Health Effects : Risks of Specific Drugs

People use drugs for recreation because they enjoy some of their effects, but there are also many short- and long-term effects that are unpleasant, harmful, or potentially fatal. It is important to be aware of the risks involved.

Hazardous effects

Short-term hazards may occur soon after taking a drug, possibly after only one dose. Long-term risks result from repeated use.

Drug Short-term hazards Long-term hazards
  • Nausea

  • Tense muscles

  • Panic

  • Loss of temperature control and/or fluid retention, which can cause coma and death

  • Sleep problems

  • Depression

  • Possible liver and kidney problems and brain damage

  • Tension

  • Anxiety

  • Hallucinations

  • Overdose may be fatal

  • Effects include lethargy and depression

  • Heart disorders

  • Severe psychological disorders

  • Paranoia

  • Overdose can cause heart attack

  • Effects include lethargy and depression

  • Damage to nose and lungs from sniffing drug

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

  • Heart disorders

  • Loss of self-control

  • Violent or erratic behaviour

  • Burnt mouth and throat

  • Chest pain

  • Heart disorders

  • Damage to lungs

  • Paranoia

Cannabis (marijuana)
  • Decreased coordination and concentration

  • Impairment of skills, such as driving vehicles

  • Anxiety

  • Panic

  • Paranoia

  • Apathy

  • Increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory disorders

  • High blood pressure

  • Memory problems

  • Mental illness

  • Infertility

  • Overdose can cause coma and death

  • Infection with HIV or hepatitis if needles are shared

  • Tremor

  • Apathy

  • Blood-vessel damage from repeated injections

Solvents (eg. glue, petrol, aerosols)
  • Vomiting

  • Suffocation if inhaling from plastic bag

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Possibly fatal reaction upon inhalation

  • Cough

  • Rash around nose and mouth

  • Damage to brain, liver, kidneys, and nervous system

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Extreme anxiety

  • Loss of self-control and increased risk of accidents

  • Hallucinations that occur months or even years after use of drug

Phencyclidine, or phenocyclo-piperidine (PCP)
  • Confusion

  • Vomiting

  • Sharp rise or fall in pulse rate and blood pressure

  • Seizures

  • Heart failure

  • Overdose may be fatal

  • Loss of short-term memory and coordination

  • Paranoia

  • Speech difficulties

  • Violent behaviour

  • Depression

  • Palpitations

  • Hallucinations

  • Paralysis

  • Convulsions

  • Breathing problems

  • Memory and learning problems

  • Flashbacks

  • Psychosis

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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