Addiction is a serious problem that affects millions of people across the world. It has been estimated that around 20% of the population suffers from addiction at some point in their lives.1
Addiction is generally described as an uncontrollable desire to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. The effects of addiction can be devastating and long-lasting.
The causes of addiction are complex but often include genetic, biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. In this series, we explore the various facets of your life that can be negatively impacted by addiction.
The first and most evident affected element would be your health.
Physical Health Problems Associated With Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders affect millions of Americans each year. A substance use disorder is associated with numerous medical complications. Many of these problems stem directly from substance abuse itself. Others occur because of lifestyle choices made while under the influence of addictive substances. Here are just a few examples of what happens when you become dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug:
Addiction & Liver Damage
Alcoholic beverages generally contain high levels of sugar which leads to fatty deposits known as “fatty livers.” Over time, repeated exposure to alcohol damages the liver. Eventually, the liver stops working properly and produces less protein, enzymes, and bile acids. Liver damage caused by heavy drinking can be reversed if someone quits drinking completely. However, once the liver begins to fail, recovery is difficult. According to studies, people who drink heavily are more likely to develop cirrhosis, a condition where scar tissue replaces healthy liver cells.2 Cirrhosis makes it harder for the liver to perform normal tasks. Without treatment, cirrhosis eventually results in liver cancer.
Addiction & Heart Disease
Recent reports have shown that individuals with alcohol addiction face increased risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, especially coronary artery disease.3 Alcohol consumption has been linked to an elevated risk of heart attacks and strokes. In addition, chronic alcoholics suffer from atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis narrows the inner walls of the arteries, making it more likely that clots form there. Clotting occurs when platelets stick together forming plugs that block blood flow. The resulting lack of oxygen supply triggers inflammation and further injury to the lining of the vessel wall. Inflammation also contributes to plaque buildup. Plaque hardens over time and forms calcified plaques. Calcification reduces the elasticity of the arterial wall, increasing the chances of rupture during periods of stress such as exercise. Rupture of the weakened artery wall releases clotting factors into the surrounding tissues, leading to thrombotic events including stroke and myocardial infarction.
Addiction & Stroke
According to studies, people who consume large quantities of an addictive substance regularly run higher risks of suffering from hemorrhagic strokes than those who abstain.4 Hemorrhagic strokes involve bleeding into the brain rather than rupturing an existing blood vessel. Heavy drinking raises the likelihood of having a hemorrhagic stroke due to the presence of coagulopathy and hypertension. Coagulation abnormalities include low fibrinogen levels and abnormal function of anticoagulant proteins. Hypertension increases the chance of experiencing a hemorrhage since pressure inside the skull causes swelling and thinning of the protective membranes around the brain.
Addiction & Cancer
Studies have shown that people who have long-term or frequent alcoholic beverage intake experience greater rates of certain types of cancers compared to people who do not drink at all.5 For example, men who drink two drinks per day increase their odds of getting prostate cancer by about 25%. Women who drink three drinks daily increase their risk of breast cancer by 50%. If you smoke cigarettes along with consuming alcohol, you double your risk of lung cancer.
How Schick Shadel Can Help Your Health with Addiction Recovery
If you think you might need help dealing with a substance use disorder, contact us as soon as you can.
Schick Shadel Hospital provides comprehensive care for those who struggle with substance use disorders. Our team of highly trained professionals works together to provide the highest level of care possible.
We understand that recovering from addiction is a long journey, and we want to make sure that you receive the support you need along the way. Our team of experts will work closely with you to ensure that you receive the best care possible.
Osna, N. A., Donohue, T. M., Jr, & Kharbanda, K. K. (2017). Alcoholic Liver Disease: Pathogenesis and Current Management. Alcohol research : current reviews, 38(2), 147–161.
Whitman, I. R., Agarwal, V., Nah, G., Dukes, J. W., Vittinghoff, E., Dewland, T. A., & Marcus, G. M. (2017). Alcohol Abuse and Cardiac Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 69(1), 13–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2016.10.048
Fonseca, A. C., & Ferro, J. M. (2013). Drug abuse and stroke. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 13(2), 325. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-012-0325-0
NIDA. 2020, June 9. Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/health-consequences-drug-misuse/cancer on 2021, September 16