Crohn’s disease causes your digestive tract to become severely inflamed. Its often incapacitating symptoms lead some individuals to self-medicate by substance abuse. Some even become addicted to their prescribed painkillers because of this. Whether it be alcohol or other drugs, these substance can lead to addiction and aggravate the disease.
Crohn’s disease currently has no cure. For an individual with Crohn’s, this prognosis can seem quite dim, especially when paired with the life-altering symptoms the disease produces. But with the proper lifestyle, therapies, and treatment, Crohn’s can be successfully managed, and so can an addiction.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This inflammation causes distress to a person’s digestive tract, specifically the small intestine and colon. Sometimes the symptoms temporarily subside, this is called remission.
While symptoms can be mild, in its most extreme manifestations, “Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications,” according to Mayo Clinic.
This reality may lead some individuals to self-medicate their pain or emotional symptoms with drugs or alcohol. Doing so will only complicate matters further, and in many cases it will intensify the symptoms even more.
Is It Dangerous To Have Both?
Crohn’s can mask certain symptoms of substance abuse and vice versa. This can make it difficult to identify the root of the problem in some individuals and forestall treatment.
Depending on the drug of abuse, both diseases can create similar symptoms, such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, a suppressed appetite, malnourishment, and dehydration, among others. Individuals with Crohn’s may try to blame the side effects of their drug abuse on it in an attempt to hide their addiction.
These effects (especially malnourishment and dehydration) can become dangerous when compounded by chronic drug use and Crohn’s. Both diseases have also been linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide.
The Emotional Strain Of Crohn’s Can Lead To Substance Abuse
It can be difficult to cope with a serious disease like Crohn’s and the many ways it alters your life. Over time, a person’s mental and emotional health can become seriously compromised, in a way which fosters substance abuse.
Crohn’s can cause or worsen certain mental illnesses, especially depression and anxiety. One study found that instances of these disorders are highest within the first year of diagnosis.
These findings were in line with other research which “found depression and/or anxiety to be more common in patients with IBD than in the general population or in patient groups with other chronic diseases.”
Isolation And Loneliness
During an active state of Crohn’s, the unpredictability of the disease can make it difficult to socialize. A person with Crohn’s may feel so unwell, or grow to fear the onset of their symptoms and the difficulty of managing them, that they simply stay home.
To self-treat these states, a person may begin using drugs or alcohol, which can actually make these states more severe. As they worsen, a person may continue to drink or use drugs, to the point they become dependent and addicted to the substance.
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How Are Crohn’s Disease And Substance Abuse Related?
Alcohol abuse is especially harmful to people with Crohn’s. It irritates an already inflamed digestive tract and increases the odds of further damage to these sensitive tissues.
Some research does show that marijuana may be helpful in treating certain symptoms of Crohn’s, but if a person self-treats their condition they do run the risk of becoming addicted.
Opioid painkillers may be used to treat the pain associated with Crohn’s or after surgery for the disease. But certain individuals may begin to use their medication improperly, which could lead to severe addiction.
What Factors Of An Addicted Lifestyle Can Aggravate Crohn’s?
The following lifestyle factors can aggravate Crohn’s Disease:
- Diet: Addicted individuals are more apt to make poor dietary choices, which are speculated to aggravate Crohn’s.
- Immune System: Substance abuse can decrease your immune system, which can trigger an episode, and make it harder for your body to fight Crohn’s.
- Smoking: Smoking makes Crohn’s disease worse. Certain forms of substance abuse, for instance alcohol, make certain people more apt to smoke.
- Stress: An addiction can destroy important aspects of your life such a your health, family, career, and educational pursuits. These happenings can increase stress which inflames Crohn’s.
Individualized Care Is Crucial When Treating Crohn’s Disease And Addiction
If you have Crohn’s disease and addiction, you need to ensure you’ll be in a treatment environment which is sensitive to the needs of both diseases (addiction is, itself, a disease).
Full-spectrum, individualized care is critical for patients who have both a chronic disease and addiction. Behavioral therapies, counseling, and other modalities should be adapted to help you heal on a physical, mental, emotional, and social level from both diseases.
Advanced Medical Care
When the disease is an active state, you may require additional medical care, nutritive support, and even counseling. Certain B vitamins may be administered as they are used to treat both diseases.
Dual Diagnosis Care
Dual diagnosis care is an important element of treatment for those with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Non-addictive medications may be used to treat anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness which you suffer from.
For those in need of pain management, certain non-addictive medications or alternative therapies may be used.
Family Therapy And Support
Chronic disease and addiction can take an immense toll on your family members too. A comprehensive program should offer family therapy and support to help you grow and heal together within the face of such adversity.
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Mindfulness And Stress Management Practices
Because stress can cause a flare-up of Crohn’s, it’s important to learn how to manage it in a healthy way. Mayo suggests the following techniques:
- Breathing exercises
Many facilities offer these holistic therapies.
Fitness And Nutrition
A program may offer exercise facilities or classes which can help you to channel your stress in a healthful manner, all the while strengthening your body.
Even though experts are still learning about the role diet has on Crohn’s, it’s still important to be mindful of how you eat. A good facility will prepare meals which take into account any dietary restrictions you may have.
Relapse Prevention Training
Since Crohn’s is a lifelong disease, you must be prepared to deal with flare-ups, both mentally and physically. Without relapse prevention training, an active state could become a trigger for addiction. Enhanced coping skills will be taught to help you cope with these challenges.
Battling Crohn’s disease and addiction isn’t an easy task by any means, but it is possible to develop positive and healthy behaviors which can support a drug-free life and better overall physical health.
Even though there isn’t a cure for Crohn’s, the right combination of therapies can decrease the severity of symptoms and/or lead to long-term remission. Recovery from addiction is also something you need to commit to for life, but the right treatment program can make all the difference by preparing you for this journey.
Get Help For Chrohn’s Disease And Addiction Today
If you or a loved one has Crohn’s, you can still seek treatment. Protecting your body from the effects of drugs or alcohol is especially important with this concern, and Vertava Health wants to help you reach this goal. Contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.