Health Effects of Illegal Drugs

Their effects can be serious and often life-threatening

Many illicit drug users may think that the only bad thing about doing drugs is that they are illegal and if you get caught, you can go to jail. The truth is there are negative health effects associated with every illegal drug out there and some of them can be fatal.

Here is a summary of the most commonly used illegal drugs and the effects each could have on your health.

1

Marijuana Changes the Brain
Marijuana Joint. © Getty Images

Proponents of marijuana legalization and pot smokers, in general, tend to believe there is no harm in using marijuana, but scientific research tells us differently. Studies have shown that smoking weed can have negative effects on the brain, the heart, and the lungs.

Although no link has been confirmed between smoking marijuana and the risk of developing cancer, marijuana smoke contains three times the amount of tar found in tobacco smoke and 50 percent more carcinogens.

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2

Crystal Meth
Crystal Meth. DEA

The health effects of methamphetamine use may be the most noticeable and visible of any of the commonly abused illegal drugs because it has such a dramatic effect on the outward appearance of chronic users. After a relatively short period of use, methamphetamine will begin to show on the faces of some users and begin to rot their teeth, known as "meth mouth." 

Meth is a stimulant, which affects the body's central nervous system. It's highly addictive ​and cheaper than many other street drugs, which is why so many get hooked so easily.


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3

Cocaine Lines
Cocaine Lines. Clipart.com

The effects of cocaine may not be as immediately noticeable as those of meth use, but they can be just as devastating. Although cocaine overdose is rare, long-term use of the drug can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system and affects how the brain processes dopamine.  Other health problems can occur depending on how the drug is used: snorted, ingested, or injected.

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4
Health Effects of Ecstasy

Ecstasy Pills
Ecstasy Pills. DEA

Although MDMA (also called ecstasy) is a so-called designer drug, negative health effects associated with its use are similar to those experienced by amphetamines and cocaine users.

MDMA can cause a long list of psychological and physical problems, which range from sleep disruption to severe anxiety, from nausea to blurred vision and from increased heart rate to high blood pressure. But the main danger with ecstasy use is that it is often mixed with other drugs, which can have unexpected consequences.

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5

Heroin Needle
Heroin Needle. © BigStockPhoto.com

Some of the health effects associated with heroin use are not due to the use of the drug itself but related to the manner in which it is used. Users who inject heroin can suffer many negative health effects related to infections that develop due to the use of non-sterile injection techniques.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug in the opioid family, with some users reporting a craving after just one hit. Ever-increasing amounts of the drug are needed for users to stave off withdrawal symptoms, which can be brutal. It's easy to overdose on heroin, which is often cut with other toxic substances. 

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6

Pills in Hand
Pills in Hand. Clipart.com

There are really very few studies about the long-term health consequences associated with the use of LSD. Most of the physical effects produced by LSD use are relatively mild; its psychological effects are much more dramatic. The main problem with LSD use is that its effects are unpredictable: A regular user of LSD can suddenly experience an acute adverse reaction, known as a "bad trip," at any time.

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A Word From Verywell

There is a reason that drugs are illegal. Mainly, it is because research has found that they can be dangerous in the short term and harmful to your health in the long run. Using illicit drugs is putting at risk your life, health, and the ability to #liveverywell.

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