Health Consequences of Drug Misuse
Respiratory Effects

Image of the human lungs.
Image by Wesley McCormick/CC BY-NC-ND

Drug use can lead to a variety of respiratory problems. Smoking cigarettes, for example, has been shown to cause bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. While chemical analyses that compare the profiles of electronic and traditional cigarettes have suggested that e-cigarettes have a reduced carcinogenic profile; toxicants, carcinogens, and metal particles have been detected in the liquids and aerosols of e-cigarettes, and it is currently unclear what risk they pose to the lungs with repeated use. In addition, there have been serious lung illnesses and deaths related to vaping both marijuana and nicotine. Many of these illnesses have been linked to the additive Vitamin E acetate, and the government provides regular updates for the public.

Marijuana smoke can also cause respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis. Smoking crack cocaine can cause lung damage and severe respiratory problems. The use of some drugs, such as opioids, may cause breathing to slow, block air from entering the lungs, or make asthma symptoms worse.

Drugs that can affect the respiratory system: