Health Complications that Arise from Substance Abuse

All addictions are brain disorders. Some people are more likely to become addicted based on their genetics and environment. It is not because of a lack of will power, moral failure, or because they want to. 

It is common knowledge that substance disorders have many negative consequences and a wide range of effects. The specific effects depend on the substances used, how often and how much is used, and whether they are taken orally or injected. Some of the consequences are:

health complications from addiction

In 2015, almost 8% of the adult and adolescent population were affected by substance use disorders. According to the Surgeon General, “that number is similar to the number of people who suffer from diabetes, and more than 1.5 times the annual prevalence of all cancers combined.”

Complications from Alcohol Use Disorder

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)–FASDs are a group of conditions that occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord. There is no “safe” amount of alcohol that can be used. There is no safe time during pregnancy to drink.  

FASDs refer to the whole spectrum of effects that can happen to an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. People are affected in different ways and can range from mild to severe. A person with FASD might have: Abnormal facial features such as a smooth vertical ridge between the nose and upper lip called the philtrum.

Types of FASDs:

  1. thinking and memory problems
  2. behavior issues such as moodiness and severe tantrums.
  3. Problems with day-to-day living including problems with bathing, dressing, and playing with other children.

FASDs are preventable if the mother stops drinking. A woman should not drink alcohol, including wines and beer, when she is pregnant or might be pregnant. The mother could be pregnant for 4 to 6 weeks before she even knows she’s pregnant.

Health Complications from Using Alcohol

Excessive drinking, whether it is binge drinking, heavy drinking or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can lead to: 

Research has shown that alcohol use by teenagers and young adults increases the risk of fatal and nonfatal injuries. People who use alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to develop AUD than people who begin drinking at age 21. Additional consequences of teenage alcohol use include risky sexual behaviors, poor academic performance, and increased risk of suicide and homicide.

Health Implications in Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)

SUDs occur when an individual uses a substance to such a degree that it causes significant impairments in health, social functioning, and voluntary control over the use of substances. Most people who misuse substances do not develop SUD; however, approximately one in seven people in the US are expected to develop a substance use disorder at some point.  

Dr. Amber Bahorik of the University of California, San Francisco, conducted a study comparing the medical records of all patients in a Northern California health care system diagnosed with a substance use disorder to an equal number without a SUD. Of the patients with SUDs, 57.6% met standards for alcohol use disorder, 14.9% for cannabis use disorder, and 12.9% for opioid use disorder. Sixty-eight percent of the patients had two or more disorders.

The patients with SUDs had a higher rate of 19 major health issues. They are:

  1. Acid-peptic disorders
  2. Arthritis
  3. Asthma
  4. Chronic kidney disease
  5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  6. Chronic pain
  7. Congestive heart failure
  8. Coronary artery disease
  9. Diabetes mellitus
  10. End-stage renal disease
  11. Headaches
  12. Hepatitis C
  13. Hypertension
  14. Injury (including poisoning and overdose)
  15. Heart disease
  16. Pneumonia
  17. Obesity
  18. Osteoporosis
  19. Stroke

Opioid Use Disorder

When a person uses opioids in excess, they can activate the brain’s reward system to create feelings of pleasure or a “high.” The reward system of a person’s body is usually used to reinforce behaviors and produce memories. Opiate abuse activates the normal reward system so strongly that normal activities get neglected and forgotten about in favor of the high.

After a while, heavy opiate use changes the brain’s reward system so that the addicted person becomes physically dependent on the drug. Opioid addiction causes compulsive use and extreme involvement in finding, getting, and using the drug.

Opioid addiction includes drug tolerance, the need to take higher doses to feel the same effects. When reducing or stopping use, addicted people experience pain and other symptoms, called withdrawal.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include:

Prescription opioids are used to treat pain. Other opioids, like heroin, are illegal. Abuse and addiction can cause serious health problems and may lead to death. Negative mental and physical effects include:

Drugs that are commonly injected can lead to HIV, hepatitis, and infectious diseases:

Using opioids is a choice some people make, but some factors may increase the risk of addiction. A family history of drug dependence and people who grew up in certain social or economic situations may be more at risk for dependence. Individuals who abuse alcohol or other drugs, or have a mental illness also have a higher risk.

Cannabis Use Disorder

When cannabis first began to be widely used in the early 1970s, the proportion of young people who have used it has increased, and the age of first use has dropped. Cannabis use now starts in the mid-to-late teens. This is an important period of social transition, and misadventures can have a large impact on a teen’s life chances.  

Studies in the 1980s and 1990s showed that 4% of the population of the US had met the diagnostic standards for cannabis abuse and dependence at some time. The risk of dependence is much higher for daily users and people who start using it at an early age.

