Drug abuse can have a multitude of negative health effects on the human body. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes, drug abuse can be a factor in the development of a host of serious physical illnesses, including:
- Kidney damage
- The contraction of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lung disease
- Musculoskeletal damage
- Liver damage
- Complications in pregnancy
Substance abuse can also have a deleterious impact on the brain. However, the frequent co-appearance of addiction and another mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia, should not be taken to mean that drugs cause mental illness. As NIDA explains, there are at least three possible scenarios to explain the relationship between substance abuse and other mental health disorders. One possibility is that drug abuse can trigger the emergence of symptoms of a separate mental health disorder. Another possibility is that a mental health disorder can influence a person to self-medicate with illicit drugs. A third possibility is that the drug abuse and mental health disorder are each an expression of a traumatic personal experience, genes, or deficits in the brain. Though it may be challenging to conclusively determine if there is a causal link between substance abuse and mental illness, it is helpful to understand that one can exacerbate the other and both require treatment.
There is an abundance of research available that discusses the various negative effects that drugs can have on the brain and body. In this article, the discussion focuses on some of the more extreme examples of what can happen to the body and/or mind as a result of substance abuse. To clearly illuminate the examples provided, a specific drug is paired with a particular health outcome and a firsthand story is provided if it offers greater insight.
 Palfreman, J. (March 20, 2014). “Author Reflects on Impact of “The Case of the Frozen Addicts” as 2nd Edition Released.” Michael J. Fox Foundation. Accessed May 15, 2016.
 Bushak, L. (October 26, 2015). “The Top 10 Deadliest Street Drugs: They’ll Destroy Your Vital Organs and Rot Your Flesh.” Medical Daily. Accessed May 15, 2016.
 “Nobody knew how bad John’s addiction was, until it was too late.” (n.d.). Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Accessed May 15, 2016.
 “Ambien Sleep Walking Turned Me into a Midnight Binge Eater.” (n.d.). Health. Accessed May 15, 2016.