Addiction can wreak havoc on every aspect of a person’s life. It can affect relationships, work, and other responsibilities. It can even affect the health and well-being of the person who suffers from addiction. Because drugs and alcohol change the chemical makeup of the brain and how it runs the rest of the body, prolonged use can have major health problems and even death. Drug and alcohol abuse can have adverse effects on every part of the human body from the head all the way down to the toes. We will take a look at not just some of the biggest health problems that can arise from addiction. But we will also note some specific conditions that may occur with specific types of drug use.
What Are Some Common Health Problems Caused by Substance Abuse?
When it comes to ailments that are brought on by prolonged drug and alcohol use, there are several common ones that can be caused by any type of drug or alcohol. Those include:
- Brain damage
- Cardiovascular problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Respiratory problems
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Infections and immune system damage
Let’s take a look at each one in specific detail.
The number one thing that drugs and alcohol due to the body is the change the chemical makeup of the brain. Since the brain controls the rest of your body, this is by far the most significant and dangerous thing that addiction does to the body.
As far as the brain itself goes, the majority of the most popular substances of abuse such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, and sedative-hypnotics are all central nervous system depressants. This means that all those substances reduce chemical transfer and neuron firing which leads to a sense of relaxation and happiness. That’s why your body feels good when you are on the substance of choice and that’s why your brain constantly wants more of it.
Once those substances start to leave the body, the brain is not able to restore balance, thus changing the complete chemical makeup of the brain. This can lead to mental health issues, personality changes such as constant mood swings or irritability, and even physical problems stemming from the change in the chemical makeup of the brain.
Certain substances speed up the heart rate (uppers), while others slow it down (downers). The constant taxing on the heart can result in both high and low blood pressure. Prolonged blood pressure issues can cause damage to the circulatory system, leading to an increased risk of blood clots or circulation problems. Certain substances, like cocaine or methamphetamines, can lead to a heart attack or an irregular heartbeat.
When people consume drugs orally, it can cause harm to the digestive system. This can include everything from alcohol and benzos to even prescription medications such as opioids or even ADD medication. Issues include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic constipation
- Upset stomach
Gastrointestinal reflux disease, which can be caused as a result of chronic indigestion can damage the esophagus and make eating certain foods painful. Frequent vomiting can also cause damage to the esophagus and lead to problems with malnutrition.
Drugs that are ingested via smoking can lead to major respiratory issues. Prolonged smoking can damage alveoli in the lungs and make the upper respiratory system more susceptible to infections. This increases the chances of lung cancer. In addition, prolonged smoking can slow a person’s breathing or make breathing shallow and difficult. Difficulty breathing normally can ultimately result in damage to other organs or in extreme cases hypoxia, which can lead to death.
You hear about people suffering from liver damage from drinking too much over a long period of time. Did you know though that the liver is one of the primary organs that process toxins and metabolizes nutrients? That means that when substances of addiction go through the digestive system, the liver metabolizes those toxins. When too many toxins are introduced, the liver cannot process them all, and the tissues of the organ begin to break down. This can ultimately lead to cirrhosis or hepatitis.
Similar to the liver, the kidneys also filter toxins. Ingesting large amounts of any dangerous substance can cause the kidneys to become overwhelmed and, as a result, are unable to process all the toxins out. This can cause kidney damage, leading up to renal failure that requires dialysis. In extreme situations, it can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue that floods the bloodstream with toxic chemicals.
Infections and Immune System Damage
Drugs that people use intravenously through the use of needles have a very high risk of infection. Common infections include:
- Hepatitis B and C
- Bacterial infections
Snorting or smoking substances can also result in infections such as upper respiratory infections. Some drugs, such as cocaine, can even directly impact the immune system’s ability to create white blood cells, which reduces the immune response to infection.
What Health Problems Are Associated with Depressants?
Depressants, according to the Department of labor, can cause something called mental clouding. Mental clouding essentially puts you in a state of feeling like you are in a fog. While under the influence of a depressant, it is not uncommon to:
- Feel sleepy
- Feel slow
- Have slurred speech
- Feel sedated
- Stagger while talking
- Experience unusual sensations
If taken in large enough quantities, or mixed with other substances, depressants can even lead to a coma or death.
What Health Problems Are Associated with Hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens, such as LSD, PCP, or mushrooms cause distortion in what people see, feel, and experience. While the feeling one gets from a hallucinogen can be enjoyable at the time, it can cause long-lasting health problems. One of the more common long-term negative effects of hallucinogens is hallucinations. People who suffer from hallucinations may experience a hallucination at completely random and inopportune times, including while at work or even driving. The hallucinations can feel so real that it can lead to panic attacks or even anxiety disorder. While hallucinogens might not be considered as dangerous as some other drugs from an addiction perspective, the side effects that come with them are very real and can be very serious. Other health problems that can form as a result of prolonged hallucinogen use include:
- Significant changes in blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate
- Changes in body temperature
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Profuse sweating
- Decreased muscle coordination
- Numbness in the extremities
- Distorted perception of reality
What Health Problems Are Associated with Opiates?
Opiates are one of the most commonly abused drugs because of how easy they typically are to get. Many people who find themselves addicted to opiates even received them legally, likely from a doctor in the form of a prescription to treat an ailment. Unfortunately, though, opiates can be one of the most dangerous drugs available when it comes to the effects it has on the brain and body. More overdoses happen as a result of opiates than any other drug of abuse. While an overdose might be the most serious, it’s hardly the only health problem that can be caused by prolonged opiate use.
People who have an addiction to opiates may find themselves suffering from the following ailments:
- Slow, low breathing
- Brain cell damage
- Impaired decision-making abilities
- Digestive problems including severe constipation
What Health Problems Are Associated with Stimulants?
Just like opiates, stimulants are another very popular type of drug of abuse. Similarly to opiates in many cases, individuals can obtain the stimulant legally through a doctor’s prescription for an ailment that requires it. Common examples of this are ADD medications such as Ritalin or Adderall. Just like opiates as well, prolonged use can have major negative effects on the internal makeup of the body. While it may not directly impact the body as strongly as other substances, the subtle effects it does have can lead to major medical issues down the line including heart attacks, heart failure, brain tissue damage, psychosis, and paranoia.
Are You Suffering from Health Problems as a Result of Addiction?
The first step on the road to recovery from addiction is detox and addiction treatment. While you may have permanent health problems as a result of addiction, there are cures for many of them. The complications that don’t have cures can at least improve by getting your body clean and sober. At Crest View Recovery Center we want to get you the help that you need to put you on the road to recovery. Contact us today by calling (866) 327-2505 to learn more about our treatment services and how we can get you started on the road to a healthier life.