Destination Hope Blog » Drug Abuse and Your Lungs

Drug Abuse and Your Lungs

Drug abuse more frequently affects the lung than any other organ. Why? Well, the impact of drug abuse on our lungs depends on two things: 1) the direct chemical impact of the substance itself and 2) the method the drug is consumed. Both ways have an impact on the lungs, lung function and lung tissue. Let’s take a closer look at how drug abuse affects our lungs.

Drug Abuse: Chemical Impact on Your Lungs

Substances are chemicals and the substances we ingest, smoke or otherwise put into our body have an impact on our health. Let’s call this the chemical impact. Any type of drug, from a prescription drug to street drugs and other illegal substances can have serious complications on our pulmonary function.

The drugs interact with the gas exchange that happens in our lungs, making it more difficult for our lung tissue to exchange gases. Starting in 1974, medical research started to indicate that drug abuse had more serious complications to our lungs than any other organ.

That has only been confirmed in the last few decades. Today we know that drug abusers commonly suffer from aspiration pneumonitis, pulmonary edema and pneumonia, a range of lung function complications.

Drug Abuse: Physical Impact on Your Lungs

Complications resulting from drug abuse more frequently affect the lung than any other organ partially because of the way in which we introduce the drugs into our body.  Smoking crack, heroin or cocaine deposits the substance on our lung tissue, reducing the ability of the lungs to diffuse oxygen.

Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that smoking any substance increases the users’ risk of developing bacterial pneumonia and other infections of the lungs. Their research indicates that as the individual inhales the substance, the cilia, or hair-like projections on the lungs that protect the respiratory system, are paralyzed and damaged, resulting in a weakened immune system. Cocaine smoking appears to produce injury to the mucosal lining of the airways, further reducing the body’s ability to defend against infection.

Other methods of use, such as intravenous injection can introduce harmful bacteria into the body that the lungs cannot fend off if the user has recently smoked another type of drug. Intravenous drug abuse has also been linked to respiratory diseases like tuberculosis, which causes severe destruction of the lung tissue.

Drug abuse and addiction is treatable and many people live healthy sober lives after rehab. The human body begins to heal the moment the substance abuse stops, so it is never too late to start a sober lifestyle.


If you or someone you love is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, please call us today. Our counselors can help you deal with physical, emotional and psychological consequences of your drug abuse.

Drug abuse treatment is effective, safe and has helped many men reclaim their lives. Destination Hope is a full service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse issues.