The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that overdoses due to illicit drugs such as opiates, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and others, kill more than 130 Americans daily, while alcohol-related incidences, including car accidents and illnesses, take the lives of approximately 88,000 Americans every year. It is the third most preventable cause of death!

This proves the notion further that not only does drug and alcohol addiction cause negative long-term health effects, that are physical and psychological, but, these addictive substances also continue to kill people at alarming rates, and the world is noticing more than ever before.  

long-term health effects of drugs and alcohol

Unfortunately, there is a large demand for addiction treatment, yet, commonly, rehab facilities, along with other healthcare resources and benefits are not always available to everyone for various reasons. 

Therefore, as a result, addiction’s death toll continues to skyrocket. It is clear, that education, accurate diagnoses, and effective treatment resources are vital to successful long-term recovery and the key to understanding the conditions of addiction and mental illness.   

LA Detox in Los Angeles, CA has helped millions of individuals recover from addiction to drug/ alcohol, and mental illness, by specifically tending to the residual long-term effects that commonly arise to wreak havoc on one’s overall health.  

The Mind-Body Connection 

According to statistical-based research, the mind and body are connected. This psychological phenomenon is known as the mind-body connection. This states that whatever affects the human brain also impacts the body and its systems. 

Therefore, when a person consumes substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs, the chemistry of the brain is changed dramatically while simultaneously the body is taking signals from whatever is occurring in its neurotransmitters. 

How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Brain and Body?

It is not a fallacy that abusing drugs and alcohol can have devastating effects on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. There are short-term and long-term physical, emotional, and mental factors that can change the brain’s chemistry, damage every important system and organ in the body, and causes a person to develop life-threatening chronic conditions. Truth is, alcohol is equally as toxic and detrimental to the mind and body as illicit drugs are.  

Alcohol and Excessive Drinking 

Many people assume that since alcohol is a major part of society and is legal, it must be safer and less harmful to their wellbeing. False! While drinking in moderation is not detrimental, unfortunately, drinking excessively leads to dependency and addiction. Alcohol use disorders (AUD), affect 30 million (1 in 8) people in the United States. 

Did you know, that alcohol is the most abused substance in the world? Binge drinking causes damage beyond a morning hangover. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking happens to be the most common and deadly use of alcohol in the United States. 

Binge Drinking 

Binge drinking is defined by an excessive pattern of drinking, where a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) becomes 0.08 g/dl or above. Men typically consume 5 or more alcoholic drinks in about two hours, while women consume 4 or more in the same amount of time. 

Commonly done by young adults aged 18-34, people aged 35 and older binge drink the most. 1 in 6 adults in the United States drinks four times a month, which usually consists of about seven beverages in one sitting. This equates to 17 billion individuals binge drinking every year!  

It is a scientific fact, that women are more susceptible than men to the effects of alcohol. They achieve higher concentration levels of alcohol in their blood, which causes them to become more impaired than men, even after they drink the same amount of alcohol. It is important to note, that someone who binge drinks does not mean that they will develop dependency or an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Due to this, women also are quicker to develop organ damage and trauma from drinking excessively, resulting in car crashes and violence of some kind, commonly domestic and relationship-related. Below are the ways that alcohol impacts the brain and body.

Effects of Drugs and Alcohol On The Brain 

It is not a secret that drugs and alcohol have severe effects on the regions of a person’s brain, especially the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex. However, how alcohol affects the brain depends on a variety of factors, as everyone’s genetic makeup is unique. These include: 

  • A person’s health status 
  • How often does a person drink or take drugs?
  • How long has a person been drinking or doing drugs? 
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Biological factors (genetics)
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Environment 
  • Any mental illness present

Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means when a person drinks it produces effects, that make them feel relaxed, pleasure, happy, and sometimes tired. This is due to the release of  Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain. These two are responsible for blocking specific signals in the central nervous system (CNS), slowing down our inhibitions, thus, producing a calming effect on the brain and body. 

Think about the last time you saw someone who had too much to drink or yourself. There was likely some stumbling and difficulty walking, slurred speech, and slowed reaction times. All of these normal functions begin in the brain, so, naturally, it would be greatly affected by this substance. Most importantly, chronic alcohol and drug abuse can cause irreversible brain damage.

Effects of Alcohol On The Body

As mentioned before, alcohol doesn’t only affect the brain but also the body at the same time. The impact that drinking has on a person’s body, begins from when they take their first sip of alcohol. 

While an occasional one or two glasses of wine at dinner isn’t a cause for concern, the collective effects of drinking overtime gradually take a toll on the body. If left untreated, alcohol abuse leads to an increased risk of long-term health problems. 

