The Real World Health Effects Of Illegal Drug Abuse


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By Gabriel Adams

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, Cocaine was involved in over 380,000 emergency room visits in 2004 alone. Cocaine is extremely potent, whether taken in powder or the crack forms. Mild symptoms include increased heart rate, sleep disorders and convulsions. Snorting the drug can permanently damage nasal tissue. Cocaine interferes with brain processes, can cause heart attacks, seizures and strokes. Even first time use can cause fatal heart attacks. For those it doesn’t kill, the addiction can easily lead to habits that require thousands of dollars a week to support. Cocaine also has severe effects on the unborn. This can start at underweight babies or pre-term labor on up to miscarriage. Cocaine can cause placental wall tearing, losing the attachment to the uterus. This can kill mother and baby at birth if not detected in time. If the baby survives birth, cocaine can lead to strokes, heart attacks, urinary infections and heart defects. While it appears many babies exposed to cocaine use in the womb can eventually recover, it also appears that this doubles their chances of developmental delays.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, Heroin was involved in over 160,000 emergency room visits in 2004 alone. Heroin suppresses the central nervous system, resulting in poor mental functioning, and can even suppress the autonomic functions to the point of respiratory failure. Chronic use damages the heart, liver and circulatory system and increases the risk of pulmonary issues such as pneumonia. Heroin abusers generally use injections, with associated infection risk including HIV. Additionally, the drug is often mixed with other chemicals to allow a given quantity to result in more sales, so strength is always unknown and poisons have been used to stretch the drug supply. Children who were exposed to heroin before birth will go through horrible withdrawal symptoms after birth, and have ten times the chance of dying of SIDS. Developmental slowdowns are also possible.


According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, Methamphetamine was involved in over 70,000 emergency room visits in 2004 alone. Amphetamines, including the club drug Ecstasy, can cause psychotic behavior and brain damage. This includes hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia and can lead to homicidal or suicidal thoughts. Physical effects are similar to Alzheimer’s and strokes. Ecstasy in particular can lead to kidney damage and memory loss, though long term human studies are still inconclusive. For the unborn, risks include clubfoot, cleft palates, heart and limb defects, retarded development and maternal bleeding. Babies can go through withdrawal symptoms, but long term studies are still underway to identify long term prices.

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