long term drug effects

What Are the Long Term Drug Effects on the Body?

It’s estimated that around 10% of US adults have a drug use disorder at some point in their lives. Some of these individuals are able to curb their drug use before it becomes a serious problem. Other individuals struggle with it over long periods of time. 

But in truth, regardless of how long you abuse drugs, you could suffer an array of long term drug effects. Curious as to what they are? We’re going to review them in detail below. 

Effects on the Respiratory System

If you’ve smoked your drugs, you are in danger of damaging your respiratory system. The smoke derived from drugs can permeate the lungs, leading to bronchitis, emphysema, and even lung cancer. 

There’s also a risk of opioids affecting the lungs. If this occurs, you might find it difficult to catch your breath or breathe at an even pace. This could eventually lead to further breathing issues, and could also exacerbate the symptoms of asthma.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

Just about every drug has effects on the cardiovascular system, many of which cause long-term issues. Drugs such as cocaine can lead to hypertension and, eventually, can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Using needles to inject drugs could cause infections within the veins, leading to blood clots (which can also cause heart attacks and strokes, not to mention a variety of other ailments). 

Drinking alcohol can have an effect as well. Those who drink heavily over long periods of time have a higher risk of hypertension and irregular heartbeat. Their hearts tend to become weak as well. 

Effects on the Gastrointestinal System

A number of drugs can cause problems in the gastrointestinal system, leading to chronic pain, constipation, and, in some cases, acid reflux disease. Some of the drugs that can lead to GI issues include heroin, cocaine, and LSD, to name just a few. 

Alcohol can have quite an effect as well, killing enzymes in the stomach and preventing the intestines from absorbing necessary nutrients. 

Effects on the Brain

The part of the body that is most susceptible to the effects of drug use is the brain. Drug use not only kills brain cells but it also numbs the brain’s reward system. This can lead to a variety of long-term issues. 

A common long-term symptom of drug use is poor memory. You might even find it more difficult to retain knowledge and learn effectively. 

Depression and anxiety can become issues as well, as the disturbance that drugs cause the brain’s reward system can make it more difficult for an individual to experience happy feelings. This could lead the individual to pursue a variety of risky activities, including further drug use. In some cases, the affected individual might even experience insomnia. 

All drugs can have a negative effect on the brain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or LSD, if it’s abused, it can cause you to suffer over the long-term. 

Effects on the Liver

When used in excess, opioids can have a severe negative effect on the liver. In the long-term, their use can actually result in complete liver failure. Alcohol abuse can have this effect as well. 

If used in tandem, the two substances can have even more severe effects. In the worst of cases, individuals can actually die from liver disease. 

Effects on the Kidneys

Not only can drug abuse lead to liver failure but kidney failure as well. This is true of opioid abuse, alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse, and others.

They break down muscle, allowing myoglobin to float into the bloodstream. This myoglobin then comes into contact with the kidney cells, damaging them over time. 

Treating Drug Addiction

If you’re suffering from drug addiction, you’re advised to seek treatment as soon as possible. The longer you abuse drugs, the more risk you have of experiencing the effects discussed above. 

The recommended treatment options include rehab and drug detox. We’ll discuss the merits of both below. 


When it comes to treating drug addiction, no method is more effective than rehab. North Carolina rehab centers are specifically designed to cater to the needs of drug users and can help those users get rid of their addictions in a safe and structured manner. 

While at rehab, you will receive the help of doctors, nurses, psychologists, nutritionists, athletic trainers, and the like. These individuals will not only help you to stop using in the short-term, but they’ll also provide you with the tools and knowledge needed to stay away from drugs in the future. 

If you’re struggling to stop using drugs, rehab is recommended. It could be just the jumpstart you need. 


Detox is the process of letting the drugs and/or alcohol leave your body. It is generally a grueling process, one that can result in serious mental and physical withdrawal. Though it can be facilitated on one’s own, it’s best done under the supervision of rehabilitation specialists and medical professionals. 

In heavy abusers, detox can actually be dangerous. This is because the body can be subject to severe changes, leading to irregularities in the heart and other organs. For this reason, if you’re a heavy drug user, you’re advised to undergo detox in a rehabilitation center.

Don’t Let Long Term Drug Effects Ruin Your Life

As you can see, long term drug effects can be substantial, affecting not only the body but the mind as well. For this reason, if you’re abusing drugs currently, you would be best served by stopping that abuse as soon as possible. 

Need help doing so? Looking for a rehab center in North Carolina? Oasis Recovery is the rehab center you seek. Located in Asheville, NC, we’ve helped countless individuals to treat their addictions. 

Contact us now to discuss treatment options! 

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