What are the medical consequences of drug addiction?
Individuals who suffer from addiction often have one or more accompanying
medical issues, including lung and cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and
Imaging scans, chest x-rays, and blood tests show the damaging effects of drug
abuse throughout the body. For example, tests show that tobacco smoke causes
cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, blood, lungs, stomach, pancreas, kidney,
bladder, and cervix. In addition, some drugs of abuse, such as inhalants, are
toxic to nerve cells and may damage or destroy them either in the brain or the
peripheral nervous system.
Does drug abuse cause mental disorders, or vice versa?
Drug abuse and mental disorders often co-exist. In some cases, mental diseases
may precede addiction; in other cases, drug abuse may trigger or exacerbate
mental disorders, particularly in individuals with specific vulnerabilities.
What harmful consequences to others result from drug addiction?
Beyond the harmful consequences for the addicted individual, drug abuse can
cause serious health problems for others.
Three of the more devastating and troubling consequences of addiction are:
Negative effects of prenatal drug exposure on infants and children.
It is likely that some drug-exposed children will need educational support in
the classroom to help them overcome what may be subtle deficits in developmental
areas such as behavior, attention, and cognition. Ongoing work is investigating
whether the effects of prenatal exposure on brain and behavior extend into
adolescence to cause developmental problems during that time period.
Negative effects of second-hand smoke.
Second-hand tobacco smoke, also referred to as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS),
is a significant source of exposure to a large number of substances known to be
hazardous to human health, particularly to children.
According to the Surgeon General's 2006 Report, The Health Consequences of
Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, involuntary smoking increases the risk of
heart disease and lung cancer in never-smokers by 25-30 percent and 20-30
Increased spread of infectious diseases.
Injection of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine accounts for
more than a third of new AIDS cases. Injection drug use is also a major factor
in the spread of hepatitis C, a serious, potentially fatal liver disease and a
rapidly growing public health problem.
Injection drug use is not the only way that drug abuse contributes to the spread
of infectious diseases. All drugs of abuse cause some form of intoxication,
which interferes with judgment and increases the likelihood of risky sexual
behaviors. This, in turn, contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and
C, and other sexually transmitted diseases.