The long-term effects of substance abuse

Substance abuse usually starts off as some ‘harmless’ drinking or one tiny dose of drugs for fun, but this gets worse over time, leading to dependence and effects that cannot be reversed. So, before you pick up the bottle or drug, here are some long-term effects that you should think about first.

 What is substance abuse?

Social media and TV have really downplayed what substance abuse is. Anyone, at any age can abuse substances and it’s important to be able to tell the difference between recreational use (harmless use for fun) and substance abuse.

Substance abuse is the use of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, prescription medication and more in a way that is frequent and harmful to the user and those around them. Both legal drugs, like alcohol and tobacco (cigarettes and hookah) and illegal drugs (marijuana, ecstasy, nyaope, cat) can be misused leading to health issues, family problems and even death.

Your health

While different substances can affect different parts of the body, using any drug (including alcohol and cigarettes) makes you more vulnerable to illness. Smoking can lead to breathing difficulties and lung cancer, while things like alcohol and heroin can severely damage the liver. Stimulants like ecstasy and nicotine (found in cigarettes) can lead to heart problems and even heart failure in the long run.


Addiction is a type of disorder where a person becomes dependent on a certain stimulant and the feeling it brings. A lot of people who are addicted to substances may not even think that they are addicted, because they can go for periods of time without the drug.

Misuse of substances can lead to being addicted, which means that you can no longer stop or control your use of the substance. This is why people who suffer from addiction will do anything to get their hands on the drug, including stealing, lying and even trading sex.

Substance abuse and HIV

Abusing substances can lead to making some risky and sometimes dangerous decisions. For example, using substances like alcohol can lead to poor judgment, which means that people are more likely to have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. This increases the risk of them becoming infected with STIs, including HIV. Drug users who share needles are also at risk of being infected with HIV.

In addition to this, Choma, the long-term use of drugs weakens the immune system, making people who are already living with HIV more vulnerable to infection and speeding up the rate at which the virus develops over time. You can read more about how alcohol and drug use affect people living with HIV here.

Mental health

Although some people start off using drugs to cope with mental health issues, substance abuse can actually cause certain mental health problems in the long run. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, using substances over a long period of time can really change how your brain works, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, and aggression.

Substance abuse can affect every aspect of your life – from your finances, to school and work. The bottom line is there really is no ‘safe’ use of drugs, which is why it’s so important to be informed about how they can affect you so that you can make better decisions for yourself. If you or a loved are struggling with substance abuse, you can get help from SANCA , Narcotics Anonymous and AA. You can also send me a message if you need someone to talk to about this issue.

If you or a friend need advice or help, contact me on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).