Long Term Effects of Drug Use


Drug use across the UK has been increasing with an estimated 1 in 11 adults (aged 16 – 59) taking a drug in the last year, with this figure rising to 1 in 5 adults if aged between 16-24 years (Office for National Statistics, 2020). Despite the reputation of certain drugs being safe to consume and their association with parties and fun, they can be incredibly dangerous and can cause life threatening immediate and long term effects.

There are various types of drugs taken, with some being more popular in the UK such as Cannabis, Opioids, Cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA) and Ketamine (Gov.uk, 2021). The risks of taking drugs are often publicised, however, the long-term effects of drug use are often more hidden and not as talked about.


Physical Health

Different types of drugs can have different long-term effects; however, common symptoms appear throughout, such as increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease, infectious diseases, stroke, and addiction (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016).

The longer drug use continues and the amount increases, the risks of serious and irreversible side effects occur.

The different methods of taking drugs can have different effects on your body long term. Regularly snorting drugs can lead to adverse effects such as loss of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing and irritation of the nasal septum. Smoking drugs can cause damage to the lungs and can worsen asthma and other respiratory diseases. Injecting drugs can leave puncture marks termed ‘tracks’ and increase the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016).

Long-term drug use can also lead to addiction, which can cause drug use to increase and worsen the effects on your body.


Mental Health

Often overlooked are the secondary effects of long-term drug use. Taking drugs long-term can cause your employment to become unreliable by showing up to work high or testing positive on drug tests, which can further exacerbate financial difficulties.

Long-term drug use also raises the risk of facing criminal and legal complications as taking or possessing illicit drugs in the UK and Ireland is currently illegal (CPS.GOV.UK, 2022; Gardai.ie, 2022).

Taking illicit substances can also raise the risk of developing mental health conditions. Conditions such as psychosis or Schizophrenia can become more likely to develop from drug use, and the risk increases over long-term use (Rethink.org, 2022).

It’s important to get help as soon as you recognise you have a problem, by reaching out to resources such as Action on Addiction, Smart Recovery and Turning Point.


About Us

Randox Testing Services are a specialist drug and alcohol testing company working in both the workplace and medico-legal sectors. We operate across the UK and Ireland, with a global network of trained collection officers. We have a wide variety of drugs we test for to meet your needs.


If you’re interested in getting assistance or learn more about implementing an effective testing policy, contact us:

E-mail: testingservices@randox.com

Phone: +44 (0) 28 9445 1011



National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016) What are the long-term effects of cocaine use? Available at: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use

Office for National Statistics. (2020) Drug misuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2020 Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice

Gov.uk. (2021) United Kingdom drug situation 2019: summary Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/united-kingdom-drug-situation-focal-point-annual-report/uk-drug-situation-2019-summary

Cps.Gov.Uk. (2022) Drug offences Available at: https://www.cps.gov.uk/crime-info/drug-offences

Garda.ie. (2022) Controlled Substances Available at: https://www.garda.ie/en/crime/drugs/controlled-substances.html

Rethink.org. (2022) Drugs, alcohol & mental health Available at: https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-conditions/drugs-alcohol-and-mental-health/