How Does Substance Abuse Affect The Body?

Substance Abuse Affects The Body

The effects of drugs and alcohol harm every aspect of a user’s life, from damaged relationships to exacerbated mental health concerns and debilitating physical effects. While every drug, including alcohol, affects the body differently, substance abuse overall can have significant short and long-term effects on your body.

If you’re struggling with addiction, you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans are estimated to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, and thousands seek treatment and a sober path each year. Addiction is a complex disease, and no system in your body is left unaffected by the ravages of drugs and alcohol.

Addiction and the Brain

Your brain controls every aspect of your body, as well as your ability to think and process new information. However, the effects of chemical compounds in drugs, alcohol, and even nicotine have far-reaching effects.

Most immediately is the effect on behavior. Inhibitions are lowered, and the cravings and desire to drink or use are heightened. The ability and desire to refrain from using is muted, which leads to increased use. The changes in the brain from addictive substances can actually make the brain more addicted.

Physiological changes in the brain affect the way that an addict is able to create and preserve memories. Many people speak of “blacking out,” but what happens is that the brain may not be capable of turning the short-term memories from a night of drinking or getting high into long-term memories. The person’s memories weren’t created due to the affects of drugs.

Drugs and alcohol cause irreversible brain damage, as well. Long-term drinking has shown a reduction in the “white matter” in the brain and shrinking of the brain tissue. Long-term alcoholics may see reduced cognitive ability and even early-onset dementia.

The Effects of Addiction on the Body

Substance abuse affects the body and every major organ system, which can lead to several chronic medical conditions, including:

  • Heart disease, high blood pressure, angina, and arrhythmias
  • Liver failure, fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis of the liver
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Disruptions in the GI tract, including irregular bowel movements
  • Stomach ulcers and damage to the esophagus
  • Increased risk of cancer, including lung, breast, colorectal, and esophageal cancers

Drug and alcohol use also weakens the immune system, which leaves the individual more susceptible to getting sick or contracting viruses.

Effects of Drugs and Alcohol On Your External Appearance

Addiction doesn’t just affect your insides. Chronic alcohol and drug use also affect how you look, from your skin to your hair, nails, and teeth.

Some drugs, especially methamphetamine, cause serious skin problems, including lesions and sores. Other medications can exacerbate certain skin conditions, like acne and eczema. Many addicts may be chronically dehydrated, too, making the skin dry, flaky, and papery.

Cavities, gum disease, and other tooth and jaw issues can occur with prolonged drug and alcohol use. Your hair may thin, fall out, or become more brittle. Prolonged alcohol use can lead to jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Drinking and snorting drugs may cause broken blood vessels around the nose and cheeks.

Do You Need Addiction Treatment?

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is hope. At Hickory Treatment Centers, we provide a holistic approach to addiction treatment, with intensive outpatient therapy and ongoing support for your sober journey. We also have family therapy available. Please call us today for a confidential consultation and to discuss your options.

Close up on a bike with helmet smiling

If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.