What are you willing to pay?

Using drugs comes with a high price tag, costing some people their lives. A startling 130 Americans die every day as a result of an opioid overdose.

Death is only one of the ways drugs can take their toll on you. They can also cause long-lasting damage to an individuals heart and brain. In some cases, substance abuse can cause the brain to change how it functions entirely.

Years after stopping the use of a drug, a person can still have to deal with the adverse side effects of rewiring their brain. In some cases the damage is irreversible.

Are you or a loved one thinking about, or currently abusing a substance? Read on to learn about the long-term effects of drug use.

Effects of Drug Use: Alcohol

When we think of someone as tipsy or drunk, we usually imagine them as happy and carefree. But did you know that alcohol is actually a depressant?

There are several different factors that play a part in the way alcohol affects your brain. How much a person drinks, how frequently, and their overall health, can contribute to the amount of damage taking place.

Alcohol and Brain Damage

Have you ever heard of someone getting blackout drunk? This occurs when a person becomes so intoxicated their memory becomes impaired. Usually, this occurs when someone quickly drinks an excess of alcohol.

A British study found that blackout drinking can cause severe damage to the brain. The brain has a higher risk of developing hippocampal atrophy and decreased cognitive functions.

Hippocampal atrophy is a key feature in patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs because the brain has lost important neurons that it needs to function correctly.

Alcohol and the Heart

Drinking excessively can put your heart at serious risk. Here are some of the problems alcoholics can have with their hearts:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cardiac death

So why does alcohol, in excess, hurt your heart? Having too much alcohol can cause the levels of fat in your blood to rise. It can also cause you to have higher than normal blood pressure.

Heart attacks become a threat when you combine increased fat levels with high blood pressure. You'll also be at risk for heart failure.

So far, we've been discussing how alcohol, a depressant, can harm your body. Next, we'll look at the side effects of long-term stimulant abuse.

Effects of Drug Use: Stimulants

There are many different kinds of stimulants that individuals are currently abusing. Here's a short list of some of their names:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Ecstasy or MDMA

When someone takes a stimulant, they are tampering with their central nervous system. The ingredients in the drug will work together to give the user an increased sense of alertness.

Users take stimulants in a variety of ways.

They can choose to take the drug orally or they can snort or inject it. Snorting drugs can cause issues later on with the nasal cavity. Injecting substances can also put a user at risk of contracting a sickness from dirty needles.

Amphetamine Abuse

Doctors can prescribe different types of amphetamines, to help patients with ADHD. Studies of patients who abused amphetamines show their brains as altered.

They tend to have fewer dopamine receptors, and transporters. This means, individuals who abuse amphetamines, will have a more difficult time feeling pleasure in the future.

They may also have a more difficult time feeling motivated and will be more prone to depression.

Long-Term Cocaine Use

When you use cocaine for a long period of time, you can change your brain. Animal studies have taught us that major neuroadaptations can take place in long-term users. This means the brain will react differently to outside stimuli, like stress.

An individual who abuses cocaine may develop a stress disorder. They'll no longer be able to handle stressful situations in a logical manner.

Instead, their brain goes into overdrive, initiating a fight-or-flight feeling. Stress is usually one of the main reasons for relapse. The cocaine addict can find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of feeling stressed, and needing to use.

Effects of Drug Use: MDMA

MDMA, molly, and ecstasy are all referencing the same illicit stimulant. This stimulant is a type of party-drug that gives users an intense feeling of euphoria and belonging.

Long-term use of MDMA can destroy the brains serotonin production. Seratonin is responsible for helping with a lot of your everyday functions. Here are a few of the things serotonin helps regulate:

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Aggression
  • Sexual appetite
  • Sensitivity to pain

When you destroy the serotonin-producing neurons, the brain's chemicals experience an imbalance. An individual will have a difficult time maintaining regular their aggression, or moods. They might also find themselves having trouble sleeping, or battling depressing thoughts.

Researchers studied nonhuman primates to determine when serotonin levels would return to normal. They found that after exposure to MDMA, serotonin levels can remain irregular for up to 7 years.

Long-Term Use Versus Addiction

Now you know more about the long-term effects of drug use. Yet you might still be left wondering, “Am I dealing with an addiction?”.

Addiction Treatment Services is here to help answer any questions you might be dealing with. We are passionate about providing our readers with quality information to guide them in their time of need.

Reach out to us today using our contact us page. One of our team members will be more than happy to help you find the answers you’re looking for.

We understand that substance abuse can present itself in a number of ways. If you're not sure what you're dealing with, you might need more information. Check out our article about the signs of drug and alcohol addiction.


Berman, S., O’Neill, J., Fears, S., Bartzokis, G., & London, E. D. (2008, October). Abuse of amphetamines and structural abnormalities in the brain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769923/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are some ways that cocaine changes the brain? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/cocaine/what-are-some-ways-cocaine-changes-brain

Opioid Overdose. (2018, December 19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

Topiwala, A., Allan, C. L., Valkanova, V., Zsoldos, E., Filippini, N., Sexton, C., Ebmeier, K. P. (2017, June 06). Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: Longitudinal cohort study. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2353

What are the effects of the drug Ecstasy? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-the-effects-of-t/