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Health Effects of Illegal Drugs

Effects Can Range From Mild to Life-Threatening


Updated July 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Many illicit drug users may think that the only bad thing about doing drugs is that they are illegal and if you get caught, you can go to jail. The truth is there are negative health effects associated with every illegal drug out there and some of them can even be fatal.

Here is a summary of the most commonly used illicit drugs and the effects they have on your health.

1. The Health Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana Plant
Proponents of marijuana legalization and pot smokers in general tend to believe there is no harm in using marijuana, but scientific research tells us differently. Studies have shown that smoking weed can have negative effects on the brain, the heart and the lungs. Although no link has been confirmed between smoking marijuana and the risk of developing cancer, marijuana smoke contains three times the amount of tar found in tobacco smoke and 50% more carcinogens, so smokers might want to consider that the risk may exist. Read more...

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2. Effects of Methamphetamine

Crystal Meth
The health effects of methamphetamine use may be the most noticeable and visible of any of the commonly abused illegal drugs, because it has such a dramatic effect on the outward appearance of chronic users. After a relatively short period of use, methamphetamine will begin to show on the faces of some users and begin to affect their oral health to the extent they develop what is known as meth mouth. But those are just the outward signs. Read more...

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3. The Health Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine Lines
The health effects of cocaine use may not be as noticeable as those of meth use, but they can be just as dangerous. Although cocaine overdose is rare, long-term use of the drug can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Other health problems can occur depending on how the drug is used -- snorted, ingested or injected. Read more...

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4. Health Effects of Ecstasy

Ecstasy Pills
Although ecstasy is a designer drug, negative health effects associated with its use are similar to those experienced by amphetamines and cocaine users. MDMA can cause a long list of psychological and physical problems, which can range from sleep disruption to severe anxiety, from nausea to blurred vision and from increased heart rate to high blood pressure. But the main danger with ecstasy use is that it is often mixed with other drugs, which can have unexpected consequences. Read more...

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5. The Health Effects of Heroin

Heroin Needle
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Most of the health effects associated with heroin use are not due to the use of the drug itself, but related to the manner in which it is used. Users who inject heroin can suffer many negative health effects related to infections that develop due to the use of non-sterile injection techniques. The biggest health concerns involved in the use of heroin is the fact that it is highly addictive and that it is easy to overdose on the drug. Read more...

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6. Effects of LSD

Pills in Hand
There are really very few studies about the health consequences associated with the use of LSD. Most of the physical effects produced by LSD use are relatively mild, and it is the psychological effects that are much more dramatic. The main problem with LSD use is that its effects are unpredictable. A regular user of LSD can suddenly experience an acute adverse reaction, known as a "bad trip," at any time. Read more...

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  5. Commonly Abused Drugs
  6. Health Effects of Various Illegal Drugs

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