Short-Term Health Effects Of Excessive Drinking 

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol results in short-term health effects. Studies show that inhibitions and judgment/decision making become clouded because the reward and motivation centers of the brain are changing, mainly the cerebellum. The short-term effects caused by  drinking alcohol include: 

  • Loss of motor-senses and decreased coordination (Muscle weakness causing loss of balance, swaying, wobbling, and not being able to walk in a straight line. 
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Tiredness/drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach (Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls) 
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Blurred vision
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (Low Iron in the blood)
  • Blacking out (Lapses in memory of events that happened while under the influence)

Long-Term Health Effects Of Excessive Drinking 

Not to downplay the short-term effects of an alcohol use disorder, but the long-term effects that occur as a result of chronic drinking are far more severe and deadly. Thus, paying attention to warning signs is imperative! 

How you act and think is inherently linked to the functions of your brain. As the cycle of alcohol misuse continues, cognition begins to slow down, making it hard for individuals to function at a normal level. Binge drinking large quantities of alcohol causes more than just disorientation, loss of balance, and vomiting. The long-term effects of alcoholism on one’s health are severe and disturbing. They include: 

  • Drinking affects major organs: liver, heart, brain, etc. 
  • Liver disease (Cirrhosis): Prolonged liver dysfunction 
  • Heart failure, cancer, stroke
  • Cancer (Commonly of the mouth and throat)
  • Causes mental illness such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and anxiety
  • Disruption of circadian rhythm and inhibits healthy REM sleep
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • Severe cognitive effects: Memory loss, shortened attention span, and problems with coordination 
  • Injuries due to car crash, firearm, domestic violence, work, etc.
  • Loss of productivity and focus
  • Alcohol poisoning 
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual dysfunction (Erectile dysfunction, low libido, and sperm count for men)
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Ulcers
  • Malnutrition 

Treatment for long-term health complications due to chronic alcohol abuse can be treated. Alcohol Addiction is preventable and you do not have to struggle alone!

Effects of Drugs On The Brain and Body 

According to research by the Drug Policy Alliance, people under the age of 50 in the United States die due to overdose. In fact, drug overdoses the number one cause of accidental deaths in the country, which proves that drug addiction is preventable. 

While alcohol and drug abuse do share many detrimental effects of the brain and body, the way these substances are absorbed and permanently change the chemistry of the brain is different. Drug addiction can significantly and negatively impact every part of your life, physically, mentally, and socially.  

Drugs are chemicals and there are many different types and classifications. Every drug is different, affecting people differently, as we are all genetically different. They work by entering into the brain’s communication system and begin to interfere with the way neurons normally send, receive, and process information. 

Simply, drugs interfere with your nervous system’s basic functionalities. When illicit drugs, which are considered toxic enter the system it hinders one’s ability to function normally throughout the day or night as it essentially takes control over the brain and body, causing individuals to become dependant and addicted. 

For example, illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine (crystal meth, classified as stimulants, target the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for making people experience feelings of euphoria (happy), pleasure, motivation, regulating body movements, and emotion. Meth can create psychosis and hallucinations. 

When someone takes drugs, the signals or messages being sent from the brain to the body have been altered from the way that they naturally function, leading people to have unfamiliar sensations, which often causes negative feelings, behaviors, and thought patterns. 

Most importantly, prolonged drug abuse can cause deterioration and permanent damage to the circuits of the brain and its regions that help regulate emotions and mental health. There are short-term and long-term effects that are a detriment to a person’s overall health and wellbeing. 

While there are so many to list, oftentimes irreversible, here are the most common ones that are important to recognize. 

Short-Term Health Effects of Drug Abuse 

  • Fatigue
  • Increased activity and wakefulness causing insomnia and inability to sleep
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration or breathing problems 
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Feeling anxious, irritable, paranoid, and depressed
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations

Long-term Health Effects of Drug Abuse

In addition to the short-term effects of drug abuse, some long-term effects are severe, and if left untreated can cause major health complications and oftentimes, death. The long-term effects of drug addiction include: 

  • Development or exacerbation of mental conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), early-onset Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia (paranoid), etc.
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased learning capability
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack 
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Respiratory issues 
  • Stomach issues (gastrointestinal damage)
  • Hallucinations 
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Death

LA Detox Can Help You Recover From the Long-term Health Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drugs and alcohol create problems with health, relationships, professionally, financially, and sometimes legally. If you feel like you are struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, as well as, mental illness, our team of addiction specialists and medical professionals at LA Detox are here to help! It is the first step to regaining your quality of life. 

Our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs along with forms of therapy will allow patients to detox and receive the comprehensive treatment necessary to best manage their specific needs and conditions. The sooner a person receives the help needed to curb the drug and alcohol abuse, the chance of minimizing long-term health risks associated with substance abuse dramatically increases.     

Do not allow drug and alcohol addiction to control your life! Take back control, by contacting LA Detox today! We want to help you or a loved one walk the path of recovery.