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Drugs That Can Cause Liver Damage

Drugs That Can Cause Liver Damage

Drug-induced liver disease is often the result of substance abuse or long-term use of certain medications.

In severe cases, drug-induced liver injury can result in liver failure, which may require hospitalization and a liver transplant. This damage can be worse when the individual uses multiple substances at a time. As a Pompano substance abuse treatment center, we understand the effects of drugs on the liver and want to share a list of both illicit and prescription drugs that can cause liver damage.

What Drugs Cause Liver Damage?

The possibility of experiencing liver damage from medication is widespread knowledge. If you’ve ever been prescribed any medications, you may recall your doctor warning you about the impact of drugs and what those drugs can do to your liver, especially if you take higher doses than prescribed or if you mix them with other substances, like alcohol. But if prescription drugs can cause liver damage, imagine what street drugs can do to this organ. Below are some medications and illegal drugs that can cause liver damage.


Many studies on drug abuse and liver disease have found acetaminophen to be a common culprit. Acetaminophen is a medication that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain and is often used in conjunction with opiates to reduce fever. Also known as Tylenol, acetaminophen is also available in many over-the-counter medications such as Actifed, Alka-Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels, Cepacol, Contac, Nyquil, and more. However, this drug is also known for causing liver damage when taken in excess. When people follow the recommended dose of this drug, they’re relatively safe. However, many people often take higher doses for pain relief or may misuse drugs that contain this ingredient, increasing their risk of liver damage and even overdose.

Acetaminophen causes liver damage by overwhelming the glutathione pathway with its metabolite, NAPQI. Your cells contain glutathione, a substance that acts as an antioxidant in your body and detoxifies chemicals like pollutants and drugs. When someone takes too much acetaminophen, it overwhelms this pathway, causing the toxic compounds to accumulate in the liver, impairing its ability to rid the body of toxins and causing damage. Additionally, as with other medications, mixing acetaminophen with other drugs or alcohol can also increase the likelihood of developing liver problems. If you notice that a loved one is misusing their medications or if you’re struggling with this yourself, our prescription drug addiction treatment at Banyan Pompano can help.


Inhalants are substances that people usually use only by inhaling, such as solvents, aerosol sprays, gases, and nitrites. Inhalants are various products that can be purchased or found in homes or workplaces, including spray paints, keyboard cleaners, air fresheners, glues, markers, and cleaning fluids. When these substances are used to get high, they’re referred to as inhalants. Inhalants contain psychoactive or mind-altering properties that can produce euphoria, hallucinations, lightheadedness, and breathing problems.

In addition to liver damage and failure, inhalants can also cause long-term problems like hearing loss, bone marrow damage, and brain damage. Of their side effects, the most common and concerning is asphyxiation, in which the person doesn’t get enough oxygen to the brain, causing coma and permanent damage. Certain inhalants, specifically toluene, are also more harmful to the liver when the person is a heavy drinker.


Heroin is an illegal opioid that’s highly harmful and addictive. It’s most commonly smoked or injected for the euphoric and sedative side effects it produces. In addition to liver damage, heroin is also known to produce lung disease, insomnia, mental illness, sexual dysfunction, fertility issues, nasal problems, scarred or collapsed veins, soft tissue infection, and more. When a person injects heroin, it enters the liver via the bloodstream. The liver’s job is to detoxify these drugs and remove them from the body. Most drugs are fat-soluble, meaning they’re difficult to pass through urine. The liver corrects this issue by breaking down these substances and converting them into water-soluble forms so they can be passed through bile or urine. While it’s normal for the liver to do this every once in a while, chronic drug use forces the organ to work twice as hard. Therefore, heroin liver damage is the result of chronic drug abuse, which forces the liver to constantly detoxify itself and the body, basically wearing it out.


Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that’s also highly addictive and damaging to the body. Often made with other cutting agents like fentanyl and paint thinner, crack, or coke is known for causing serious physical damage. Cocaine liver damage is the result of the drug’s impact on liver enzyme levels. Cocaine effects on the liver include:

  • Viral hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Arterial hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Kidney failure
  • Rhabdomyolysis (leakage of muscle contents into blood circulation)

Moreover, as with any other substance, whenever the liver is constantly flooded with toxins, it’s being overworked to the point where it stops functioning properly. Long-term cocaine use also increases a person’s chances of cardiovascular disease, overdose, and death. If you’re addicted to cocaine, our cocaine rehab can help you regain your health and sobriety before it’s too late.


Methamphetamine is another CNS stimulant that’s derived from amphetamine. Like cocaine, meth can be smoked, injected, or swallowed. When used, meth increases alertness, energy, and physiological functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Long-term meth use is commonly associated with problems like skin disease (meth face) and tooth decay (meth mouth), but it can also severely damage the liver. Crystal meth liver damage is usually the result of hyperthermia or abnormally high body temperature. Hyperthermia is believed to cause oxidative stress and depleting glutathione, which can cause cell and tissue damage as well as affect the liver’s ability to break down toxins and detoxify the body. Without the help of meth treatment, those who are dependent on this drug are more likely to suffer from organ failure of all kinds as well as overdose.


Dextromethorphan or DXM is an over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressant. Robotripping, dexing, and skittling are common names for DMX abuse, which is done to experience a range of physical and psychological side effects. Although DXM is an OTC drug, people who abuse it usually do so by taking dangerously high doses. Not only does constantly flooding the liver with any kind of drug damage it, but OTC drugs often contain acetaminophen as well, which we’ve already established how damaging it can be to the liver. When used in high doses, DXM can lead to hepatitis and liver toxicity.

13 Warning Signs of Liver Disease

Over time, certain conditions that cause liver damage can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which can cause liver failure. However, early detection and treatment can give the liver time to heal. Although liver disease isn’t always noticeable, some signs and symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Dark urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pale stool
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Tendency to bruise easily
  • Difficulty sleeping

If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re at a higher risk of liver disease, cardiovascular disease, organ failure, and overdose. Fortunately, there are addiction services available at Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano that can help. Call us today at 888-280-4763 for more information about our drug treatment in Pompano Beach and how we can assist you in your recovery.

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Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Drugs That Can Cause Liver Damage
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