While there are many reasons someone might try an illicit substance, no one who uses intends to develop long-lasting problems from the behavior. Sadly, the truth is that prolonged substance use can have many adverse consequences ranging from physical to mental and emotional health.

Two specific areas that substance use can negatively affect your body are the lungs and heart. If you think you have a substance use disorder, now is the time to start on your sobriety journey. Making this crucial choice could save your life. Continue reading to learn more about the potential consequences substance use can have on your lungs and heart.

Respiratory Effects 

The lungs provide oxygen directly to the body and anything that is inhaled rapidly enters the bloodstream and the brain. Furthermore, it only takes around eight seconds for the lungs to absorb substances that enter the body. This means that the effects are not only practically instantaneous but potentially very dangerous. 

Substances that can affect the respiratory system include: 

  • Cocaine
  • DXM
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Ketamine
  • Marijuana
  • PCP
  • Prescription Opioids
  • Tobacco, Nicotine and Vaping

The use of any of these substances can lead to a variety of respiratory problems. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, smoking cigarettes can cause bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Marijuana smoke can lead to chronic bronchitis. Smoking crack cocaine can result in severe lung problems and even respiratory damage. The use of opioids (and other drugs) may cause breathing to slow, block air from entering the lungs or make asthma symptoms worse. Morphine, heroin and other depressants can cause respiratory depression and increase your risk of lung problems like pneumonia.

Cardiovascular Effects 

Substance use can also result in adverse cardiovascular effects, ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks. According to the American Heart Association, injecting illegal substances can even lead to serious health issues like collapsed veins and bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves.

Substances that can affect the cardiovascular system include: 

  • Cocaine
  • DMT
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Ketamine
  • Khat
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA
  • Mescaline (Peyote)
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • Prescription Stimulants
  • Steroids (appearance and performance-enhancing drugs)
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids
  • Synthetic Cathinones
  • Tobacco, Nicotine and Vaping

The use of any of these substances can result in a variety of cardiovascular problems. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that smoking tobacco dramatically increases heart disease risk, including stroke, heart attack and vascular disease. Even the use of e-cigarettes has been shown to increase the risk of developing chronic lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Depressants like heroin and opioids can lead to circulatory depression. Cocaine usage (including recreational) can result in users having higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users and can lead to heart attacks. Cocaine use has also been associated with chest pain and myocardial infarction.

Substance Use Treatment | Seneca Health Services 

At Seneca Health Services, we provide a holistic approach to substance use treatment. Our team of psychiatrists, physician extenders, psychologists, therapists, nurses, case managers and other professional staff are dedicated to improving our patients’ health. We begin each episode of treatment with an individual assessment by a qualified behavioral health clinician.

We also provide medical services such as psychiatric evaluation, evaluation and management services for medications to treat substance use disorders. We help individuals of all ages, and our psychiatric medical staff specializes in mental health and substance use. 

In addition to the outpatient medical services, our medical staff serves our residential treatment programs, Crosswinds Center, a short-term residential treatment program located in Maxwelton, and Recovery Ridge, a substance use residential treatment program located in Summersville.

We respect diversity and offer specialized services to address the needs of our individual patients. At Seneca Health Services, we personalize our patients’ care so that they receive adequate treatment. We listen to you, and will not provide any more or any less than what you need. Seneca Health Services is always here for you whenever you are ready. You are never alone. 

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest you.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia: (304) 497-0500

Nicholas County, West Virginia: (304) 872-2659

Pocahontas County, West Virginia: (304) 799-6865

Webster County, West Virginia: (304) 847-5425

 

References: 

Lungs

Respiratory Effects

The Concerns of Prolonged Drug use

Illegal Drugs and Heart Disease

Cardiovascular Effects