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Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse

This is an image of Leonardi da Vinci's famous drawing called The Vitruvian Man

Drug addiction is a brain disease. Although initial drug use might be voluntary, drugs of abuse have been shown to alter gene expression and brain circuitry, which in turn affect human behavior. Once addiction develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking and use.

The impact of addiction can be far reaching. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, however, some may occur after just one use.

For more information on how various drugs of abuse affect different parts of the body, select an option on the left.

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This page was last updated December 2012

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/medical-consequences-drug-abuse

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