Drugs are chemical compounds that affect the mind and body. The exact effects vary among individuals and also depend on the drug, dosage, and delivery method.

Using any drug, even in moderation or according to a medical prescription, can have short-term effects.

For instance, consuming one or two servings of alcohol can lead to mild intoxication. A person may feel relaxed, uninhibited, or sleepy.

Nicotine from cigarettes and other tobacco products raises blood pressure and increases alertness.

Using a prescription opioid as a doctor has instructed helps relieve moderate-to-severe pain, but opioids can also cause drowsiness, shallow breathing, and constipation.



The long-term physical effects of drug use vary depending on the type of drug and the duration of use. However, experts have linked chronic drug use with the following health conditions:

Cardiovascular disease

Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can damage the heart and blood vessels.

The long-term use of these drugs can lead to coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and heart attack.

Respiratory problems

Drugs that people smoke or inhale can damage the respiratory system and lead to chronic respiratory infections and diseases.

Opioids slow a person’s breathing by binding to specific receptors in the central nervous system that regulate respiration. By depressing a person’s respiration, these drugs can lead to slow breathing or heavy snoring.

A person may stop breathing entirely if they take a large dose of an opioid or take it alongside other drugs, such as sleep aids or alcohol.

Kidney damage

The kidneys filter excess minerals and waste products from the blood. Heroin, ketamine, and synthetic cannabinoids can cause kidney damage or kidney failure.

Liver disease

Chronic drug and alcohol use can damage the liver cells, leading to inflammation, scarring, and even liver failure.


Taking too much of a drug or taking multiple drugs together can result in an overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose caused 67,367 deathsTrusted Source in the United States in 2018. Opioids contributed to nearly 70% of these deaths.