What Does a Drug Abuser Look Like

Some of the signs of drug abuse are more easily observed than others. Rather obvious is the person who drinks to excess, now unsteady on his feet and speaking with slurred speech. Or the person who took LSD or some other hallucinogenic drug, now quite obviously responding to an inner world filled with things neither you nor I see or hear or experience. It could be the person addicted to meth, thin and gaunt and hectic in demeanor and action. But overall, it is the physical effects of drug abuse which we can observe ourselves which best answer the question, what does a drug abuser look like?

Effects of Drug Abuse

Physically drugs damage the body, and psychologically drugs damage the mind. There is also the interplay between the two, as the body affects the mind, and the mind affects the body. For anyone who has dabbled in or used drugs or alcohol, they have experienced this for themselves. Something as simple as a hangover following a few too many drinks makes it very real to the person experiencing it that both body and mind are adversely affected. According to NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are both physical and psychological effects from drug abuse.

In a 2004 publication, NIDA identified some of the physical and psychological effects of alcohol and various drugs. Let’s take a look at some of those in order to better understand what happens to the body and the mind.

Short and Long-term Effects


Alcohol is still one of the most, if not the most, commonly abused drug. Alcohol abuse constitutes a pattern of problem drinking, resulting in consequences to health and generating social problems. • Short-term effects of abusing alcohol include distorted hearing and vision, and impaired judgment and coordination. Excessive alcohol consumption also results in altered emotions and perceptions, and hangovers.

• Long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption include vitamin deficiencies, loss of appetite, liver damage and stomach ailments, damage to the heart and central nervous system and memory loss.


According to NIDA, Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the U.S. It also tends to be the first illegal drug used by teens. The drug can be smoked or swallowed. And despite the proponents of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes touting its harmlessness, the facts remain that it does indeed cause harm.

• Short-term effects of marijuana use include sleepiness, a difficulty in keeping track of time, and reduced or impaired short-term memory. It also causes reduction in the ability to perform tasks which require coordination and concentration. Bloodshot eyes, dry throat and mouth, and decreased social inhibitions also result from marijuana use.

• Long-term effects include increased cancer risk, lowered testosterone levels in men, increased risk of infertility, and difficulty in having children as a result of lowered sperm counts.


Meth is a stimulant, related to amphetamine chemically, but having stronger effects on the CNS (central nervous system). On the streets, it is also called “speed” and “crank”. When crystallized, it is called “glass” or “ice” or “crystal.” It is highly addictive.

• Short and long-term effects include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased wakefulness and physical activity.

It causes decreased appetite leading to extreme anorexia (loss of appetite and dangerous weight loss), respiratory problems, and cardiovascular problems and convulsions which can lead to death. It causes paranoia, confusion, anxiety and violent behavior. It can cause strokes. Needle use increases the risk of HIV/AIDS.


Cocaine is a stimulant which tends to give the user a temporary illusion of limitless energy and power, leaving the user feeling edgy, depressed and craving more cocaine. The smokeable, chemically altered form of the drug is called “crack.” Both are highly addictive, and are known to erode the person’s health, both physical and mental. (NIDA)

• Short and long-term effects physical effects and risks include increases in heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Use can cause strokes, heart attacks and respiratory failure. Shared needle use can result in brain seizures and the reduced ability of the body to ward off and fight infection. Use causes erratic, violent or paranoid behavior.

Sadly, with the short and long-term adverse consequences of using these drugs, the damage can be seen on those who use and abuse them.

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