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The relationship between health problems and addiction

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are often accompanied by at least one related health problem. These associated health problems can be caused or made worse by long-term substance abuse, which can lead to serious or fatal outcomes. Exploring the health effects of substance use and addiction can be critical to preventing or reducing future risk factors. Here are some connections between health issues and addiction.

Brain health problems

The brain plays an important role in the development of a LDS. Substance use directly interferes with normal brain functions, specifically with those of the reward system. To adapt to stimulation caused by drugs or alcohol, the brain reduces the number of dopamine receptors at the synapse. This means that dopamine is removed faster than usual. Dopamine modifications can cause a person to respond less to a substance and decrease responses to natural rewards. A tolerance is formed that can quickly turn into an addiction.

These adaptations also affect other parts of the brain, such as the regions responsible for decision-making, judgment, learning, and memory. Stopping substance use unfortunately does not return the brain to its normal functions. This can take years to achieve. Lasting effects on the brain’s ability to process rewards can make relapse difficult, which can lead to other health problems.


The likelihood of getting cancer can be increased with the abuse of various substances. This is specifically true for alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol consumption, which accounts for 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States, is one of the most preventable risk factors for cancer. Cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast have been identified as alcohol-related health problems. It has not been determined that there is a safe amount of alcohol against the risk of cancer. This includes drinking at moderate levels or less than 2 drinks a day.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in the United States. There are more than 70 chemicals in tobacco that are carcinogenic that damage DNA and affect the way the body produces new cells. Because secondhand smoke can also cause cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that substance abuse can also increase the risk of health problems for other people.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is a health problem characterized by pain that persists for 6 or more consecutive months after the person has healed. Prolonged physical pain can decrease quality of life and cause feelings of depression, anxiety, fear and anger. There are more than 100 million Americans who treat this type of pain and more than 20 million meet the criteria for a SUD or Alcohol Disorder (AUD). The use of opioids to treat chronic pain is believed to have contributed to the large number of people abusing these substances. In addition, people with chronic pain may be medicated with other substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and cocaine.


Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This health problem is an inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow and makes breathing difficult. The air sacs in the lungs are usually elastic and resilient. When inhaled, these bags fill with air and deflate as they exhale. With emphysema, the walls between these air sacs become damaged and lose their shape. This damage can cause the lungs to have fewer air sacs but larger ones, making it difficult for oxygen and carbon dioxide to enter the lungs.

Long-term exposure to irritants is a cause of lung damage. In the United States, cigarette smoke is the leading irritant that causes emphysema. Seventy-five percent of people with the disease smoke or used to smoke. Pipes, cigars and other forms of tobacco can also cause emphysema, especially if the substance is inhaled. Symptoms include frequent coughing, excessive mucus, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and a whistle when breathing.

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Heart health problems

Most medications can cause health problems with adverse cardiovascular effects. Smoking tobacco substantially increases the risk of suffering from heart disease such as stroke, heart attack or vascular disease. Other substances that can affect heart health are cocaine, heroin, inhalants, ketamine, LSD, marijuana, steroids and MDMA. Injected medications can cause vein collapse and infection of blood vessels and heart valves. Cocaine has also been linked to 1 in 4 heart attacks for the 18- to 45-year-old age group.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body’s immune system, making a person more susceptible to other health problems. If left untreated, HIV will reach its final stage: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Because HIV has no effective cure, the virus stays with a person for the rest of their life. Despite the lack of care, there is medical care that can control and stop the spread of HIV. Typically, flu-like symptoms appear 2 weeks after contracting the infection; it is also possible not to experience any symptoms. HIV is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids, specifically blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. Having unprotected sex and sharing drug injection needles can facilitate the spread of HIV among adults. Babies can get HIV through maternal transfer.

Having a LDS can increase your risk of contracting HIV, as substance abuse drastically affects judgment and decision-making capabilities. This can make a person more likely to have unsafe sexual behaviors. Substances that increase the chances of getting HIV are those that can be injected, such as opioids and methamphetamine, and those that reduce inhibitions, such as alcohol and inhalants.

Sleep-related health problems (insomnia)

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which it is difficult to fall and / or fall asleep. This health problem reduces the overall quality of sleep. When this disorder is continuous, it is considered chronic. Chronic insomnia is usually the result of a secondary problem such as medical conditions, medications, or LDS. Symptoms of insomnia stay awake for a long time before bed, sleeping only for short periods of time, being awake most of the night, waking up and feeling like you haven’t slept at all and woke up too much. early. Sleep problems can cause daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, and focus problems.

Substance use tends to alter sleep-regulating systems in the brain, which affects sleep quality. Upon receiving treatment, insomnia is common during withdrawal or detoxification. This can fuel cravings and relapses. Bad sleep can also make it difficult for people in treatment to learn the coping mechanisms and self-regulatory skills needed for recovery. In addition, insomnia can impair judgment and possibly cause someone to make decisions they would not normally make. People who suffer from insomnia may resort to other substances to self-medicate and try to regulate their sleep schedule. This often leads to a SOUTH.

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Lung cancer

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the lungs and usually affects the cells that line the airways. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. There are two types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell, the latter being more common. Symptoms of this health problem include chest discomfort or pain, persistent cough, breathing problems, wheezing, blood in the mucus, hoarseness, loss of appetite, fatigue, swallowing problems, and swelling of veins in the neck or face.

The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking tobacco, which contributes to 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in men and 8 out of 10 cases in women. The risk of lung cancer varies depending on the onset of life in smoking, the length of the habit, and the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The likelihood of lung cancer also increases if a person smokes and drinks alcohol every day. If a person stops smoking, it reduces the risk of lung cancer; the risk will still be higher than it would have been if they had never smoked. Secondhand smoke can expose other people to the same cancer-causing agents.

Neonatal withdrawal syndrome

Neonatal withdrawal syndrome (NAS) is the set of health problems for babies who have been exposed to opioids in the womb. This syndrome occurs when a woman abuses substances such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone or methadone while pregnant. Because these substances can pass through the placenta, the baby depends on them. After birth, an opioid-dependent baby will experience withdrawal symptoms as the drug is removed from the body. NAS may also be present after exposure to alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and even antidepressants. Symptoms begin 1 to 3 days after birth and depend on the substance that has been abused by the mother, how much was taken and how long it was taken, and whether the baby was term or premature. Treatment also varies depending on the substance involved.

For more information on addiction-related health issues, contact a treatment provider today.

Source: https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/health-issues-addiction/


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