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Drug Facts

  • Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of the heart stopping (cardiac arrest) followed by an arrest of breathing
  • With repeated use, cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward system as well as other brain systems.
  • Cocaine affects the body in a variety of ways. It constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well.
  • Regular snorting of cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of the sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and a chronically runny nose.
  • Ingesting cocaine by the mouth can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced blood flow.
  • Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases.
  • Binge-patterned cocaine use may lead to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. Cocaine abusers can also experience severe paranoia—a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis—in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.


  • While stimulants promote wakefulness, they do not enhance learning or thinking ability for those without ADHD
  • Short=term effects of stimulants include: increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, and decreased appetite and sleep
  • Abuse of stimulants can lead to malnutrition and feelings of hostility and paranoia
  • Stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol and increase the risk of alcohol overdose
  • Short-term not short=term
  • Repeated abuse of stimulants can lead to feelings of hostility and paranoia. At high doses, they can lead to serious cardiovascular complications, including stroke.
  • If stimulants are abused chronically, withdrawal symptoms—including fatigue, depression, and disturbed sleep patterns—can result when a person stops taking them. Additional complications from abusing stimulants can arise when pills are crushed and injected: Insoluble fillers in the tablets can block small blood vessels.


  • Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are not typically prescribed for long-term use due to risk of developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction
  • Effects of Benzo overdose include shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and possible death
  • Withdrawal from Benzos can cause seizures or other harmful consequences and should be discussed with health care provider
  • When alcohol is used in combination with Benzos the heart rate and breathing can slow, which can lead to death
  • Benzos are associated with amnesia, hostility, irritability, and vivid or disturbing dreams


  • The incidence of heroin initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not
  • When abused, even a single large dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death.
  • Withdrawal symptoms may occur if drug use is suddenly reduced or stopped. These symptoms can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), and involuntary leg movements.
  • Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.
  • Heroin abuse is associated with a number of serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV (see box, “Injection Drug Use and HIV and HCV Infection”). Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation and gastrointestinal cramping, and liver or kidney disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effects on breathing.


  • Increases levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; therefore, depletes brain of these chemicals causing negative effects like depression, anxiety, or sleep problems
  • It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.
  • Health effects include: nausea, muscle cramping, involuntary teeth clenching, blurred vision, chills, and sweating.
  • Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, users may experience: irritability, impulsiveness and aggression, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, memory and attention problems, decreased appetite, and decreased interest in and pleasure from sex.
  • High doses of MDMA can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to a spike in body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.


  • Persistent psychosis and flashbacks are two long-term effects associated with some hallucinogens
  • Common hallucinogens include: Ayahuasca, DMT, LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide), Peyote (mescaline), psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), DXM (Dextromethorphan), Ketamine, PCP (Phencyclidine), and Salvia (Salvia divinorum).
  • Research suggests that hallucinogens work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between brain chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates: mood, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, muscle control. Other hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical glutamate, which regulates: pain perception, responses to the environment, emotion, learning and memory.
  • Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects include: increased heart rate, nausea, intensified feelings and sensory experiences, changes in sense of time (for example, time passing by slowly). Specific short-term effects of some hallucinogens include: increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature, loss of appetite, dry mouth, sleep problems, mixed senses (such as “seeing” sounds or “hearing” colors), spiritual experiences, feelings of relaxation or detachment from self/environment, uncoordinated movements, excessive sweating, panic, paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others, psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality.


  • Methamphetamine is taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria. Because the pleasure also fades quickly, users often take repeated doses, in a “binge and crash” pattern.
  • People who use methamphetamine long-term may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances and display violent behavior. They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).
  • In studies of chronic methamphetamine users, severe structural and functional changes have been found in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals.
  • Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same physical effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and increased body temperature.
  • Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and skin sores caused by scratching.
  • Methamphetamine use also raises the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C. These can be contracted both by sharing contaminated drug injection equipment and through unsafe sex. Regardless of how it is taken, methamphetamine alters judgment and inhibition and can lead people to engage in these and other types of risky behavior.


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