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Drug Side Effects

Drug side effects can damage the brain, heart, and other important organs. Cocaine, for instance, can cause a heart attack . even in a kid or teen. While using drugs, people are also less able to do well in school, work, sports, and other activities. It's often harder to think clearly and make good decisions while abusing drugs. People can do dumb or dangerous things that could hurt them . or other people . because of drug side effects.

If someone is using drugs, you might notice drug side effects and changes in how the person looks or acts. Here are some of those signs, but it's important to remember that depression or another problem could be causing these changes.

Common Drug Abuse Side Effects

  • lose interest in school or work
  • change friends (only wants to spend time with others who use drugs)
  • become moody, negative, cranky, or worried all the time
  • ask to be left alone a lot
  • have trouble concentrating
  • sleep a lot (maybe even in class)
  • get in fights
  • have red or puffy eyes
  • lose or gain weight
  • cough a lot
  • have a runny nose all of the time

Drug Side Effects: LSD

LSD produces unpredictable psychological effects, with "trips" lasting about 12 hours. With large enough doses, users experience delusions and hallucinations. Physical effects include increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; sleeplessness; and loss of appetite.

Drug Side Effects: Alcohol

Alcohol affects every organ in the drinker's body and can damage a developing fetus. Intoxication can impair brain function and motor skills; heavy use can increase risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver disease. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a diagnosable issue characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, and/or continued use despite harm or personal injury. Alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one's health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work.

Drug Side Effects: Club Drugs

Club drugs have varying effects. Ketamine distorts perception and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self, while GHB and rohypnol are sedating. GHB abuse can cause coma and seizures. High doses of ketamine can cause delirium and amnesia. Rohypnol® can incapacitate users and cause amnesia, and especially when mixed with alcohol, can be lethal. Cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic, but also increases body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Users risk heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, and nausea. In rare cases, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly afterwards.

Drug Side Effects: MDMA/Ecstasy

Short-term effects include feelings of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, enhanced sensory perception, and increased physical energy. Adverse health effects can include nausea, chills, sweating, teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. MDMA can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature; on rare occasions, this can be lethal.

Drug Side Effects: Heroin

Short-term effects of heroin include a surge of euphoria and clouded thinking followed by alternately wakeful and drowsy states. Heroin depresses breathing, thus, overdose can be fatal. Users who inject the drug risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Drug Side Effects: Inhalants

Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Irreversible effects can be hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, or bone marrow damage. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs).

Drug Side Effects: Marijuana

Short-term effects of marijuana use include euphoria, distorted perceptions, memory impairment, and difficulty thinking and solving problems.

Drug Side Effects: Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine increases wakefulness and physical activity, produces rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure and body temperature. Long-term use can lead to mood disturbances, violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and severe dental problems. All users, but particularly those who inject the drug, risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Drug Side Effects: PCP

PCP is a "dissociative" drug, distorting perceptions of sight and sound and producing feelings of detachment. Users can experience several unpleasant psychological effects, with symptoms mimicking schizophrenia (delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, extreme anxiety).

Drug Side Effects: Opioids

Long-term use of opioids or central nervous system depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Opioids can produce drowsiness, constipation and, depending on amount taken, can depress breathing. Central nervous system depressants slow down brain function; if combined with other medications that cause drowsiness or with alcohol, heart rate and respiration can slow down dangerously. Taken repeatedly or in high doses, stimulants can cause anxiety, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, or seizures.

Drug Side Effects: Steroids

Major effects of steroid abuse can include liver damage; jaundice; fluid retention; high blood pressure; increases in "bad" cholesterol. Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk permanently stunted height, accelerated puberty changes, and severe acne. All users, but particularly those who inject the drug, risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

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