Drug Abuse and Your Kidneys

Every drug you put into your body passes through your kidneys. If the drug is not taken following a doctor’s orders, or if it is an illegal substance, it can cause injury to the kidneys. When they are healthy, your kidneys can rid your body of its waste materials. But if your kidneys do not work properly, you must be treated either by dialysis or with a kidney transplant or you could die.

Your kidneys could be damaged if you take large amounts of over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen (LINK to analgesics). None of these medicines should be taken daily or regularly without first talking to your doctor. Thousands of Americans have destroyed their kidneys by using excessive amounts of these medications.
Heavy drinking can hurt both your kidneys and your liver. Alcoholics have a high risk of developing both kidney and liver failure.
Antibiotics can also be dangerous if they are not taken correctly. People with kidney disease need to take a smaller amount of antibiotics than people with healthy kidneys. Take only medicines ordered for you by your doctor.
Most street drugs, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and even death, in some cases from only one use. Cocaine, heroin and amphetamines also can cause kidney damage.
  • Do not take any medicine, drug or substance unless you are under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Do not take pills or substances given to you by a stranger or even a friend.
  • If you do take a medication or other substance and feel ill, contact your doctor immediately.
Updated: 05/12/04
See also in this A-Z guide:
  • Analgesics
  • How Your Kidneys Work
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Warning Signs of Kidney and Urinary Tract Diseases
If you would like more information, please contact us.
©2010 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.