Cannabis use and psychotic symptoms and disorders are associated with the population and in people with schizophrenia. This doesn’t mean that cannabis use causes schizophrenia, but it can cause the onset of schizophrenia in people who are susceptible to the condition.  

Most adults who use cannabis occasionally find it enjoyable and don’t have any substantial problems. 

Cannabis use still has some risks, such as:

At this time, the percentage of people who meet the criteria for cannabis dependence has climbed to 9%. The rate doubles for those who begin use before the age of 17. There are still questions about how frequent use may affect adolescent brain development.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that raises the level of alertness, attention, and energy. It comes in a few different forms, but the most common is a fine white powder, which can also be made into a rock crystal.

Long term health effects of cocaine include:

The more you use cocaine, your brain adapts to it. This can lead to a dangerous addiction or overdose. An overdose may lead to a stroke or heart attack. There are no medicines approved for cocaine addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine detox can include:

Symptoms of detox from cocaine are unpredictable but usually begin within 24 hours after the last use and continue for 3 to 5 days. Some symptoms may last for weeks.

Acute cocaine withdrawal syndrome may look different among different people. Some people experience more emotional and psychological issues instead of physical issues. Due to the lack of medications available, professional cocaine detox treatment will focus on providing a safe environment and monitoring systems.

Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are a prescription medicine that is sometimes taken without medical advice to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.

Common health effects of anabolic steroids include

If you think you are addicted to anabolic steroids, you should see your physician. Treatment for an addiction to anabolic steroids will be similar to that of other types of substance addiction.

SUDs, Withdrawal, Detox, and Treatment

Detox—Patients with a severe substance or alcohol abuse problem must first go through a detoxification process with medical supervision.  

Detox is not a treatment on its own, but it is only the first step in the process. Patients that don’t receive any added treatment after detox usually resume their drug use. A study of treatment facilities found that medications were used in almost 80% of detoxifications.


The first week of withdrawal is usually the worst, but symptoms may last longer. Withdrawal from opiates may cause symptoms such as body pain, body aches, fatigue, and nausea. Over time, the symptoms will ease and medical treatments can help. Late symptoms of withdrawal include:

When possible, people should work with a healthcare professional, particularly an addiction specialist, to come off opiates gradually. Drug replacement medicines, such as methadone and buprenorphine are helpful.


Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be mild or serious. It depends on how much the person drank and for how long. Mild symptoms show up as early as 6 hours after stopping drinking. They include:

More serious problems range from hallucinations that begin 12 to 24 hours after the last drink to seizures within the first 2 days. Delirium tremens (DTs) are the severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations or delusions and usually start about 72 hours after quitting.


Withdrawal from steroids can result in symptoms such as:


Many options have successfully been used to treat alcohol and drug addiction, including:

Detox and Addiction Treatment Help

An individualized treatment program and follow-up options are critical to success. Treatment should include any medical and mental health services as required. Follow-up treatment might consist of community or family-based recovery support therapies. If you recognize yourself or a loved one in the previous examples, there is no time to “wait and see.” Contact Coastal Detox at (866) 924-3350.

Addicts need professional treatment. Period. Even addicts who do not go voluntarily can be successful at getting and staying sober. The next step now is to call. Speak to one of our specialists. From detox to therapies, we will tailor a treatment program to fit your needs.  


Real Client Testimonials

  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

    Addison R. Avatar
    Addison R.
  • Thank you Costal Detox, 9 months sober now and loving every bit of it! I hate how mean I was while detoxing but then again it’s all part of the process. The staff were so caring and kind - helpful in so many ways! The environment was so comfortable and pleasing to be in!

    Addison R. Avatar
    Addison R.
  • This facility is amazing.I would highly recommend it to anyone struggling with addiction.The entire personnel from Judy,the director to Annie,the outreach coordinator will facilitate a smooth intake process.Your recovery journey awaits you with an on-site therapist in sight .All the tools are here for your ample needs.The techs know directly who to refer you to.,especially Tony and Karen. Confidentiality and professionalism are their top priority. Take the step

    Joan C. Avatar
    Joan C.
  • Every staff member made this process easier. In the darkest hours they shined light. Judy was absolutely amazing. They helped so much and my family will forever be grateful to everyone there. If you or your loved one needs help, rest assured that they will get the best care.

    suzanne w. Avatar
    suzanne w.
  • My experience at Coastal Detox was great. Very grateful that I had the option to stay here for treatment. Great food and truly caring staff. Definitely recommend Coastal if you are in need of detox or wish to be in a residential level of care.

    Gabriella S. Avatar
    Gabriella S.

No products in the cart.