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Recognizing The Physical Effects Of Drugs On Teenagers


tired teenager effected by drugs

There are many different types of drugs available, and each drug has its own set of symptoms and effects associated with its use. Adolescence is a time in a teen’s life to experiment, learn about one’s likes and dislikes, individuate and explore a newfound need for autonomy. Teenagers are faced with countless lessons, distinct challenges, and immense external and internal pressures. Many young people are forced to navigate the challenges of adolescence using outdated coping mechanisms that are ineffective, which often result in overwhelming emotions. It is highly common for teenagers to experiment with alcohol and drug use during adolescence, for some as a means to self-medicate and for others merely out of curiosity. Regardless, teenagers that habitually abuse drugs and/ or alcohol place themselves at increased risk for developing severe short- and long-term physiological effects. 

Physical Effects

Many contributing factors play a role in the physical effects that a young person may develop from drug use. These include the teen’s personal health history, the type of substance or substances abused, the potency of the abused substance, the frequency of abuse, as well as the duration of one’s substance abuse. While there are some universal physical effects that can develop, each type of drug comes with its own set of physical effects, some of which are exemplified below:

  • Alcohol: excessive alcohol consumption in teens can lead to:
    • Delayed puberty
    • Liver damage
    • Negative effects on the reproductive system
    • Elevated levels of liver enzymes
    • Reduced growth potential and/ or stunted limbs
    • Lowered bone mineral density
  • Marijuana
    • Increased heart rate
    • Lowered blood pressure
    • Breathing problems
    • Intense nausea and/ or vomiting
  • Cocaine
    • Dilated pupils
    • Nausea
    • Muscle twitches
    • Severe tooth decay
    • Higher body temperature
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Loss of sense of smell
  • Ecstasy/ MDMA
    • Dehydration 
    • Chills
    • Blurred vision
    • Muscle tensions
    • Involuntary teeth clenching
    • Nerve damage
    • Brain damage
    • Nausea
  • Opiates
    • Frequent flu-like symptoms
    • Decreased libido
    • Lack of hygiene
    • Slurred speech
    • Loss of coordination
    • Shaking
    • Excessive sweating
  • Methamphetamine
    • High blood pressure
    • Sweating
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Dizziness
    • Tremors 
    • Weight loss
    • Dilated pupils

The short- and long-term physical effects related to teenage drug use will vary from teen to teen. Teenage drug abuse can cause dangerous health issues such as stroke, lung disease, cancer, infections (e.g., hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, etc.), and heart disease. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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