Health Conditions Caused by Drug and Alcohol Use

We all know that abusing alcohol and other drugs is bad for us. What some people don’t realize is how many significant health conditions are caused by substance abuse. It is not enough that our addictions take over our lives and destroy our careers, friendships, families and more. They can also cause serious and permanent damage to our physical health or even death.

The long list of health conditions that stem from substance abuse begins with serious health problems even in adolescence, all the way up through health conditions that affect people late in life who have used or abused substances for many, many years. Some of the most common physical and mental health problems associated with substance abuse, according to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, are:

Physical Conditions

• Accidental Injury or Death
• Physical/Sexual Violence
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases
• Poisoning/Overdose
• Heart disease/Hypertension/Stroke
• Liver Damage/Disease/Cirrhosis
• Diabetes

It is well known that there are a significant amount of accidents and even fatalities related to driving under the influence of alcohol each year. Lesser known are the other types of accidents, such as at work or home that occur due to alcohol or other drug use. Additionally, there is a significantly larger number of incidents of physical or sexual violence when one or more parties involved have used alcohol or another substance.

Instances of Sexually Transmitted Diseases are higher with those who use or abuse substances due to the increased sexual risk-taking involved when under the influence of one or more substances. This includes cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C. Another big risk factor is using drugs like heroin, where people share needles, or crack cocaine users, whose users often share pipes with people who have mouth sores and could contract blood-borne diseases.

We have all heard the tragic stories of drug or alcohol poisoning or overdose. But what recent studies are showing us is that a very significant number of visits to the Emergency Room for drug-related issues are involving people who misuse prescription drugs, particularly opioids. In fact, prescription drug misuse often accounts for more emergency visits than alcohol now.

The risk of heart disease, hypertension, or stroke seems like something that would only be problematic in older patients, but actually, cardiovascular health is impacted very quickly. Particularly with drugs like cocaine, which immediately impacts blood pressure, the risk for heart attacks is significant. Alcohol, stimulants, heroin, and methamphetamine have all been linked with heart disease and cardiovascular issues, even in younger patients.

Drugs and alcohol can also impact a person’s insulin levels and cause or exacerbate existing diabetes. Diabetes causes many major health issues, including nerve and organ damage and problems in the eyes, including vision loss. Substance use makes these issues much worse in people who are already diabetic and can be the cause of the onset of diabetes, leading to these risks.

Mental Health Conditions

• Suicidal Ideation/Attempts
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Bipolar Disorder
• Panic Disorder
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder
• Social and Specific Phobias
• Oppositional Defiant Disorder
• Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
• Conduct Disorder
• Insomnia
• Dementia

In addition to many of the physical factors which have fatal risks, there are plenty of risks of specific mental health conditions, too. The most obvious risk would be active suicidal ideation or thinking suicidal thoughts, as well as those who actually attempt or complete suicide. Because of the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain, people who use substances are at a significantly higher risk for suicide and also depression. Depression is more common with women than men who use drugs or alcohol, but it is very considerable within this entire community.

There is also a much higher incidence of bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social and specific phobias amongst those who abuse substances. While it is recognized that some may be people who already displayed symptoms of these various disorders and used substances to self-medicate, there is plenty of data to indicate that substance abuse in and of itself can bring these conditions on. All of them are chronic and debilitating and even life-threatening. Additionally, the use of substances when one has a mood or anxiety disorder can make the disorder much worse and more difficult to treat.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is also very prevalent amongst those with addictions. Some experience traumatic events that lead to substance abuse to self-medicate, others have traumatic events due to the situations they find themselves in as they use substances. PTSD is from three to six times more common amongst those who abuse substances than the general population.

Adolescents who use substances often develop Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD,) Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD,) and conduct disorder. These conditions are usually indicated by behavioral issues but are very real medical conditions that make life, particularly learning, very difficult. At the opposite end of the spectrum, elderly people who have used substances for a long time can develop insomnia and are also at a much higher risk of dementia.

Enlight is very aware of both physical and mental health risks that come with substance abuse. Put your trust in our care to help you start your life anew. Call us today at (805) 719-7954 to find the mental and physical help you need along with the caring support you deserve as you begin restoring your wellbeing.