Top 10 Side Effects of Recreational Drugs

‘Recreational drugs’, here is used as an umbrella term to denote all the recreational and illicit drugs like meth, bath salts, cocaine, LSD, PCP, heroin, marijuana, inhalants and innumerable others. These are taken because of characteristic recreational (euphoric mostly) effects produced in the body. Drug use leads the body to develop tolerance to the drug creating drug dependence which ultimately leads to drug abuse. The effects produced may vary from drug to drug depending on usage, components and potency. Many a times, drugs are combined to bring about better and faster results. Initially these drugs are ‘tried out’ to get the feeling of being high, under circumstances ranging from peer pressure, curiosity, low self esteem, adventure seeking to sheer boredom. Though what needs to be seen is that drug use escalates pretty quickly to drug abuse without the user being aware of it most of the times. Pretty soon drug abuse reaches a level of complete chemical and physical dependence on the drug or to be more specific the effects induced in the body by the drug. Side effects can be taken as the bodily mechanism to reject what it was not designed to withstand. This list includes the general side effects of all the common recreational drugs.

10. Addiction

The first effect would be very definition of drug abuse. The absolute dependence on the chemical. The body on regular use becomes tolerant to the drug, which means, to bring about the same effects the amount of drug consumed needs to be increased over time. The person after the initial high drops dramatically low in the moods, thereby the time period between drug intake is considerably reduced each time. This can reach the point where the person wishes to continually be high on the induced effects. Reasons like economic constraints and other social obligations which hinder this addiction are effectively dropped by the person. The person can go to any length to obtain the drug and will use all measures to do the same, by hook or crook.


9. Cardiovascular Problems

Drugs alter the pace of the heart. Certain drugs cause high activity of the heart while others drop the pulse rates dramatically creating fluctuation in blood pressure levels. Drug abuse causes a wide range of cardiovascular problems ranging from abnormal heart rates to heart attacks. It can also lead to collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels and heart valves in case of injected drugs.

8. Birth Defects

Drug consumption in pregnant women has been linked to premature and underdeveloped babies. Drug abuse deteriorates the health of both the mother and the child. Drug abuse by the mother has also been linked to withdrawal symptoms in the baby, birth defects, learning and behavioral problems. Also drug abuse might lead to engaging in unhealthy activities resulting in poor nutrition and chances of developing sexually transmitted diseases. Impurities present in the drugs can be harmful for the pregnancy.


7. Sexual Dysfunction

Regular drug consumption has been shown to impair sexual performance in both men and women. Sexual dysfunction includes loss of libido or sexual drive, sexual arousal disorders whereby the inability in men to maintain an erection and for women to maintain sexual arousal during intercourse. There is also orgasmic dysfunction, that is difficulty for both men and women to reach an orgasm. The lure of the drug under addiction often leads the person to seek it above everything else including sexual contact.

6. Weakening Immune System

Many drugs like opiates that function as painkillers, cannabis etc set off a chain of reactions that suppresses the immune system. A weakened immune system makes the user more susceptible to illnesses and infections of all sorts. The Natural Killer cells that originates in the bone marrow and circulates in the blood stream is suppressed by drugs that degrade immunity. Marijuana cannabinoids cause increased susceptibility to cancer and infections. Deficient immune system along with drug abuse shows increased risks of developing blood borne diseases like HIV, Hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.


5. Respiratory Problems

Drug abuse can cause one to be more receptive to diseases like pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Side effects of drugs include chest and lung pains, respiratory depression or slow and shallow breathing in the individual. Impaired appetite, increasing temperatures, nausea and vomiting are also certain effects that are commonly seen.

4. Tampers with the Brain

The pleasurable intoxicating effects of drugs or the ‘high’ associated with drugs is due to the release of chemical dopamine by the brain. The chemicals present in drugs taps into the communication system of the brain, either by imitating the natural chemical messengers of the brain or by overstimulating the reward system of the brain. Drugs that have similar structure to neurotransmitters of the brain, fools the brain receptors and activates the nerve cells to send abnormal messages. Other drugs cause the nerves to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters, mostly dopamine. Dopamine is present in the brain regions associated with control of movement, emotion, motivation and feelings of pleasure. It is linked to the reward system of the brain associated with natural survival behaviors. Excess of dopamine thereby causes immense pleasure, thereby the high. Long term drug abuse also causes seizures, strokes and wide spread brain damage. It causes problems in memory, attention, decision making, sustained mental confusion and permanent brain damage.

3. Coordination Problems

Coordination here includes not only the coordination between brain and physical movements but also the overall motor capabilities. As mentioned earlier, drugs tamper with the wiring of the brain causing it to go awry. Hence frequently seen and known effects of drug abuse is coordination problems like lack of synchronization between various limbs of the body, impaired or slurred speech, problems in depth perception, impaired judgement and loss of self control.

2. Antisocial Personality

Drug abuse causes a person to withdraw from social activities that the person earlier took pleasure in. This includes weak performance at work, drop in performance at school and insufficient motivation to carry on with any activity. The brain becomes used to the altered conscious state, necessitating it to be in a continually euphoric or otherworldly state of mind hence leading to more drug abuse. Then there is aggressiveness, irritability and selfishness. People diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder have shown to be under substance abuse. One of the effects of drugs is the continued use despite repeated social and relationship problems.


1. Personality Disorders

Drug abuse develops a wide range of personality disorders in people like Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression and severe anxiety. Drug abuse due to drug dependence causes compulsive behavior in the individuals to get the drug, to crave for the drug and also continue the use of the drug despite its negative consequences. Recurrent drug use leads to inability to meet obligations at home, work and school. The person develops extreme anxiety on discontinuation of use and acute depression and lack of motivation to complete any task. Constant paranoia is imbibed as a trait in these individuals who are in a state of constant fear and suspicion, even on loved ones. Bipolar disorder is developed due to the fling from extreme euphoria to depression in the time period between drug usage. Schizophrenia is a disorder where there is confusion and difficulty in recognizing what is real, and impaired perceptions of time and space, which happens due to induced hallucinations caused by the hallucinogenic drugs.


‘The Truth About Drugs’ is an initiative by, which are a set of booklets on literally all the aspects covering drugs. There are separate booklets for individual drugs. They cover the whole range from why people take drugs to what the dealer or the pusher will tell you about drugs. Personal accounts and instances from individuals who have gone through drug abuse is shown to represent the stark reality of such situations. The booklets are for educators, those looking to try out drugs, therapists and for people who wish to save their dear ones from a cruel fate.


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