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Effects of Drug Abuse on the User and Society

Drug abuse can have major negative impacts on the user, their peers, and our society.

Dr. Elizabeth Drew

Drug abuse is the excessive use of drugs which often results in harmful physical, psychological, and social changes.

effects of drug abuse

It involves the misuse of substances such as opioids, stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens beyond their intended need.

This usually leads to addiction, overdose, and sometimes more fatal consequences.

Impact Of Drug Abuse On The User


The use of drugs can create a false sense of security and comfort that can lead to a loss of interest in social activities and relationships. The user may become consumed by their addiction, neglecting their social and familial responsibilities and alienating themselves from those who care about them.


Stagnation from drug abuse often leads to a false sense of satisfaction and comfort, leading the user to rely on drugs to escape from the challenges of reality. This can result in a cycle of dependence, where the individual becomes increasingly reliant on drugs to function, which can stunt their personal growth and development.

Damaged Relationships

Drug abuse can have a major impact on one's relationships, causing hurt and strain on personal and professional connections. Drug abuse can alter one's behavior, causing a lack of reliability, trustworthiness, and communication. Very quickly, these can erode the foundation of relationships.

Financial Distress

Drug use can foster legal and criminal issues, leading to financial ruin, fines, and even imprisonment, which can cause further financial strain. Additionally, addiction can lead to a lack of financial planning and responsibility, causing the user to spend money on drugs instead of necessities such as food, housing, and utilities.

Health Problems

Abusing drugs have been known to produce mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Substance abuse can alter brain chemistry, affecting mood and cognitive function, and leading to mental health problems that can be difficult to overcome.

Depression And Anxiety

The use of many drugs, whether they be stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, or cannabis, can cause acute symptoms of anxiety and paranoia, which can become chronic with continued use. The fear of withdrawal symptoms can also contribute to anxiety and depression, resulting in a cycle of dependence and worsening mental health.

Provoking Existing Mental Health Conditions

Excessive use of drugs can disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain and worsen the symptoms of pre-existing mental health disorders and conditions. For example, someone that suffered from mild anxiety might have frequent panic attacks after having used drugs for a while.

A Criminal Record

Consuming drugs can impact one's criminal record, causing legal and criminal issues that can have long-term consequences. Substance abuse can lead to a range of criminal activities, including drug possession, drug trafficking, and theft, which can result in arrests, fines, and even imprisonment.

Lost Dreams

Drugs can lower one's ambition, taking away their motivation and instead transferring their interest to nothing but getting high. Much of this is rooted in the addictive nature of drugs and how they release chemicals in the brain that appeal to one's mood and state of temporary well-being. The cravings can become so great, that using the drugs may supersede one's talents, career plans, and educational plans.


Death is an unfortunate end for many that abuse drugs. During use, it can happen from an overdose, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, living damage, and kidney failure.

Furthermore, drugs can cause death through intoxication during risky activities, such as taking drugs during a bath and drowning after falling asleep or consuming something that's adulterated with more harmful drugs they might not have been aware of. Some have also died from drinking too much water while intoxicated on MDMA. Past drug abuse can also kill long after one has stopped using drugs.

The Effects Of Drug Abuse On Health

Drug use can also impact mental health, causing depression, anxiety, and psychosis, which can further contribute to poor physical health outcomes. Additionally, substance abuse can lead to a weakened immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Effects of Drug Abuse on The Brain

Drugs affect the brain by gradually depleting chemicals such as dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin. Over time, listing damage can cause memory loss, serotonin syndrome, and psychosis.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Behavior

The behavioral effects of drug abuse are far-reaching. People that use drugs often have a harder time making responsible and rational choices. It may cause users to engage in riskier sexual activity and use drugs in ways that heighten the chances of getting sexually transmitted infections, such as sharing dirty needles.

People with drug addictions often resort to stealing merchandise from their families to continue their habit after depleting their funds, like pawning personal electronics, and video games.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Unborn Babies

Women that abuse drugs while pregnant considerably heighten their chances of having a stillbirth. Drug consumption during pregnancy is the same as directly forcing a small child to use drugs. Though in the womb, it can create birth defects, cause a wide host of mental, developmental, and brain disorders, and reduce life expectancy.

Drug Abuse Vs. Substance Use Disorder

Drug abuse and substance abuse disorder are related but distinct concepts. Drug abuse refers to the use of drugs in a way that is harmful to an individual's physical and mental health or impairs their ability to function in daily life. It can refer to occasional or habitual drug use and can involve the use of illicit drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications.

Substance abuse disorder, on the other hand, is a medical diagnosis that refers to a chronic pattern of drug use that leads to significant impairment or distress. It is characterized by a strong compulsion to use drugs, difficulty controlling drug use, and continued drug use despite negative consequences.

