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In 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It estimated that at least 21.5 million US citizens over the age of 12 have suffered from drug addiction; approximately 9.4 percent of the population. This is almost twice the estimated global burden, as estimated by the World Health Organization, of 5.4 percent. Drawn in by the temporary short term effects, addiction brings to life the reality of the long-term effects on the body. Let’s take a closer look at how drugs and alcohol affect the various parts of our body.
Drugs can have disastrous effects on the physical condition of the body.
Alcohol is broken down in the liver; it, therefore, makes sense that the place that experiences the damage most severely is the liver. It attacks the liver cells directly and can cause permanent shrinking and stiffening called cirrhosis, or may decrease the liver’s ability to metabolize fats and causing excessive accumulation or fatty congestion, often referred to Alcoholic Hepatitis. These will all have a domino effect on the rest of the liver’s functions, leading to yellow skin called jaundice, harmful toxin build up in the body like ammonia, as well as whole body swelling and difficulty breathing. Alcohol is also one of the leading predisposing factors in the development of liver cancer.
Stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines increase risk of heart attacks and dangerous irregular heart rhythms, or arrhythmias. Arrhythmias can make clots in the body which can travel over the body and block blood flow, which in turn leads to the death of those tissues. This can occur in smaller vessels like those in the hands and feet but may also cause blockages in the large vessels supplying the legs (which could lead to amputation of the limb) or to the brain (causing a stroke).Alcohol damages the cells of the heart muscle and causes them to become thin and stretched; leaving them unable to sufficiently pump blood around the body. This can lead to the build-up of fluid in the lungs and can lead to death.
Because of the general decrease in responsiveness, the brain can also build up a tolerance to certain drugs – this means that the dependent will need to use higher concentrations of the drug in each subsequent use to create the same desired effects. This also increases the deleterious potential of each session.
Direct chemical damage by the by-products of drug metabolism, decrease production of natural brain chemicals needed for daily activity, and strokes secondary to clots from arrhythmias, can severe brain damage. Some scientists believe that this damage can be irreparable.
Inhalational drugs carry more severe side effects than a constantly sniffling nose or a cough. They have the potential to wear away the structures of the nose and mouth and can cause holes and infections to develop. Other drugs like marijuana and methamphetamines damage the airways in your lungs causing them to become permanently dilated – this means your lungs can no longer inflate and deflate, decreasing the air flow and the amount of oxygen going into your lungs and increasing the stagnant air and chances of infection. All illicit substances can also increase the chances of developing cancer.
Although some consequences seem negligible, like constipation caused by heroine and other opiate use, but have the potential to lead to serious complications like bowel obstruction and perforation that can lead to infection spreading throughout the body and death.
Alcohol also causes damage to the stomach lining leading to an inflammatory condition called gastritis. This condition can become aggravated by continual use and the stomach’s own acidic environment to produce ulcers – deep erosions, thinning the stomach lining. If these perforate, they can cause incredible pain and damage to the surrounding organs.
Alcohol and other illicit substance also predispose the use to mouth, throat, stomach, pancreatic, liver, lung and breast cancer.
Studies have shown a direct correlation between substance abuse and mental health disorders. Mood swings, irritability and even suicidal ideation are not only short term, but long term effects of alcohol and illicit drug use. Decreased concentration, forgetfulness and paranoia increase in severity throughout the duration of alcohol and drug use. There is also an increased risk of developing depression and psychosis. This means that illicit drugs, especially hallucinogens like MDMA/Ecstasy or LSD, can cause irreparable damage to the human psyche causing hallucinations and delusions that persistent even after intoxication.
It is important to remember that it is never too late to reach out for help. At Connections ATC, we offer state of the art facilities to help you or your loved one combat alcohol and drug dependence in the most supportive environment. Clinical expertise, multi-disciplinary professionals and small-scaled programs ensure individualized, holistic treatment to give you the best chances at life-long sobriety.
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