The Physical Health of the Addict

People who suffer from addiction often deal with side effects reflected in one or more medical disorder.
When dealing with a loved one or family member who is suffering from a serious substance abuse problem, understanding the medical consequences of their addiction may be instrumental in getting them into treatment.

The impact of addiction on men or women can be far-reaching.  For pregnant women, substance abuse not only affects their own physical body; it may pass down medical issues to their unborn child, with physical ramifications that can continue into the later stages of the child’s life.

People who suffer from addiction often deal with side effects reflected in one or more medical disorder.  These can include lung or cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and mental disorders.  After undergoing imaging scans, chest x-rays and blood tests, the damaging effects of long-term drug abuse can be recognized throughout the body.  For instance, long-term smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, blood, lungs, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder and cervix.  In addition, some inhalant drugs are toxic to nerve cells and may damage or destroy them, either in the brain or nervous system.  Additionally, the Surgeon General’s 2006 Report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risks of heart disease and lung cancer in people who have never smoked by 25-30 percent and 20-30 percent, respectively

One question posed is: does drug abuse cause mental disorders, or vice versa?  Drug abuse and mental illness do often co-exist.  In some cases, mental disorders such as anxiety, depression or schizophrenia may precede addiction and often lead to it.  In other instances, drug abuse may actually trigger or exacerbate those mental disorders, particularly in people with specific vulnerabilities. 

As mentioned earlier, drug addiction can have harmful effects on infants and children.  The negative impacts of prenatal drug exposure on infants and children can be far-reaching.  A mother’s abuse of drugs during pregnancy, including heroin or prescription opioids, can cause a withdrawal syndrome in her infant.  Along with this neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), the infant may suffer symptoms varying from mild fussiness to significant issues with irritability, feeding, jitteriness and diarrhea.  Symptoms are varied for different substances.  It is also likely that some drug-exposed children will need educational support in the classroom to help them overcome subtle deficits in areas such as behavior, attention and thinking.  Ongoing research is investigating whether the effects of prenatal drug exposure on the brain and behavior extend into adolescence, causing developmental problems during that time.

There is a recognized connection between addiction and HIV/AIDS as intertwined epidemics.  Injection of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine currently accounts for about 12 percent of new AIDS cases.  These drugs are also a major factor in the spread of hepatitis C, a serious and potentially fatal liver disease.  All drugs of abuse cause some form of intoxication, which interferes with judgment and increases the likelihood of risky sexual behaviors.  This, in turn, contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Recognizing these far-reaching health issues that surround the use of chemical dependency can help family members make a more educated decision about the need for treatment for their loved one.


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Company Name: Cycles of Change Recovery
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