For those who develop dependence and addiction to drugs, the effects that will experience can be long term and even lifelong. While we often think of the social and psychological ramifications of substance abuse, the health complications associated with addiction can be severe. Whether these substances are legal or illegal, the impacts of these substances on one’s health can be debilitating and costly. The following article outlines the common health conditions caused by substance abuse.
Health Issues Caused by Addiction
Those addicted to drugs and alcohol can experience a wide range of health issues, depending on the substances they are abusing. It is best to understand the common health issues tied to substance abuse. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it will help you understand the full scope of health problems caused by substance abuse.
Immune System Issues
Long-term use of drugs and alcohol suppress the body’s ability to produce white blood cells. As a result, drug and alcohol abusers are at an increased risk of immune system issues. For example, those who intravenously inject drugs like heroin can run the risk of contracting Hepatitis B, C, and even HIV. Also, substances can lower a person’s inhibitions, which can lead to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex. Contracting STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) also suppresses the immune system and can lead to infections.
Cardiovascular Health Conditions
Chronic substance abuse can also lead to a variety of cardiovascular issues and diseases. Among the most common is consistently high or low blood pressure. These flucuations can lead to the formation of blood clots or an aortic dissection where the layers of the arteries and tear apart, which can block blood flow to the heart. For those who abuse alcohol, they run an increased risk of developing severe cardiovascular conditions such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other forms of respiratory distress issues. Additionally, intravenous drug users can develop inflammation of the heart valves and other vascular inflammation issues.
Substances such as alcohol and prescription painkillers irritate the digestive system and can cause damage. The damage to the lining of the digestive tract often leads to common gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. It can also lead to chronic indigestion, which can lead to problems such as pancreatitis, acid reflux disease, bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract, and overall malnutrition due to the lack of mineral and nutrient absorption.
The liver is an especially important organ in the body. The liver is responsible for metabolizing nutrients and detoxifying the body from substances such as drugs and alcohol. When people abuse drugs and alcohol over a long period of time, the liver can become overwhelmed, and over time, organs and tissue can start to break down. As a result, chronic substance abusers run an increased risk of developing serious conditions such as cirrhosis and hepatitis.
Along with the liver, the kidneys are vital in proper body functioning by filtering out toxins and waste. With chronic drug abuse, it can cause a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle tissue that gets into the blood. This increase of proteins in the blood will overwhelm the kidneys and can cause gradual kidney damage over tme. For people who snort or inject drugs, they can experience respiratory issues that can deprive the body of oxygen. Prolonged periods of oxygen deprivation can also cause damage to the kidneys.
Drugs and alcohol have a tremendous impact on brain chemistry and functioning. This is especially true in those brain areas that govern pleasure, decision making, and impulse control. Substances also take over the production of neurotransmitters, which help people feel calm, excited, and happy. Over time, people will take their substance of choice to function daily and not so much to feel calm and euphoric.
For those who take depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, people can experience coordination and movement issues as well as memory loss. For those who take stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, the brain becomes slower to restore neurotransmitter balance once they stop taking these drugs. As a result, they can experience significant mood swings and the onset of mental issues such as depression and anxiety.
Professional Help Is Needed
With all the health issues that are tied to substance abuse, getting professional help becomes critical. When addicts go through a treatment program from a reputable facility, they will regain their psychological and physical health. Most importantly, they will get the tools and support needed to overcome addiction and lead a healthy and happy life for the long term.