Long-Term Substance Abuse Leads To Chronic Medical Illness
Drug and alcohol use has a wide range of short-term and long-term, direct and indirect side effects. Recent studies show strong associations between substance use disorder diagnoses and 19 major medical illnesses among patients. The short-term and long-term effects often depend on the drug of choice, frequency of use, how they are taken, how much is taken, and the person's previous health conditions. When a person abuses drugs or alcohol the substance is passed through the body changing the brain and body chemistry. These changes can lead to lasting damage. Our team of highly trained detox specialist work to identify problems caused by substance use and deliver evidence-based interventions to address the damage caused by former SUD before the disorder becomes more chronic and complex.
Conditions Commonly Associated With Substance Use Disorder include:
- Brain Damage:
Drugs and alcohol change brain chemistry. The side effects can range from irritability and mood swings to hallucinations and delusions. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, are all central nervous system depressants, meaning they reduce chemical transfer and neuron firing, leading to a sense of relaxation and happiness. Once these drugs begin to leave the body, negative side effects begin because the brain cannot restore balance to neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Eventually, parts of the brain change shape and/or size, which leads to mental health issues, personality changes, and physical illness.
- Infections and Immune System Damage:
Intravenous drug use can carry a very high risk of infection for users. HIV, hepatitis B and C, and bacterial infections from sharing dirty needles is common among needle users. Often drugs depress the immune system’s ability to create white blood cells, which reduces immune response to infection and can result in death.
- Liver Damage:
The liver processes toxins and metabolizes nutrients. When too many toxins are introduced to the liver it begins to break down. Alcohol, inhalants, heroin rapidly damage the liver, causing cirrhosis or hepatitis.
- Cardiovascular Issues:
Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamines, can lead to a heart attack because the drugs increase the body’s stress response. Changes to the circulatory system can lead to an increased risk of blood clots circulation problems, and an irregular heartbeat.
- Gastrointestinal Issues:
Drugs that are ingested orally can cause permanet damage to the GI Tract and digestive system. Opioids and benzandodiazepines both lead to chronic constipation, nausea, and indigestion.
- Respiratory Problems:
Smoking any drug can damage alveoli in the lungs and make the respiratory system more susceptible to chronic infections. Consistent depressed breathing patterns due to addiction, starve the lungs of oxygen, leading to damage to other organ systems.
- Kidney Damage:
The kidneys are organs used to filter toxins out of the bloodstream. The kidneys can become overwhelmed and unable to process all the toxins out sometimes causing rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue that floods the bloodstream with toxic chemicals; Drugs like heroin or other opioids can reduce the amount of oxygen the body takes in causing kidney damage, due to oxygen deprivation.
Want To learn more about what chronic conditions can form from substance abuse and how to treat them? Contact us today to learn how our integrated approach improves substance use as well as medical outcomes by identifying multiple co-occurring medical conditions early.