Interactive Graphic Reveals What Drugs Do To The Human Body

Spoiler alert: it's not pretty.

07/10/2016 17:15

In response to an increased number of young people who have developed depressive and anxiety disorders as a result of drug use, The Priory Group has created an interactive graphic to show the damage different drugs can do.

While people often take drugs for the short-term physical effects, they don’t truly understand the long-term, life-changing and even fatal consequences of drug use on mental health, the health group said.

“I see an increasing number of patients, often only 18, who are not only addicted to street drugs but have developed significant depressive and anxiety disorders,” said Priory Roehampton’s lead addictions consultant, Dr Niall Campbell.

“Distressing panic attacks from stimulants and hallucinogens - synthetic or mushroom-based - are on the increase.

“I have also noticed an alarming number of cocaine-induced, severe paranoid states requiring admission to hospital. Unfortunately, as I say to patients, this paranoia may not be controlled by antipsychotic medication and may become a permanent state.”

Without further ado, here’s how different drugs can affect the body.


Heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs in circulation. It is highly addictive and comes with serious health risks. Immediate side-effects can include a sense of wellbeing and relaxation as well as dizziness and vomiting.

Long-term consumption can lead to collapsed veins and loss of body tissue - especially in fingers, toes and limbs.

Affected body parts: arteries and veins, body tissue, fingers, toes and limbs. 


Users will often feel alert and awake which can result in an agitated, aggressive and confused attitude. Consumers often also report a reduction in appetite.

Heart rate and blood pressure can become elevated, risking a heart attack.

Long-term abuse of methamphetamine has also been found as a contributor to panic attacks, psychotic episodes and brain damage.

Affected body parts: brain and heart.  

Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

Users can feel a sense of relaxation, happiness and euphoria after inhaling ‘laughing gas’, as well as feeling dizzy and experiencing hallucinations.

Risk of death is high with laughing gas, as nitrous oxide restricts the flow of oxygen to the brain. Regular consumption can lead to significant nerve damage, causing tingling, pains and difficulty walking.

Affected body parts: toes, fingers, legs and brain. 

Legal Highs

Since the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect in May 2016, many ‘Legal Highs’ are now illegal for human consumption. These include “Clockwork Orange”, “Blue Cheese” and “Spice”.

Research shows that consuming these drugs initially creates feelings of relaxation and euphoria, but can lead to hallucinations, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, confusion, aggression and seizures.

Affected body parts: heart and brain. 


Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that raises the body’s temperature, makes the heart beat quickly and can lead to overconfident and even aggressive behaviour.

These effects can last for up to 30 minutes on average, dependent on the quantity consumed. Long-term use can damage the kidneys, blood vessels and cause nasal perforation.

Affected body parts: heart, nose, blood vessels and kidneys. 


Ecstasy users can find they become more energetic, confident and talkative, with music and colours feeling more intense. They can also experience periods of confusion and episodes of lockjaw.

During the ‘comedown’, users report a sense of feeling down, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, dehydration and nausea.

Ecstasy has been linked to negative mental health consequences as a result of sustained use, such as disturbed sleep, psychosis, panic attacks and anxiety.

Affected body parts: brain and stomach. 


Cannabis users can feel more relaxed and happy, but can also feel light-headed, faint and sick. This can then progress to feelings of anxiety, paranoia and panic, with persistent use worsening the latter symptoms.

In some cases, continued use has been linked to the development of psychotic illnesses, particularly in those who are genetically vulnerable. Other side effects include an increased appetite and lethargy.

Affected body parts: brain and stomach. 


A feeling of ‘floating’ is a common effect of Ketamine consumption. Dependent on dosage, this will generally last for up to 30 minutes, but there are further long-lasting effects including difficulties with speech and movement as well as possible feelings of detachment from the body.

Hallucinations are common, as well as feelings of restlessness and anxiety.

Affected body parts: speech, bladder and limbs. 

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)

As well as users experiencing hallucinations, the passage of time can feel much slower or faster when taking LSD, with physical objects appearing distorted.

Users can also experience flashbacks to ‘bad trips’ months and even years later. Long-term use can exacerbate or contribute to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Affected body parts: heart and brain.

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