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How Drugs Work in the Body

The way that drugs can affect your body may not be at the forefront of your mind if you’re recovering from an addiction. But knowing how they interact with the various systems in your body can give you an idea of what you can expect to experience later down the road with continued use.  Choosing to get the help you need may be beneficial in preserving and improving your health.  Here is how drugs work in the body and how they impact your everyday functions. 

The Different Types of Drugs and Their Effects

It’s helpful to understand the different drug categories and their effects to understand how drugs work in the body. There are three main categories include the following:  Depressants: In small quantities, depressants help people achieve levels of relaxation they may struggle to obtain naturally by slowing the central nervous system’s functions. But, in larger amounts, these drugs can cause vomiting, unconsciousness, and even death. Overdosing on depressants, opiates (like heroin and morphine), and minor tranquilizers affects your concentration and coordination, making everyday tasks impossible and even dangerous.  Hallucinogens: Drugs like Ketamine, LSD, and mushrooms are some of the most common examples of hallucinogens. These drugs distort your sense of reality. You could hear and see things that aren’t there. You could also see things in an overly distorted way.  More severe effects include emotional and psychological euphoria, panic, paranoia, gastric upset, and nausea.  Stimulants: Drugs in the stimulants category speed up the central nervous system by speeding up messaging to and from the brain. This stimulation causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body pressure and makes you feel more alert. Stimulants can also reduce your appetite, increase agitation, and induce sleepiness. Stimulants can cause anxiety, panic, seizures, stomach cramps, and paranoia in large quantities. Examples include nicotine, cocaine, and ecstasy. 

How Drugs Change How Cells Work

Drugs such as opiates and other medications change how your cells work inside your body. For example, prescribed medications target cell abnormalities that come with chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.  Other medications work to treat things like depression by increasing the amount of a chemical messenger in the brain. When people abuse these drugs, they’re pumping their bodies with substances they don’t need, which throws off chemical balances in the brain and body’s different nervous systems. These chemical changes can damage the body’s systems and lead to an overdose. 

Drugs and Dopamine

Dopamine is the body’s feel-good chemical. It’s how the body reinforces beneficial and pleasant behaviors. Drugs can hijack the body’s dopamine production, creating a burst of dopamine each time an individual uses a drug and making it easier to repeat the activity.  Like drugs are known to induce euphoria, they can also produce a surge of dopamine that reinforces the connection between drug use, the resulting pleasure, and any external cues linked to the experience.  These cues then kickstart cravings. Anytime an individual initiates or participates in an activity linked to drug use and that dopamine rush, they’ll begin to crave the drug, creating a vicious substance abuse cycle.  When a person develops that dependence on drugs to feel happiness or pleasure, they’ll need to take in more significant amounts of that drug to replicate the high. This is what we know as tolerance.  Eventually, drug abuse will leave a person feeling depressed, lifeless, and numb. They’ll no longer be able to enjoy activities they previously found pleasurable, which can reinforce heavy drug use and lead to more severe consequences. 

Risks Associated with Drug Use 

How drugs work in the body is universal. But how drugs affect an individual depends on a variety of factors, such as the following: 
  • A drug’s dosage
  • The frequency at which someone takes a drug
  • The drug’s strength 
  • How the drug was manufactured; substances manufactured in home labs can contain harmful bacteria and dangerous chemicals that can alter the drug to an even more dangerous state. These homemade drugs can cause brain damage and death in smaller quantities. 
  • An individual’s physical characteristics 
  • How a drug is ingested; common ways include injection, inhalation, and eating/drinking. Inhalation and injection are more likely to cause an overdose. Injections can also lead to infections and an increased risk of contracting serious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. 
  • An individual’s mental health, mood, and environment
  • The mixture of different drugs

Here are the physical harms that come from drug use: 

  • You’re more likely to experience an accident while operating a vehicle or any heavy machinery under the influence. 
  • You can experience severe harm to your body’s organs and systems, such as your throat, stomach, lungs, liver, pancreas, heart, and brain. Drugs often lead to irreparable damage to your nervous system. 
  • You can develop certain cancers.
  • You can get infections and diseases from sharing drug paraphernalia.
  • There can be damage to a fetus during pregnancy.
  • Your veins could collapse. 
  • You could accidentally overdose.
  • You’ll have elevated mental illness, depression, suicide, and death risks.

What a Drug “Comedown” Looks Like 

The damage from how drugs work in the body doesn’t end after a high. A comedown is the after-effects that come with drug use. Common symptoms include the following: 
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • A decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
Things like insomnia and appetite suppression can lead to more complex health issues. The length of a comedown depends on what drug an individual takes, their tolerance, and physical characteristics. 

Seek Out Addiction Treatment at Ardu Recovery Center 

From mental to physical consequences, it’s scary how drugs work in the body. They take a toll on an individual inside and out. Recovery is crucial to getting one’s life back on track. Recovery is also vital to those closest to them.  If you’re looking to start the recovery process but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us at Ardu Recovery Center. Our drug addiction specialists will provide you with expert therapy and treatment, no matter your addiction. We treat prescription, alcohol, cocaine, and opioid addictions through different services tailored toward your needs.  Give us a call today at 801-512-0086 and get started on your journey to recovery.