Substance abuse can occur with a variety of substances. Learning about each of the commonly abused substances and the effects that they have on your physiology can be extremely useful. Each substance comes with its own set of side effects and potential consequences.


Alcohol is a commonly abused substance, especially among young adults. There are a variety of side effects that can come from consuming alcohol. Alcohol can cause serious effects on our motor function and ability to process information and make decisions. Because of its effects on judgment, alcohol use can impair people’s ability to recognize the harmful effects that alcohol is having on them. This can cause people to not realize they have an alcohol addiction even when the signs are clear.

Alcohol contains ethanol which acts as a poison to the body. Since the liver must work to eliminate the ethanol each time you drink, consistent drinking can cause your liver to overwork itself and lose its ability to properly function. As the liver acts as a filter to get rid of toxic components in our body, it is essential for our survival and should be treated with care.


Nicotine is one of the most common substances involved in addiction. Through the combination of electronic cigarettes or vapes, regular cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, there are many ways to consume nicotine. One of the major concerns involved with the use of nicotine is damage to the lungs and a heightened risk for cancer.

It is common for nicotine to be inhaled, causing various forms of irritation to your lungs and respiratory system. By introducing harmful chemicals into the respiratory system, nicotine use increases the likelihood of developing cancer in the mouth, gums, throat, or lungs.

Along with these serious long-term health effects, nicotine can also cause feelings of dizziness and disruption of sleep patterns. Often, people’s blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rates will increase after use. The withdrawal symptoms experienced after using nicotine are often uncomfortable to move past and can be a significant obstacle to recovery.


Methamphetamine, also referred to as crystal meth, is often taken by swallowing, smoking, inhaling, or injecting the substance. This substance often looks similar to small pieces of glass or white rock. After using this substance, you may experience heightened paranoia, increased energy, and a decreased appetite. It is common to experience increased breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. This often can lead to an irregular heartbeat.

The long-term effects of using this substance can be extremely severe. Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and trying to stop the use of methamphetamine often involves withdrawal symptoms. After the use of methamphetamine, it is common to experience extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia, inability to sleep, delusions, dental problems, skin sores, and mood disorders.


Cannabis is a part of a plant that is commonly inhaled or ingested. When initially used, cannabis may make someone experience high levels of anxiety, paranoia, slowed motor responses, increased heart rate, increased appetite, and drowsiness. Using this substance can disrupt your learning processes and memory.

This substance is still being studied to observe its full long-term effects. Currently, we know that the use of cannabis can lead to future lung damage, alterations in sleep cycles, increased irritability, and heightened levels of anxiety or paranoia.


Opioids are commonly used in medical settings to help patients overcome the pain of a procedure or condition they are being treated for. Opioids work great as pain relievers but are highly addictive. Taking opioids as prescribed and only when needed can be safe. However, it can be easy to misuse these medications.

Using opioids can increase feelings of relaxation and decrease feelings of pain. If these medications become abused, your body can develop a need for the medication for you to feel normal. Your pain receptors can begin to feel more intense levels of pain, reinforcing the need for opioids. Opioids have a very high potential for addiction and should be used only with extreme caution under a careful doctor’s supervision.


Cocaine takes the appearance of a white powder that is often inhaled through the nostrils. The pleasure and increased energy levels gained from taking this drug only last for a short period. The use of cocaine becomes increasingly dangerous as people feel the desire to continue using it over and over to keep their energy levels up.

After using cocaine, people commonly develop narrowed blood vessels, enlarged pupils, greater alertness, accelerated heart rate, abdominal pain, and many other potential side effects. There are many risks involved with taking this substance since its effects can be hard for one’s body to handle. There is the potential of strokes, comas, or seizures occurring with use.

Other Substances

Although we have reviewed some of the commonly abused substances, there may be some that come to mind that are not listed. Looking at this chart, you can learn about even more drugs and their effects, as well as gain further information about the ones in this article. Remember that each substance comes with its potential risks and the possibility of addiction.

As there are many different substances with addictive properties, reviewing some of the most commonly abused substances can help you understand the severity and danger of their effects. Looking at the dangers involved with the use of alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamines, cannabis, opioids, and cocaine, you can recognize the key risk factors of each. Before choosing the engage in the use of any substance, people should understand its potential effects and the severity of addiction risk. The short-term symptoms are often easy to recognize, but the risk of long-term health damage is often overlooked. By understanding the future damage that these substances can cause, people may be motivated to continue maintaining or working toward a sober lifestyle. If you find that you are reaching a level of addiction to any of these substances, reach out to Dream Recovery for immediate help at (949) 732-1960.

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