Physical Health Consequences of Drug Use

Last Updated: Monday, April 3, 2017


The Impact of Drugs on Physical Health

Drug abuse can have a serious, life-changing impact on your child: their physical and mental health is at stake.  Here’s where you’ll learn more about the health consequences that drug abuse has on your teen.

Physical Health

Drug abuse can adversely affect every major system in the human body.

Teens who abuse drugs may engage in behavior that places them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. This may happen because they are injecting drugs and sharing used needles, or because of poor judgment and impulse control while experiencing the effects of mood-altering drugs, making them more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.

Mental Health

Mental health problems such as depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions frequently are linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression; conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide. Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills.


No one thinks that they will ever become addicted to drugs when they start using them—but addiction can and often does happen. Addiction is a compulsive need for and use of habit-forming substances such as drugs. Someone who is addicted loses control and judgment and when use of the drug is stopped, may suffer severe psychological or physical symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, unhappiness, and stress. Withdrawal from certain drugs can also result in severe physical discomfort, such as tremors, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, bone pain, and even seizures. Long-term users of certain drugs may experience pervasive changes in brain function. For example, prolonged exposure to Ecstasy can lead to deficits in memory, increased depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

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