The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

Understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol can help people recover, stay sober, find hope, and save lives.

In many ways, the effects of drugs and alcohol are immeasurable. Different substances affect individuals in different ways. This simple fact can make it hard to help those who are suffering from addiction.

Based on a study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20 million Americans over the age of 11-years-old have used an illegal drug in the past 30 days —That amounts to 8% of the population of the United States!

Drug abuse costs an estimated $190 billion to society. This is broken up into $130 billion in lost work productivity, $20 billion in healthcare costs, and $40 billion in legal efforts to control illegal substances.

Common Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

Though the effects of drugs and alcohol are widespread, some substances are abused more often than others. The most commonly used illegal substance is marijuana, followed behind significantly by cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants.

Yet, we all know that addiction is more than a study or statistic.

Thousands of people every year suffer from the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse. When you or a loved one experience addiction, it’s important to recognize how the mind and body are being affected by the substance in question.

We’re here to explore some of the negative side effects of drugs and alcohol. For now, we will cover three commonly abused substances—alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

The Harm of Alcohol Abuse

Lowered Inhibitions

Drinking can greatly affect your ability to make clear, conscious decisions, making you more likely to do or say something that you might regret.

Loss of Memory

Excessive alcohol can cause you to experience a “blackout,” where you don’t remember certain things or even entire hours of the night.

High-risk Behavior

People under the influence of alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as unprotected sex, drunk driving, or fighting.

Loss of Coordination

Excessive alcohol use can lead to loss of balance and blurred vision, which can affect basic coordination and increase your risk of injury.


Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to death in the most severe cases. As a depressant, alcohol affects your central nervous system. If you drink more than your body can handle, you may pass out or even stop breathing. Excessively drinking can also make people susceptible to vomiting and asphyxiation while sleeping.

Marijuana’s Side Effects


Whether using marijuana one-time or chronically, many users experience feelings of panic and fear. This increase in anxiety can have a negative affect your mood and mentality.

Decreased Concentration

As a common depressant, marijuana can affect your brain in ways that make it difficult to concentrate or make clear decisions.

Decreased Coordination

Marijuana tends to slow down the mind and body, which means you may not be able to perform everyday tasks as you normally could.


Many people report feeling a decreased interest in completing tasks or socializing. This can have a negative effect on your job or your relationships with friends and family.


After “coming down” from the high, you may be more irritable or find it difficult to sleep.

Cocaine’s Toll on the Mind & Body

Increased Heart Rate

An increase in heart rate after using cocaine may be noticeable to the extent that you feel as though your heart is beating out of your chest.

Increased Body Temperature

Along with increased heart rate comes an increase in body temperature. Users may experience feel warmer than the weather warrants at times, while sporadically sweating or shivering.

Violent Behavior

Some people become erratic, violent, and irritable when they consume cocaine. This altered mindset can lead to angry episodes, arguments, and damaged relationships.


Much like other mind-altering substances, users of cocaine may start to feel panicked, anxious, or paranoid.


Cocaine is a stimulant, which means that your nervous system can become over-excited. After abusing this drug, you become shaky or experiences involuntary twitches and spasms


In extreme cases, the overstimulation of your nervous system caused by cocaine can lead to seizures.

Cardiac Arrest

Severe cases of cocaine consumption can result in fatal cardiac arrest.

The first step to understanding anyone’s addiction is to consider the specific substance, or combination of substances, that are being abused. Feel free to browse the rest of our resources to learn more about the drugs types that are most commonly abused.

We’re here to help you discover addiction resources that will help you or a loved one recover, stay sober, find hope, and save lives.