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Addiction, health issues, and how to prevent them -


Friday, August 27th 2021

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People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues.

People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues.

Drug addiction has many layers in the way it affects users. In addition to significantly impacting a person's lifestyle, relationships, and finances, it impacts their health too. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), people with addiction often have one or more associated health issues, including lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions.

In some cases, mental disorders like anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia may come before addiction. Drug use may worsen or trigger those conditions, especially in people with vulnerabilities. For instance, individuals living with anxiety or depression may turn to drug use, thinking it will alleviate their symptoms. Unfortunately, doing so can not only worsen the situation but lead to addiction.

Drug use can also increase a person's risk of contracting infections like HIV, hepatitis C and heart and skin infections when sharing needles or other drug equipment or if their bodies become exposed to bacteria. A person can also become infected if they have unprotected sex with an infected partner. The NIH found that one in 10 HIV diagnoses occur among people who inject drugs. Women who are infected can pass it to their baby during pregnancy or through their breastmilk.

Over time, continued drug use can worsen the progression and symptoms of HIV, making it easier to enter the brain and cause nerve cell injury. This spread can affect a person's thinking, learning, and memory. When combined with alcohol, liver damage increases the risk of chronic liver damage and cancer, especially in those with HBV or HCV.

Excessive alcohol use alone can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Alcoholism can also increase cancer risk in the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum. The immune system can become weak, decreasing the body's defenses against sickness. Learning and memory problems like dementia can occur as well.

Another thing to consider is that drug addiction can impact those around the user. For example, secondhand tobacco smoke can expose bystanders who have never smoked to at least 250 harmful chemicals. This exposure to chemicals can increase one's risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Children are even more susceptible to these dangers.

Additionally, a pregnant mother's substance or medication use can cause her baby to have neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) or go into withdrawal after birth. Some symptoms include tremors, trouble sleeping and feeding, seizures, and developmental problems with behavior, attention, and thinking.

Studies also show an increased risk in motor vehicle accidents when illicit drugs or misuse of prescription drugs are involved. According to the NIH, in 2016, about 12 million people ages 16 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs, including marijuana. Driving under the influence can significantly impact a person's attention and reaction time.

There are several ways people can decrease the spread of viral infections and help prevent developing or worsening health conditions.

  • Don't use drugs
  • Never share equipment
  • Get tested and treated for viral infections
  • Practice safe sex every time
  • Stay on top of yearly doctor visits and check-ups
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor for any health problems
  • Get treatment for substance use disorders

To learn how Northwest Texas Healthcare System Behavioral Health can help you or a loved one with addiction, visit their website online at or call 1-800-537-2585 or 806-354-1810 to get a free assessment seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Let them help you find your way.