The Health Effects of Other Drugs

Drinking and Drugging Compounds Health Problems

Alcohol and Drug addiction
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Many alcoholics today who find their way into recovery bring with them addictions to other drugs, which may have compounded their health problems due to chronic use.

In the early days of the recovery movement, alcohol was not only the main problem, it was usually the only problem. But with the advent of the 1960's and the popularization of recreational drug use, today's alcoholics are more likely to find themselves "cross addicted" to other substances.

Combined with the adverse effects of chronic drinking the use or abuse of other drugs, be they legal or illegal, can create a wide variety of mental and physical health problems. Here's a look at some of the more "popular" drugs of choice and how each can affect the user. Click on the names to find even more detailed information.

Health Effects

Stimulants or Amphetamines

  • (Dexedrine, Methamphetamine or "Crystal", "Crank", and "Speed") increase alertness and physical activity. Amphetamines increase heart and breathing rates and blood pressure, dilate pupils and decrease appetite. Side-effects can include sweating, dry mouth, blurred vision, insomnia, loss of appetite, and dizziness. In addition, users can feel restless, anxious and moody, become excitable and have a false sense of power and security.​
  • Using large amounts of these drugs can result in a condition known as amphetamine psychosis -- which can result in auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations, intense paranoia, irrational thoughts and beliefs, delusions, and mental confusion.​

  • Amphetamine overdose can also cause cardiac arrhythmias, headaches, convulsions, hypertension, rapid heart rate, coma, ​and death. Amphetamines are psychologically and physically addictive.


  • Pot has more than 400 different chemical compounds and contains even more cancer-causing agents than are found in tobacco, according to some studies. Even low doses or pot can interfere with coordination, perception of time, reasoning, and judgment, making driving under its influence extremely dangerous.​
  • Marijuana use causes short-term memory loss, decreases sperm and testosterone production in men, and may disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause miscarriage and stillbirth in women.


  • These are all extremely addictive stimulants. Because the intense euphoria these drugs produce is very short-lived, users typically use again and again trying to recapture that initial "high." Physical effects of cocaine include increases in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature. Snorting cocaine can severly damage nasal membranes over time.

    Continued use produces insomnia, hyperactivity, anxiousness, agitation and malnutrition. Overdoses can be lethal.


  • Heroin, Opium, Morphine, and Codeine are used legally by the medical profession to relieve pain. But they are abused due to their mood-altering effects. All narcotics are extremely physically and psychologically addictive. Medical problems can include congested lungs, liver disease, tetanus, infection of the heart valves, skin abscesses, anemia and pneumonia. Death can occur from overdose.​


    • Downers -- Valium, Quaaludes, Librium, Xanax -- also have appropriate medical uses, but are also abused by many users. "Barbs" cause slurred speech, disorientation and "drunken" behavior. They are physically and psychologically addictive.​
    • Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, convulsions, and possible death.


    • LSD, DMT, Mescaline, PCP, and Psilocybin have very unpredictable effects. Users may experience morbid hallucinations and feel panicked, confused, paranoid and out of control -- or in other words, a "bad trip." The heightened suggestibility and intensified emotions that hallucinogens create can worsen any pre-existing emotional problems.​
    • Physical effects of hallucinogen use include dilated pupils, sweating, insomnia, loss of appetite, tremors; and increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.


    • The active chemical found in tobacco, nicotine's chief hazards are cancer of the lungs, larynx and mouth. According to some research, exposure to second-hand smoke also increases these health risks for non-smokers.​
    • Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant and contributes to an estimated 340,000 deaths each year in the U.S.A


    • This stimulant is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, cocoa, and in some over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, diet pills, cough and cold remedies. High doses may cause nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, nervousness or agitation, and the shakes. Caffeine may increase rates of miscarriage and low birth weight.​
    • Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, headache, nausea and irritability.

    Anabolic Steroids

    • Steroids are artificially produced testosterone, the male sex hormone. Side effects include liver and kidney dysfunction, high blood pressure, heart disease, degeneration of the testicles, premature baldness, and acne. Abnormal aggression, mood swings and psychiatric symptoms can also be attributed to steroid use.

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