Drug abuse is referred to as the non-medical use of drugs that may compel the person to develop physical or psychological dependence. People who are inclined towards drugs abusing often think that the only trouble they are going to get into is being caught by the law enforcing bodies for illegitimate drug use. In their quest to find ways to fulfill their addiction, they undermine the power of illicit drugs to inflict tremendous negative impact on their health.

No drug is sans side effects. Some cause minimal consequences, such as vomiting, nausea, and dizziness, while others have the tendency to cast substantial damage including cardiac unrest, respiratory problems, and even death. The kind of health effects incurred by drug addiction is often associated with the drug of abuse.Yet, the lungs are the organs most impacted by almost all sorts of illicit substances.

People with addiction problems are often reported with respiratory problems. The most common drug associated with respiratory issues is tobacco that is inhaled through smoking cigarettes. Bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer are common respiratory conditions that are caused by smoking. The pulmonary conditions developed due to smoking are deemed as a major burden on the healthcare system that can be easily prevented. There are several other adverse respiratory effects that are caused by drugs consumed without medical approval other than cigarettes.

Marijuana is another illicit substance that causes acute respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis. Cocaine is a commonly abused drug; its victims are reported to develop severe respiratory problems that include lung damage. In other cases, illegitimate drugs such as opioids are held responsible for obstructing breathing in the abuser and block the air from entering their lungs, ultimately resulting in asthma or worse.

These problems may arise as a direct consequence of the pharmacological effects of the drug or because of the method through which it is consumed. Respiratory problems are usually common in abusive practices where drugs are inhaled. These processes include inhalation in powder form, smoking, inhaling vapors, or inhaling fumes from illicit substances. These are three categories of drugs that majorly cause respiratory problems. Now let’s look at these categories through examples.

Cocaine hydrochloride, commonly known as coke, is a powdered form of an illicit substance that is consumed through nasal inhalation. This ultimately directs the substance to your lungs. Similar is the case with crack, marijuana, and heroin. These drugs are smoked or ignited, and their vapors are then inhaled. The third category is fumes inhalation. The most common example of this is glue sniffing.

These drugs (cocaine, marijuana, and opiates) are most likely to damage your lungs. On consumption, they reach your lungs directly and initiate detrimental effects. Let’s look at a few common drugs and the side effects they can cause on your lungs.


cocaine and your lungsCocaine is a stimulant that has been used for various purposes for over 1000 years. It has become a non-medical drug for recreational use for past couple of decades and is consumed (inhaled or smoked) in powdered form.Some users take it through nasal inhalation; i.e. sniffing, snorting or tooting. It can also be used intravenously.

The most commonly used form of cocaine is crack or free-based cocaine. Considering the method of intake, cocaine comes in direct contact with the lungs and can cause respiratory problems. The most common acute symptom of the respiratory problem that emerges within twelve hours of inhalation of cocaine is a cough. Breathlessness and wheezing are also highly common in habitual cocaine users.


Introduced in the 19th century, marijuana (also known as cannabis) is known for its therapeutic effects. Marijuana becomes harmful for lungs when it is smoked. The smoke acts as an irritant to the throat and lungs and can result in acute coughing during and after use. Marijuana has a substantial amount of volatile chemicals and tar that makes it similar to tobacco. This escalates the risk of lung cancer and diseases.

According to a study, marijuana smoking is largely associated with airway inflammation and causes resistance in breathing and lung hyperinflation. It is also reported that marijuana smoking increases the probability of lung infections and serves in instigating immune deficiencies such as pneumonia.


Pneumonia and tuberculosis are two major lung complications that result from heroin abuse. These conditions are also associated with poor health of the user. If you have poor immunity and your physical health is weak too, it is likely that you will develop chronic respiratory complications due to the effects induced by heroin. This illicit substance is found to slow down the functioning of the lungs and its overdose can result in death, as a person may stop breathing before their heart stops beating.

Lung diseases are rather common among heroin users. Lung abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and damaged air passages are common among abusers.

What to Do?

Drug abuse results in more than social and legal problems. It can cause substantial damage to your physical, mental, and emotional health, leading you to acute health conditions. Lungs become the ultimate target of the negative effects that result from illicit substances.

Although the nature of effects on the lungs differs from drug to drug, the damage is present nonetheless. Drug abuse is a practice that is unhealthy in every aspect. It should be addressed and eventually removed from your life, as health is an asset that shouldn’t be compromised upon. Getting the right help at the right time is the only way to ensure that you lead a healthy and productive life.

Scottsdale Recovery Center has been serving in the industry of drug rehabilitation for several years and has a wide portfolio of successful recoveries. If you have an addiction problem, or you see a loved one suffering at the hands of illicit drugs, do not let them waste another day of their precious life and help them take the road towards sobriety. Our team of highly qualified and experienced professionals can help you bring a positive change in life and ensure your wellbeing.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.