Everything you put into your body has an effect. Some foods help your body thrive, while others put it at a disadvantage. But even beneficial ingredients can harm you in large quantities, especially if you forsake other healthy foods altogether.
The same is true with drugs and alcohol. Substances that may be helpful (or at least harmless) in small, controlled quantities can destroy your life when you adopt a steady diet of them. Not only do they monopolize your attention, energy, and finances, but they also ravage your body.
Dr. Farah Khan and our team here at Millennium Park Medical Associates in Greenwood Village Colorado, see the tragic effects of substance abuse in patients struggling with addiction. Many people aren’t aware of how these chemicals impact their physical health because they’re so focused on feeding their addiction.
But it’s important to know the physical damage substance abuse causes so you can recognize the signs and get treatment as soon as possible.
Which substances are involved in substance abuse disorders?
Different substances lead to different physical health issues, so let’s define what substances are typically abused. Some substances are legal, others are illegal.
- Cough medicine
- Prescription medications (pain medication, opioids, anabolic steroids)
Depending on the age and health of the user and the quantity and frequency of the doses, any of these substances can have devastating physical effects.
The physical effects of substance abuse
From mild symptoms to permanent damage, substance abuse affects your physical health. Here are some of the most common effects.
Any drug can affect your cardiovascular system, but amphetamines and cocaine are well-known as common culprits. In fact, the medical community has nicknamed cocaine “the perfect heart attack drug,” because it raises your heart rate and blood pressure so quickly, it can cause a heart attack even with the first dose. When your heart’s electrical signals are disrupted, it can lead to myocardial infarction and stroke.
If you inject these drugs, you also run the risk of inflamed or collapsed veins or infections in your blood vessels, heart valves, or heart chambers.
Anything you smoke, including cigarettes, cigars, marijuana, or crack cocaine, can harm your lungs and cause respiratory issues, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer.
Injected substances also raise your risk for:
- Pulmonary edema
- Collapsed lung
- Upper airway injury
- Septic embolism
Your risk for these conditions is even higher if you combine drugs, particularly opioids and depressants, such as sedatives or alcohol.
Liver and kidney problems
Everything you consume goes through your liver, including drugs, which means it’s vulnerable to tissue damage. The number one cause of liver damage is alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- More than 43% of all liver disease deaths in 2019 were alcohol related
- Almost half of all cirrhosis deaths in 2015 were alcohol related
- Alcohol-related liver disease is the reason for one-third of all liver transplants
Your kidneys also take a hit when you take a hit. Heroin, steroids, synthetic cannabis, nicotine, vaping, and inhalants can cause severe dehydration, spikes in body temperature, and muscle degradation, all of which can damage your kidneys.
From nausea and vomiting to diarrhea and constipation, substance abuse does a number on your gut. With prolonged use, they can also lead to gastric ulcers, severe acid reflux, GI bleeding, and esophageal cancer.
Substance abuse disorders alter the way your brain responds to stimuli and rewards. Over time, your brain no longer recognizes healthy rewards — only the drug gives it what it craves. This can lead to depression, anxiety, paranoia, and other mental health conditions, but it can also cause physical changes in your brain.
Studies show, for example, that long-term marijuana use can cause neuropsychological decline that continues even after the you stop using the drug.
Help for substance abuse and related physical conditions
If you have a substance abuse disorder, Dr. Khan can treat your condition and diagnose and treat any related health problems it’s caused. She specializes in a holistic approach to health care and helps patients manage their chronic pain and diseases with evidence-based treatments. She also focuses on disease prevention, so she can help you avoid some of the physical dangers related to substance abuse, as well.
To find out if substance abuse has caused you physical harm, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Khan. Book online or call us today.