Drug addiction can cause a yost of physical effects that can lead to long-term damage, the development of chronic disease or even death when not properly treated. The longer that drug addiction prolongs, the greater the chances of development of physical repercussions, some of which remain untreatable even after sobriety is achieved. Some of the most harrowing physical effects of drug addiction can be seen in the most popular street and prescription drugs – in particular, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates.
Physical Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction can cause some of the most severe chronic conditions in the body. In fact, the physical consequences to chronic cocaine use are wide-ranging, including abdominal issues such as gastric ulcers, persistent nausea and vomiting, and even tissue death inside the body’s digestive tract due to limited blood supply in the region. Cocaine can also cause issues with urinary control, and perforations of the intestines and the development of gangrene. Many of these consequences stem from cocaine’s effects on the pulmonary system, particularly its ability to restrict blood supply to vital organs and tissues.
Vital organ damage can also result from cocaine use. Cocaine users can experience respiratory problems, ranging from chronic coughing to difficulty breathing, and crack users often experience blood in phlegm from the inhalation of chemicals through freebasing. Pulmonary edema can also result from crack cocaine use, and collapsed lungs are not uncommon in freebasers. Brain abscesses can also result from cocaine addiction, along with heart conditions such as angina, aortic dissection, weakened heart walls, hardened arteries and even heart infection. The five senses can also become disrupted by cocaine use, including visual hallucinations, rhinorrhea, sinusitis, deviated septums and hallucinations involving scent. Cocaine has also been associated with the rupturing of blood vessels in the brain, systemic eosinophilia, slowed reflexes, subcutaneous emphysema, pruritus, cellulitis and jaundice.
Physical Effects of Opiate Addiction
Spanning narcotics from heroin to hydrocodone, opiates take an incredible toll on the body’s systems. Physical effects of opiate addiction can range from heightened pain perception (known as hyperalgesia) to digestive problems, such as vomiting, constipation, stomach cramping and bleeding, slowed digestive motility, and abdominal spasming. Opiates have a dehydrating effect on the skin, leading to eczema, flushing, allergic reactions, jaundice, hot and cold sensations (known as “flashes”), swelling and excessive bruising. Orally, opiate-addicted individuals often experience a host of symptoms, including gingivitis, profuse cavities and swelling of the oral tissues.
Vision problems and hallucinations can also occur from chronic opiate addiction. Muscle and bone pain is common and opiate users experience an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Additionally, opiate-addicted individuals experience heightened risk of heart disease and cardiac arrest, along with irregularities in heartbeat. Other pulmonary issues can include hypotension, pH imbalance, circulatory collapse, and higher risk of hepatitis C contraction, largely due to changes in the body’s immune response and increased virus cell replication. Other vital organ damage associated with chronic opiate use includes kidney failure, bile duct problems, ischuria, enlarged prostate glands, and reduction or loss of libido.
Physical Effects of Amphetamines
Amphetamines put the system through an immense amount of damage, partly because of their chemical reactions in the system, and due in part to the toll that chronic exhaustion and dehydration takes on the body during amphetamine use. Amphetamines can cause a host of symptoms, from the development of toxicity seizures to depletion of stress hormones (potentially leading to coma onset). Amphetamine use can also lead to damaged nasal passageways due to the practice of snorting, causing deviation of the septum or chronic sinusitis. Urination is generally painful and infrequent, with chronic UTIs. The skin can develop a host of issues from amphetamine use, particularly when meth is used, causing acne, eczema, and Ekbom’s Syndrome — the perception of insects crawling under the surface of the skin, leading users to pick and infect the dermis.
The heart remains one of the hardest-hit organs from amphetamine addiction, leading to inflammation, chest pain, cardiac arrest, slowed heartbeat, decreased blood supply, and ultimately, heart disease or cardiac arrest. The lungs, when amphetamines are inhaled, also can become taxed, leading to emphysema, embolisms, blood clotting, strokes, free radical occurrences and lung cancer. The kidneys can also become damaged, due to blockages, even leading to a toxic breakdown of muscle tissues, known as rhabdomyolysis. Many amphetamines abusers also experience pancreatic and bowel problems, along with liver damage that can include hepatitis, organ failure and even liver cancer.