Addiction is diagnosed when there’s a pattern of substance use marked by physical and/or psychological dependency in addition to significant disruptions in various life domains. One life domain that is impacted by addiction to alcohol and drugs is physical health. The most severe consequence to physical health from addiction is death, but there are also potential complications with liver, kidney, heart, pancreas and overall organ deterioration.
Alcohol addiction impacts the body in a variety of ways. The most critical health problems include liver disease, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and pancreatitis. Alcohol also impacts the digestive system because it is metabolized by the body quickly. This prevents the body from properly absorbing nutrients, and the rapid absorption impacts how blood travels to the liver, preventing oxidation from occurring at a normal rate to break down enzymes toxic to the liver. An impaired liver can lead to fatty liver, liver deterioration or cirrhosis. There is a point where liver cells can be regenerated if alcohol use is stopped; however, during final stage cirrhosis, the damage is irreversible and will lead to death.
Common illegal drugs of abuse include marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and “club” drugs such as ecstasy. Drug addiction can also cause liver disease, but there are also increased health risks such as heart attack, stroke and the disruption of neurotransmitters important in regulating mood and overall daily brain function. Over-stimulation of the brain and body through excessive drug use puts the heart in a state of flux that can decrease blood supply and block blood vessels, leading to weakening of the walls of the heart. Constant constriction of blood flow to the brain can also lead to a stroke or a seizure disorder.
It is not uncommon for a person to be abuse alcohol and one or more drugs at the same time. This increases the chance of infection, illness, liver disease, heart disease, lung disease and death. When mixing substances, there is also the potential for synergistic effects which can lead to sudden death or immediate health deterioration.
About this Author
Aureau Walding is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Missouri. Walding has worked in the field for a decade and she utilizes a holistic and strengths-based approach. She has published articles on topics such as anxiety, addiction, and social change for LIVESTRONG and Examiner.com.