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Originally posted on https://www.webmd.com/dna/the-journey-starts-now#addiction-body
The impact of drug addiction is extensive. Depending on a host of factors, including the substance used, the duration of abuse, and an individual’s overall health, drugs can have a range of short- to long-term effects on the body. Here are some of the health issues correlated with drug abuse and how treatment and recovery can help reverse some of the damage.
Different drugs and their method of use—smoking, snorting, swallowing, and injection—affect the body in different ways. Drugs that are most addictive activate the brain’s cerebral cortex and limbic system—or reward center—by flooding pathways and synapses with the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Addiction is considered a brain disorder because drugs have the potential to rewire the brain’s reward circuity. This change to the brain obstructs not only a person’s decision-making abilities, emotions, and impulse control, but also their capacity to experience pleasure from everyday activities. Drug dependency occurs when the user compulsively repeats the behavior despite devastating consequences to their lives, bodies, and loved ones.
In addition to changing the way the brain functions, research shows that people with substance use disorders often experience a host of other physical health problems, including:
- Higher rates of lung and cardiovascular disease
- Liver failure
- Kidney damage
- Chronic pain
- Organ system injury
- Hepatitis C
There are several reasons why people who suffer from substance abuse disorders are likely to have co-occurring physical health problems. Previous medical conditions can contribute to the development of addiction—or addiction, which impacts the body’s immune system and often accompanies risky behavior, can cause additional medical issues. The co-occurring conditions can also exacerbate each other.
Compared to the general population, people who suffer from substance use disorders are twice as likely to experience mental health issues. This does not necessarily mean that one causes the other, but research shows that there is a connection. Drug abuse can trigger mental health symptoms, and mental illness can contribute to substance abuse. Both conditions are often caused by similar influences, such as genetic vulnerabilities, biology, and environmental factors.
While under the influence of the drug, a person can experience short-term mental health symptoms like paranoia and delusion. If the symptoms last after the drug effects subside, it can indicate an underlying mental health issue. The negative consequences of drug use on a person’s professional and personal life can also trigger depression.
Mental health disorders and substance abuse often impact each other. For example, when a person’s mental health issue is untreated, they are more likely to abuse drugs, and when a person’s drug abuse escalates, it can worsen their mental health symptoms.
Recovering from addiction is difficult and can be complicated by additional mental or physical medical conditions, but there is hope. An essential part of the recovery process involves detoxing from the drug and rewiring the brain’s pathways to restore normal functioning. This takes time and, often, medical intervention.
It is vital that a person with a dual diagnosis find a rehab that addresses both issues simultaneously. A facility like Caron Treatment Centers offers world-class integrated behavioral health programs that treat addiction alongside co-occurring physical and psychological conditions.
According to addiction specialists at Caron, the faster a person receives help and the longer they stay drug-free, the more likely they are to reverse the damage and restore their health. Healing is possible.