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The Effects of Chronic Substance Abuse on Your Physical Health

Chronic abuse of chemical substances — whether alcohol, designer drugs, or even marijuana — affects the body in different and often unexpected ways. Substance abuse can damage organs, change a person’s physical appearance, and alter how the entire body functions. The precise impact on physical health depends on several factors, including the physical condition of the user, the substance used, how much of the substance is used, how long and frequently the substance is used, and how the substance enters the body.

For example, the physical health effects of alcohol abuse on a 50-year-old can be much different than the effects of injecting heroine on a 25-year-old. Let’s take a look at how chronic abuse of three of the most addictive substances can affect the body.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

The short-term physical effects of alcohol consumption are fairly well-known. Most people experience impaired vision and hearing, slurred speech, and a lack of coordination when they drink, which can lead to drunk driving, falls, poor decisions, and serious accidents. Blackouts and memory loss can occur after heavy drinking, along with a hangover.

The long-term health effects of alcoholism are often ignored in favor of immediate gratification. Damage to the liver, including inflammation and scarring, can prevent it from removing harmful substances from your body, which increases the risk of a number of health conditions. Too much alcohol can cause pancreatitis, making it more difficult to regulate blood sugar levels.

The impact of alcohol on the central nervous system can also have a long-term effect on brain function. The frontal lobes of your brain, which affect memory, decision-making, the ability to think clearly, emotional control, and judgement, can actually shrink, causing permanent brain damage.

How Heroin Affects the Body

When heroin interacts with the brain, the user feels the initial rush of pleasure, which is typically accompanied by warm skin, dry mouth, and heaviness in the extremities. This is usually followed by brain fog, slowed breathing, and slowed heart function.

Chronic heroin abuse actually changes the physical structure of the brain, causing imbalances that are difficult to correct. Long-term heroin use affects an individual’s ability to control behavior and process stress. Of course, the longer you use, the more tolerant you become, and the more heroin you need to feel the desired effect. This causes heroin to take an even greater toll on the body.

Repeated injections can cause collapsed veins, infections, arthritis, scarring, and the sharing of AIDS and other diseases. Snorting heroin, cocaine, or any other drug can affect the nerves and wear down the tissue in your nose, causing nosebleeds, runny nose, and difficulty swallowing. Chronic heroin use can result in a number of physical problems, from respiratory illness to sexual dysfunction to loss of appetite.

How Cocaine Affects the Body

Whether a user snorts cocaine, rubs it into their gums, injects it directly into the blood stream, or inhales vapors into the lungs, cocaine causes an increase in dopamine in the parts of the brain that control pleasure. This leads to the “high” of energy and alertness. Cocaine users also tend to experience sensitivity to sight, sound, and touch, as well as unpredictable and even violent behavior. A cocaine high is relatively short, usually ranging from a few minutes to an hour.

Like heroin, cocaine can cause malnourishment due to loss of appetite. Cocaine can also increase the risk of movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and restlessness. Smoking cocaine can damage the lungs and increase vulnerability to asthma and pneumonia. Taking cocaine in the mouth can reduce blood flow, resulting in severe bowel decay.

The most common consequences of cocaine overdose include irregular heartbeat, heart attack, seizures, stroke, breathing difficulty, high blood pressure, and high body temperature. Cocaine overdose is frighteningly common and can turn deadly the very first time someone uses cocaine.

Limit the Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on Your Body at Sea Change Recovery

Sea Change Recovery offers residential treatment in Southern California at our Santa Monica rehab center so individuals struggling with chronic substance abuse can find the path to recovery.

If you want to learn more about how alcohol and drugs affect the body, or you feel like substance abuse is already causing your physical health to deteriorate, contact us at Sea Change Recovery.

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