How Drug or Alcohol Abuse Damages Your Immune System
Your immune system is the body’s foremost line of defense. The abuse and consumption of drugs or alcohol offset this important system, paving the way for illness and disease to take root. Substance use begets a pattern of abuse that exerts a toxic burden on your body, compromising your body’s balance. Substance abuse often leaves individuals suffering from malnourishment—the body is depleted of vital nutrients and chemicals from prolonged exposure to the drug. Additionally, with the poor diet and sporadic eating habits that often accompany substance abuse, a person is left without many of the additional nutrients and chemicals that should be obtained through proper eating and nutrition. This malnourishment depletes a person’s levels of anti-oxidants which are elemental in helping the body combat stress and cellular damage, while also strengthening the immune system. Anti-oxidants are essential in fighting carcinogenic compounds; alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are all responsible for introducing carcinogens into the body. [inline_cta_two]
Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can upset your body’s natural equilibrium. According to the CDC, even moderate drinking can increase your risk of disease, including breast cancer. Alcohol abuse can cause nerve damage, anemia, rosacea, gout, erectile dysfunction (ED), alcoholic gastritis, and hepatitis. Some of the more severe diseases caused by drinking include:
- Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD): The liver is at the forefront of your body’s systems for processing alcohol. After years of heavy drinking, inflammation and scarring can occur, followed by cirrhosis. If this disease has not progressed to cirrhosis, the liver can heal if the drinking ceases. However, in its worst stages, cirrhosis of the liver may require a liver transplant. ALD can be more common in women.
- Cancer: Alcohol flushes your body with toxins and impairs proper blood circulation, which in turn deprives your body of the crucial oxygen and nutrients it needs to maintain cellular health and function. In addition, it is believed that the risk of cancer increases the body’s conversion of alcohol into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.
- Cardiovascular Disease: Both heavy and binge drinking increase the body’s risk of high blood pressure and also the production of blood clots. Cardiomyopathy, atrial, and ventricular fibrillation can also result from heavy drinking.
- Damage To The Nervous System and Brain: Alcohol disrupts the transmission of impulses within both the brain and nervous system and can cause: psychological issues, trembling, anxiety and reduced intellectual capacity. Prolonged exposure to excessive alcohol causes severe vascular impairment, brain atrophy, and a drastic reduction in levels of vitamin B-1, an essential nutrient for proper brain function.
- Diabetes: Alcohol is rich in calories and consuming excess amounts increases obesity risk and the risk for diabetes. Excessive drinking decreases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can create a predisposition to Type 2 diabetes. Severe alcohol abuse can also create chronic pancreatitis, which impairs the body’s ability to produce adequate levels of insulin.
- Pancreatitis: Continued alcohol abuse can result in intense and sometimes irreversible damage to this organ, including disrupted digestive processes due to inflammation, malabsorption, and jaundice. In the worst-case scenario, chronic pancreatitis can increase your risk factor for pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Alcohol, if consumed during a woman’s pregnancy can cause damage in utero, resulting in a group of conditions called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe of these and is one of the leading causes of birth defects in the U.S.
Cigarette and Other Drug Abuse
Sadly, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. This number is more than the combined totals of HIV, illegal drug and alcohol abuse, and injuries sustained from a motor vehicle or firearm-related accidents. Smoking is responsible for: increased blood pressure, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, stroke, coronary heart disease, COPD, and various cancers. According to the CDC, smoking is responsible for increasing the risk of death from all causes and causes 90% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of deaths from COPD. Cocaine can cause an increased risk in heart disease, due to the constant overexertion of the heart muscle. It can also cause high blood pressure and tachycardia, which in turn increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. The risk of cancer increases particularly for those that freebase. Benzodiazepines have sedative properties and are generally prescribed for anti-anxiety purposes. Overuse and abuse can cause fatal blood clots, which may lead to stroke, decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction (ED), and birth defects in children born from addicted and pregnant mothers. Ketamine is a powerful narcotic and long-term abuse can cause vacuoles to form in the brain, which affect cognitive, learning, and memory processes. These are known as Olney’s lesions. LSD and Ecstasy can both cause depression and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), which produces flashbacks and a dysphoric state. Unfortunately, it may persist for months or years. PCP can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and chronic abuse may cause seizures or even paralysis. Inhalant Abuse can lead chronic bronchitis, grand mal seizures, heart complications, tachycardia, damage to other major organ systems. Other problems include damage to the brain, bone marrow, lungs, liver and kidneys, and most severely, Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. Marijuana can hold intense psychological addiction. Smoking this drug can increase your chances of depression, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. New studies show that it’s linked to an increased risk of lung cancer, as it contains at least 50 of the same harmful carcinogens as cigarettes. There has been some evidence to suggest that smoking cannabis increases your risk of bladder, testicular, mouth, throat, or esophagus. Additionally, pairing this drug use with alcohol and/or cigarettes can increase your risk even more. [middle-callout] Opiate Addiction has been known to cause: depression, with an increased risk of suicide, infections such as cellulitis, seizure, and heart troubles. It can also include infections of both the valves and lining of the heart, endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart’s lining that causes the valves to rupture, atrial fibrillation, and an increased risk of a heart attack. Using these drugs while pregnant can cause great distress to the fetus with a higher instance of stillbirth. When the child is born, they will likely suffer neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is essentially when the newborn struggles with withdrawal symptoms. These children also may suffer from reduced birth weight, seizures, problems feeding, an exposed spinal cord, hydrocephaly, glaucoma, gastroenteritis, and different heart defects. Injection of these drugs hosts a myriad of complications, including but not limited to: abscesses, collapsed veins, and sepsis. Also, HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted from the needle-sharing that occurs through the abuse of these drugs. Amphetamine Addiction causes serious disarray to a wide variety of the body’s systems. Damage occurs in the following ways: degradation of your eyesight, anorexia, insomnia, hyperactivity, hypertension, stunted growth, increased urinary tract infections, and dermatosis. Both liver and heart disease have been linked to prolonged amphetamine use. Meth Addiction is implicated in heart disease, stroke, liver damage, and lung disease; it can cause hypertension and suppresses the immune system in a capacity that makes a person more susceptible to various illnesses and diseases, including cancer. Users may also experience intense depression and manic episodes.
Contact Us For More Information
Alcohol and drug abuse, whether recreational or habitual, carries an increased risk of harm to your body. If you have any questions about these drugs or the subsequent illnesses or diseases that may result from their use, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Vertava Health today.