Side effects of drug and alcohol misuse

What are the side effects of drug and alcohol misuse?
In this article, we look at the side effects associated with drug and alcohol misuse. 

What happens in the body when you misuse alcohol and drugs?

Chronic heavy drinking, during adolescence and the young adult years can dramatically compromise bone quality and may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

These effects of heavy alcohol use on bones cannot be reversed, even if a person stops drinking alcohol altogether.

Drinking is also closely related to liver damage and disease, two irreversible medical conditions.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been shown to greatly increase the risk of birth defects in the unborn child. Babies born with a foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience a range of symptoms that may include the following:

Premature birth Hyperactivity
Undeveloped head or body size Delayed speech
Abnormal facial features Poor judgment skills
Learning disabilities Vision or hearing problems
Heart, kidney or bone problems

These effects can be permanent and lifelong. This greatly impacts upon the unborn child’s quality of life and their ability to develop and learn.

The effects of prescription drug misuse

Misusing prescription drugs increases the chance of overdose or harmful drug interactions. These can be fatal or can leave users with permanent organ or cognitive damage.

Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin can permanently damage blood vessels,  causing high blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The effects of ‘recreational’ drug misuse


Recreational drugs are often incorrectly viewed as harmless, when in fact they can cause harmful side effects which can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues.

Marijuana, for example, has an immediate effect on memory: an effect that is typically short-lived, although not without the possibility of causing personal or professional problems.

Long-term marijuana use has been proven to lead to serious and permanent cognitive damage, depression and paranoia. There is also strong evidence that marijuana, currently a class C drug, can act as a ‘gateway drug’ leading to use of even more harmful substances such as heroin and cocaine.

LSD & hallucinogens

LSD use can lead to permanent issues with anxiety and paranoia. For some people, this may lead to schizophrenia or mental disorders.

LSD and other hallucinogen use may lead to the development of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This may involve flashbacks, false perceptions or the recurrence of other hallucinogen-related perceptual changes long after the use of the drug has ceased.


Cocaine misuse is widespread in modern society, but many people are unaware of the serious ramifications on their health. Cocaine misuse can cause anxiety and paranoia while taking the drug.

It also raises the blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks if you have a pre-existing heart condition. Cocaine misuse can also lead to depression after use and loss of appetite, while snorting cocaine long-term can erode away the septum, causing facial disfiguration.

Ending the effects of substance misuse

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance misuse, it is important to seek help before the effects of misuse become more serious.

One of the first steps in getting help is being able to understand that you have a problem. In many cases, drug addiction can sneak up on the person without them realising that they have a problem which, in turn, can lead to dependency.

In many families, there can be a suspicion that a loved one is taking drugs, even if they do not know for sure which drugs are being abused.

Our home drug testing kit can be a useful tool for helping you find out for sure whether a loved one has been misusing drugs.

We also provide drug and alcohol testing for court or private legal matters.