you will be reluctant to provide it with the extra kick through other means other than the drug. Not only drugs but alcohol abuse also have harmful effects on the brain, such as mood and behavioral disorders. However, long-term effects can lead to liver damage, alcohol-induced seizures, and brain damage.

3. Increased risk of infections

When you are entirely consumed by substance addiction, it gets hard to remember safety practices. You may be using unhygienic ways to fulfill your addiction by sharing needles, pipes, bongs, and even engaging in unprotected sexual activities. These activities increase the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B, and other sexually transmitted infections. Since one of the side-effects of drug abuse is a weakened immune system, your body will be at a higher risk of contracting all sorts of ailments. For instance, a consistent abuse of opioids depresses respiration, damaging it and causing various respiratory infections. Increased risk of infectious diseases is one of the long-term effects of substance abuse. Substances like crystal meth, mephedrone, cocaine, etc., put you at risk of hepatitis and HIV infection and cause vein collapse.

4. Life-changing health complications

Substance abuse can lead to multiple health complications that can later turn life-threatening. Some drugs drastically affect the brain circuit, while others affect the heart, kidney, and lungs. For instance, long-term use of cocaine can cause coronary artery disease, heart attack, risk of stroke, and damage to blood vessels. Alcohol abuse can severely damage the liver, leading to scarring, injury, inflammation, and permanent liver failure. Since kidneys filter waste products from the blood, overdosing substances like synthetic cannabinoids, ketamine, and heroin can cause kidney damage and even failure. Some other risks include:

  • Over-stimulating the nervous system and the heart
  • Risk of psychosis, paranoia, and other mental disorders
  • Risk of developing cancer and liver diseases due to heavy drinking
  • Babies of pregnant women can suffer from Neonate Abstinence Syndrome, where the baby goes into withdrawal after it’s born
  • Tremors, insomnia, loss of muscle control, and convulsions

5. Risk of violent behavior and physical harm

Drug abuse can affect a person’s impulsivity and decision-making power, leading to a risk of violence, vehicle injuries, domestic violence, and self-harm. An estimated 80% of offenses in the United States leading to jail time are related to drugs and alcohol. Long-term substance abuse can affect multiple key brain regions. These regions are responsible for emotional processing, pleasure, social behavior, self-control, and decision-making. For instance, substance abuse can cause you to do things out of character, leading to various accidents in the vehicle or the house. You may have unprotected sex or are at risk of sexual assault, or you could commit a violent act yourself. There are numerous ways substance abuse can affect the user’s behavior and cause them to have some of the following symptoms: 

  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressiveness and paranoia
  • Loss of self-control and impaired judgment 
  • Insomnia, anxiety, confusion, and irritability 
  • Sound and color sensitivity 
  • Depression and incoherent speech
  • Slowed reaction time and exaggerated cravings 


Substance addiction is a disease that can quickly spiral out of control if not recognized in time. People with alcohol and drug consumption problems face various short-term and long-term issues that affect multiple organs in the body. Apart from the common harmful effects, including loss of appetite, insomnia, discoordination, vomiting, and nasal congestion, substance abuse can also lead to various life-threatening complications. These include increased cancer risk, contracting infections like HIV, lung disease, heart failure, kidney and liver damage. There are also numerous harmful effects on mental well-being that may lead to behavioral changes such as violent episodes and mood swings. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of substance abuse disorder, seek professional help immediately.