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The effects of drugs on the body very much depend on the type of drug being used.

With all drugs, there are both short term and long term effects on the body that come with many risks and dangers.

Even recreational use of a drug does not guarantee your safety. However, if you have developed a problem with a drug or drugs, it is wise to educate yourself on the possible long term implications of continuing to abuse that drug.

Here, Delamere explain the effects different types of drugs have on the body, both in the short term and in the long term for problematic drug users

Help and support for a drug abuse problem or drug addiction can be found by contacting a member of our friendly team of addiction treatment experts.

boy looking through a glass table at some drugs

The type of drug you take dictates its effects on your body

There are numerous drugs available, many of which we have separate articles on.

What is more helpful in terms of the education we are providing, is to split the drugs into their recognised groups and classifications.

The Department of Health has split drugs into 3 main groups according to the effects they have of the body’s central nervous system (CNS)

The 3 main drug classifications are:

  • Stimulants
  • Depressants
  • Hallucinogens (1)

There are also drugs that fall into an ‘others’ section. These drugs tend to be unpredictable in their effects and include psychoactive drugs that do not fit exactly into one of the above three recognised categories.

Examples of psychoactive ‘others’ drugs include:

  • Antidepressants such as sertraline and Prozac
  • Mood stabilisers such as lithium
  • MDMA ( ecstasy)
  • Cannabis
  • Volatile substances (petrol, glue, gas, thinners) (1)

There are also many man made drugs on the market. These are made in backstreet laboratories and dealers homes. They contain many chemicals, ingredients and different drugs.

‘Designer drugs’ are marketed to mimic the effects of commonly abused drugs. Many used to be known as ‘legal Highs’ but have now been classified under ‘The new psychoactive drugs Act’.

Prime examples of extremely addictive and deadly ‘designer drugs’ are M-Cat, Flakka and Spice.

psychoactive substance act 26 May 2016

The effects of these new psychoactive drugs are incredibly unpredictable and dangerous. Many of them contain potentially lethal substances including rat poison and household chemicals.

There is also a further sub classification for dissociative anaesthetic drugs. Drugs that are primarily used for sedation but possess painkilling properties and dissociative effects – ketamine being an example (2)

The effects of a drug on your body could be completely different to someone else

How drugs affect your body could be completely different to another person taking the same drug and same dosage. This is due to a number of different factors that are personal to you and your genetic makeup.

drugs affect the way you hear, see, smell, move, eat, sleep, think

Many drugs will also cross over as having properties or effects of another group, depending on how they are used.

For instance, alcohol is the most commonly abused depressant drug but when taking in large quantities it can have hallucinogenic effects, altering a person’s perception. Another example would be opiates which are depressant narcotic drugs but certain individuals will feel stimulant like effects.

Tolerance and dependence to a drug also alters a drug’s effects on the body as does abusing a drug, taking excessive amounts of a drug, mixing it with alcohol, another drug, or prescription medication.

Because everybody is individual it is impossible to predict exactly what effects a drug will have on a person.

We can therefore only provide a guideline of common effects commonly abused drugs have on the body.

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The effects of depressant drugs on the body

Depressant drugs have the effect of slowing down the body and brain, they suppress and impair its function.

Depressant drugs work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter known as GABA. By increasing the amount of GABA activity, brain activity is reduced. This produces feelings of relaxation and calmness. (4)

Depressant drugs that are commonly abused include :

The short term effects of depressant drugs on the body (Xanax, benzodiazepines, opiates, gabapentinoids) include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired speech (slow or slurring)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Impaired judgement
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Poor decision making skills
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed respiratory rate
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma
  • Death (4,5)

The long term effects of depressant drugs on the body ( sedatives, opioids, benzos) include:

  • Drug tolerance
  • Drug dependence
  • Drug addiction
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Persistent constipation leading to bowl and gastrointestinal problems
  • Compromised immune system
  • CNS damage
  • Increased likelihood of developing diabetes type 2
  • Sexual problems
  • Increased pain sensitivity
  • Reduced motivation levels
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Short term and long term memory loss
  • Brain damage
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Coma
  • Death (4,5)

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The effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the body

Hallucinogenic drugs are drugs that have psychoactive properties. Whilst they mainly affect the brain in its perception of time, space, taste, touch, hearing and vision, they also have effects on the body.