Substance abuse disorder is considered a mental health condition and is diagnosed using specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is a more severe and persistent form of drug abuse that requires professional treatment and support.

The Impact of Drugs on Society

Ill Health

Areas, where drug abuse is heavy, tend to have higher rates of illness, including those which are sexually transmitted but also other issues like hepatitis, staph infections, and unsanitary living conditions.


Families, where drug abuse is found, are often broken, have frequent arrests, and pass their influences down to children. Additionally, genetics can play a part in one's susceptibility to drugs, where a child would likely grow up with an addictive personality and be more susceptible to becoming drug addicted themselves unless they're avoided.

Workplace Issues

People that abuse drugs often have a hard time holding down employment. They may not perform their duties well, causing write-ups and eventual termination.


Crime and drug abuse are closely related. People that use drugs have a high chance of stealing, committing robbery, or burglarizing homes to find valuable items to aid in sustaining their habit.

Environmental Damage

The chain of manufacturing drugs has caused much damage to the environment, from destroying vital farmland to increasing ground pollution. Drug needles are a common problem for people living in urban areas where drug abuse is heavy, to the point where biohazard containers have been distributed in some cities to keep addicts from throwing them on the ground.

Examples Of Common Psychoactive Drugs


Alcohol is a depressant, with ethanol being its primary ingredient. It causes tiredness, impairment in judgment, nausea, and vomiting when taken in large doses.


Cannabis, popularly called marijuana or weed, is a plant that causes psychoactive changes in the brain when consumed. THC and numerous cannabinoids in the plant result in memory loss and feelings of euphoria. Sensitivity to marijuana changes drastically from person to person, where paranoia, anxiety, depression, and a fast heart rate can occur when one consumes too much.


Cocaine, derived from the coca plant, is a stimulant that raises dopamine levels in the brain and causes general euphoria. Either short-term or through frequent use, cocaine can cause a host of cardiovascular problems such as cardiac arrest and stroke.


Heroin is a depressant produced by the opium poppy plant. It's usually taken by smoking or injecting into the veins. The drug is physically addictive and can cause changes in the brain that lead to dependence. Heroin users often suffer from heart problems, memory loss, high levels of drowsiness, possible gangrenous effects on the injection site, and a higher risk of STD infection when sharing needles.


Common hallucinogens are LSD, peyote, and mushrooms. There are also dissociative hallucinogens like Ketamine and PCP.


Inhalants can be either drugs meant to be inhaled or objects that aren't, like aerosols. Solvents are also considered inhalants, the most abused being paint thinners and glues. Nitrous oxide is common for dentistry work but has been illegally sold and abused for its euphoric effects.

Prescription Opioids

The most common prescription opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, methadone, and fentanyl. Each of these is commonly abused, though the rate of fentanyl overdoses and abuse disorder from the drug has seen a sharp rise in the last decade.

Prescription Stimulants

Common prescription stimulants are Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. They're commonly prescribed for people with behavioral or compulsive disorders, though abuse and dependency on them are common.


Methamphetamine, often shortened to meth, increases the levels of dopamine in the brain and causes euphoria. It causes lasting damage to the mental state of abusers and harms one's cardiovascular health. Psychosis and other neurological problems are common among long-term meth addicts.

Tobacco Or Nicotine

Tobacco is commonly smoked as cigarettes, in pipes, or chewed. The active drug in tobacco is nicotine, a stimulant that's very addictive and raises the alert level of users.

Through either chewing or smoking, tobacco use can lead to respiratory problems and cancers in the mouth. Nicotine is sometimes prescribed to patients who wish to quit smoking as patches.


  1. https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/about-gateway-foundation/faqs/effects-of-drug-abuse/
  2. https://brazosvalleyrehab.com/10-effects-of-drug-abuse-from-relationships-to-health/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/effects-of-drug-abuse#what-is-sud
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
  5. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs11/18862/impact.htm
  6. https://healthyliferecovery.com/do-drugs-negatively-affect-society/ 
Dr. Elizabeth Drew
Medical Director

Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Drew graduated from Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed her family practice residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown PA. In 2005, she opened her family medicine office in Doylestown, and in 2008 she treated her first patient for opiate addiction.

Since then Dr. Drew has attained her board certification in Addiction Medicine, treated more than a thousand patients for addiction to opiates and alcohol, participated in programs to educate the community, traveled to Washington DC to educate our legislators, and served as Medical Director at some of the best addiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania.

She understands that addiction is a chronic disease that no one would choose to have, and her treatment philosophy is based on respect, compassion, and empowerment. She is excited to be the Medical Director of MPower Wellness and work to provide superior addiction treatment in Chester County.

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