6 Health Risks of Prolonged Substance Use Disorder

Last Updated on January 26, 2023

6 Health Risks of Prolonged Substance Use Disorder
Hand hooked up to IVs.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is characterized by addiction or the uncontrolled use of a substance despite its negative effects. Prolonged Substance Use Disorder can result in a host of complications ranging from behavioral issues to serious diseases. Entire books have been written about the harmful effects and damage that result from severe addiction. The list could truly be endless. 

So we’ve selected a few conditions that arise from long-term substance abuse to discuss. Health risks like cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, respiratory/lung disease, and mental disorders are the most common and/or dangerous conditions that contribute to chronic addiction. In most cases, these health risks are permanent, life-long struggles that individuals must be treated for alongside addiction recovery.

Cardiovascular Disease

Controlled substances such as stimulants have a profoundly negative effect on the cardiovascular system when used incorrectly. Damage is also worsened by prolonged use. Abnormal heart rate, weakened blood vessels, and heart attack are among some of the conditions that stem from drug use.


Research indicates that individuals who use methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates, or marijuana have a 35% to 86% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is a condition that causes heart-related complications like an irregular heartbeat which heightens the risk of blood clots and stroke. The heightened heart rate is attributed to stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine that add stress to the circulatory system. Long-term drug use only adds more stress to the heart and blood vessels, ultimately resulting in deterioration and complications.


According to studies conducted by the American Cancer Society, prolonged drug abuse is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths. It’s commonly understood that cigarettes cause lung cancer and alcohol causes liver cancer/failure. However, cigarettes and alcohol are not the only substances responsible for high cancer diagnoses. Cocaine and heroin are often cut with toxic chemicals that increase the risk of bladder, lung, esophageal, ureter, and oral cancers.


One of the more common conditions that may come to mind is HIV/AIDS due to needle sharing among drugs like heroin and meth. However, it’s also quite common to contract it through unprotected sex when under the influence of drugs that lower inhibitions. While no drug is directly responsible for anyone contracting HIV/AIDS, it’s still a serious byproduct of extended substance use.

Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are common conditions, particularly for injection drug users who share needles. In fact, it’s one of the most common blood-borne pathogens in the world, affecting an estimated 5 million Americans collectively. While hepatitis can be treated without any lasting effects, complications often arise with extended drug use. Studies show at least 50% of injection drug users test positive and more than 80% of contracted cases develop a chronic, lifelong infection.

Respiratory/Lung Disease

Any illicit drug that is smoked has the potential to develop lung disease, especially in individuals with preexisting conditions like asthma. There’s also the concern of chronic bronchitis which is particularly common and characterized by a persistent cough. Emphysema and COPD are also frequent diagnoses for individuals participating in long-term inhalant abuse.

Mental Disorders

It’s common to discuss untreated preexisting mental disorders resulting in self-medication and addiction. In some cases, drug abuse may even trigger or “activate” dormant mental health disorders. But extended substance abuse can also cause severe brain damage that can sometimes result in mental disorders. Depression and anxiety are among the more common disorders that can arise from chronic drug use. In more serious cases, drugs can rewire brain chemistry and result in bipolar disorder.

Recovery With Nova

At Nova Recovery Center, Houston we provide our patients with a very comfortable detox process, where they will be monitored round the clock by trained professionals. You will be provided with all the medications you need to combat the withdrawal symptoms. You will then be enrolled in the in-patient recovery program where you’ll learn to stay away from drugs, through counseling, group therapy, and so on.

Nova Recovery Center is committed to helping you overcome your addiction so you can get back to what is most important to you. If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, Nova Recovery Center can provide support. We have locations in Austin, Houston, and Wimberley Texas. Call today to begin your journey in recovery at (888) 428-1501.

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