Hallucinogenic drugs mainly work on the prefrontal cortex part of the brain which is responsible for processing information as well as cognition and perception (6)

Hallucinogenic drugs that are commonly abused include:

  • LSD
  • Acid
  • Magic mushrooms
  • PCP
  • Ayahuasca

The short term effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the body include:

  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dry mouth
  • Dissociation
  • Hallucinations (auditory or visual)
  • Changes to senses
  • Paranoia
  • Increased sweating
  • Numbness
  • Tremours
  • Sweating
  • Coma
  • Death (6)

Long term effects of hallucinogenic drugs on the body include:

  • Persistent psychosis
  • Visual impairment
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
  • Symptoms presenting similar to a stroke or brain tumour
  • Drug tolerance
  • Drug withdrawal
  • Drug addiction (6)

The effects of drug withdrawal on the body

Depending on the drug that the body has become dependent on will dictate the withdrawal symptoms a person suffers.

Withdrawal effects of drugs are usually the opposite of its pharmacological effects.

For example, withdrawing from a depressant drug (such as alcohol or a benzodiazepine) a person will experience a number of physical and psychological effects resulting from the brain overstimulating the central nervous system.

Drug withdrawal effects are caused by the brain transitioning as it tries to adjust to being without the drug or adapting to a lesser dosage.

Naturally the brain will crave more of the drug and this (together with other unpleasant effects of drug withdrawal) can lead a person to relapse or continue to use rather than going through the process of drug detoxification.

Effects of drug withdrawal on the body include:

  • Insomnia
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Tremors
  • Racing or irregular heart beat
  • Impaired coordination
  • Aches and pains
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Respiratory or cardiac arrest
  • Death

If you are dependent on a drug and want to stop, a full medical drug detox is clinically recommended as the safest and most successful way.

You can find out more about our bespoke drug detoxes here at Delamere by calling and speaking to a member of our team.

The effects of drug addiction on the body

Drug addiction is at the most extreme end of the spectrum of substance misuse disorders and is a deadly condition.

By the time the body develops addiction to a drug the brain will have rewired its pathways and suffered irreparable damage.

Whilst drug addiction is recognised as an incurable, chronic brain disease, it can be successfully arrested through medical detoxification. Continued abstinence can be maintained through undergoing rehabilitation and applying a programme of recovery.

Untreated addiction only ever gets progressively worse due to the tolerance and dependence aspect. The brain becomes more damaged through excessive exposure to drugs and addiction associated behaviours become more ingrained (8)

The effects of drugs on the body also become progressively worse, eventually affecting every organ in the body and sometimes causing irreparable and life threatening damage and disease.

If you or someone you love suffers from drug abuse or addiction, we cannot stress enough how important undertaking professional treatment is.

A person suffering from drug addiction cannot simply ‘think’ their way better. This is due to the profound changes that occur in the body and the brain

Thankfully, we at Delamere have the facilities, knowledge and expertise to fully treat any kind of drug addiction comprehensively and successfully.

If you or a loved one need help for a drug problem, please call or message us. We are dedicated and passionate about helping save the lives of those that suffer from addiction and are waiting to take your call.

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  1. Classifying drugs by their effect on the central nervous system – Department of health
  2. Green SM, Roback MG, Kennedy RM, Krauss B (May 2011). “Clinical practice guideline for emergency department ketamine dissociative sedation: 2011 update”. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 57 (5): 449–61. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.11.030. PMID 21256625.
  3. Nash, J.M. Addicted. Time. 1997;149(18):69–76. [Reference list]
  4. Zlott DA, Byrne M. Mechanisms by which pharmacologic agents may contribute to fatigue. PM R. 2010;2(5):451-5. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2010.04.018
  5. CNS depressants, Drug facts. NIDA
  6. How do hallucinogens work? 
  7. Prescribed medicines review. Public Health England ://
  8. Understanding drug addiction . Drug Abuse gov