Sunday, February 25, 2024

9 Commonly Abused Substances and How They Affect Your Body

I have a close relationship with my children, and they are open with me and talk about the pervasiveness of drug abuse in their social circles. Unfortunately, too many of their schoolmates and peers abuse drugs and alcohol, and from talking to my friends, it is unfortunately far too common. While some drugs can have safe potential uses as long as not overdone, such as Ritalin for people with ADHD, benzos for psychiatric issues, and small amounts of alcohol from time to time, many people, especially impulsive teenagers, don't use them responsibly and can endanger themselves. Educating yourself about these commonly abused substances and the effects they can have can give you the information to educate your children which can hopefully keep them out of harm and guide them towards healthier choices amidst peer pressure and societal influences.

The unfortunate reality of today’s world is that drugs are everywhere. Their effects on individual drug users and American culture more broadly vary, but all of them have negative impacts. This article will look at nine commonly abused substances and how they affect people’s bodies, in particular.

1. Alcohol

Many people think that using prescription drugs is the only way someone can develop a substance use disorder. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in America, and also one of the most physically damaging.

Alcohol abuse interferes with not just the brain but also all major bodily systems. Heavy drinkers are at greater risk of heart disease, liver failure, pancreatitis, and even cancer. They are also less able to fend off infections.

2. Tobacco

The effects of tobacco on the body are also incredibly deleterious. Most people know that prolonged tobacco use can cause lung cancer. They don’t always realize it also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, and other types of cancer.

3. Prescription Painkillers

When used responsibly as prescribed, opioid painkillers can help people stay active while managing complex pain from surgeries and other causes. When used in excess, the substances negatively impact the liver, immune system, and heart. Prescription painkiller abuse can cause life-threatening cardiovascular events.

4. Heroin

Heroin is another form of opiate that does not have legal uses in the United States. The drug can cause similar physical issues to prescription painkillers, including liver disease, pulmonary infections, rheumatologic problems, kidney disease, skin abscesses, infections of the heart valves, and chronic constipation.

5. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax work by altering the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows the activity of the nervous system. They slow people’s reflexes, making it difficult to safely perform certain tasks. Severe benzodiazepine abuse can also lead to overdose.

6. Cocaine

Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant, so most users notice a rush of energy. The drug can also cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, confusion, insomnia, seizures, and even heart attack or stroke due to increased blood pressure and heart rate. When people use cocaine over prolonged periods, they can experience hallucinations and confusion due to damage to the nervous system, organ damage from elevated blood pressure, damage to the respiratory system, and malnutrition.

7. Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are perceived as being safer than street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. They have similar effects, producing extended wakefulness, loss of appetite, and increased energy. Prolonged use can cause dizziness, headaches, tremors, chest pain or palpitations, abdominal pain, vomiting, flushed skin, and excessive sweating.

8. Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is one of the most common illegal stimulants. People who take it often become hyperexcitable. They may go for prolonged periods without sleep, lose their appetite, and lose weight. Methamphetamine use also causes increased body temperature and erratic heartbeat in the short term.

In the long term, meth users can experience extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, decreased motor skills, skin sores, and other serious physical issues in addition to dramatic mental health problems.

9. Hallucinogenic Drugs

Hallucinogens include natural substances like peyote, mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms as well as lab-synthesized drugs such as LSD, PCP, and MDMA. Depending on the drug being abused, the physical effects of hallucinogens can include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and dilated pupils.

All Drugs Can Negatively Impact Health

Drug abuse can have a dramatic negative impact on people’s health, and that impact tends to scale with the level of use. Poly-drug use can also increase the risk of certain physical risks and side effects. Anyone who is using street drugs or abusing prescription drugs should seek help as soon as possible to minimize the damage to their systems.