Health Problems and Addiction – Addiction Center


The relationship between health problems and addiction

Substance Use Disorders (SUD) are usually associated with at least one related health problem. These associated health problems can be caused or exacerbated by long-term substance abuse, which can lead to serious or fatal consequences. Exploring the health effects of substance use and addiction can help prevent or reduce future risk factors. Here are a few links between health problems and addiction.

Brain Health Problems

The brain plays a large role in the onset of a SUD. Substance use directly interferes with the normal functions of the brain, especially the reward system. To adapt to the stimulation caused by drugs or alcohol, the brain reduces the number of dopamine receptors at the synapse. This means that dopamine is cleared faster than normal. Adjustments to dopamine can make a person less responsive to a substance and reduce responses to natural rewards. A tolerance develops that can quickly become an addiction.
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These adaptations also affect other parts of the brain, such as the regions responsible for decision-making, assessment, learning and memory. Stopping substance use unfortunately does not ensure that the brain functions normally again. This can take years to achieve. The long-lasting effects on the brain’s ability to process rewards can make it difficult to prevent relapse, which can lead to other health problems.


The chance to get cancer can be increased by the misuse of various substances. This applies specifically to alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol use, which accounts for 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States, is one of the most preventable risk factors for cancer. Oral, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and breast cancers have been identified as health problems associated with alcohol consumption. There is no established amount of alcohol that is safe for cancer risk. This includes drinking moderately or less than 2 drinks per day.

Cigarette smoking is the No. 1 most preventable cause of cancer in the US. There are more than 70 chemicals in tobacco that are carcinogenic and that damage DNA and affect the way the body makes new cells. Because secondhand smoke can also cause cancer, it’s important to note that substance abuse can also increase the risk of health problems for others.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain is a health problem characterized by pain that persists for 6 or more consecutive months after a person has been healed. This prolonged physical pain can reduce a person’s quality of life and lead to feelings depression, voltage, fear, and fury. There are more than 100 million Americans who deal with this type of pain and more than 20 million meet the criteria for a SUD or a alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is believed that the use of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain has contributed to the large number of people misusing these substances. In addition, people with chronic pain can self-medicate their pain with other substances such as alcohol, tobacco, Marijuana, and Cocaine.


emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This health problem is an inflammatory lung disease that restricts airflow and makes breathing difficult. Usually, air sacs in the lungs are elastic and stretchy. When you inhale, these sacs fill with air and empty again when you exhale. In emphysema, the walls between these air sacs become damaged and lose their shape. This damage can cause the lungs to have fewer but larger air sacs, making it more difficult to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out of the lungs.

Long-term exposure to irritants is the cause of damage to the lungs. In the US, cigarette smoke is the main irritant that causes emphysema. Seventy-five percent of people with the disease smoke or used to smoke. Pipes, cigars, and other forms of tobacco can also cause emphysema, especially if the substance is inhaled. Symptoms include frequent coughing, excessive phlegm, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and a whistling sound when breathing.

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Heart Health Problems

Most drugs can cause health problems with adverse cardiovascular effects. Tobacco smoking increases the risk of getting a heart disease such as a stroke, heart attack or vascular disease. Other substances that can affect heart health include cocaine, Heroin, inhale, ketamine, LSDmarijuana, steroids, and MDMA. Drugs injected can cause veins to collapse and blood vessels and heart valves to become infected. Cocaine has also been linked to 1 in 4 heart attacks in the 18-45 age group.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks the body’s immune system, making a person more susceptible to other health problems. When HIV is left untreated, it will reach its final stage: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Because HIV has no effective cure, the virus stays with a person for the rest of his life. Despite the lack of a cure, there is medical care that can control and stop the spread of HIV. Usually flu-like symptoms appear 2 weeks after contracting the infection, but it is also possible to experience no symptoms. HIV is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids, especially blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. Unprotected sex and sharing needles for drugs are the activities that most spread HIV among adults. Babies can get HIV through maternal transmission.

Having a SUD can increase your risk of getting HIV because substance abuse drastically affects judgment and the ability to make decisions. This can make a person more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behavior. Substances that increase the risk of HIV are substances that can be injected, such as opioids and method, and those that reduce inhibitions, such as alcohol and inhalants.

Sleep-related health problems (insomnia)

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which it is difficult to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. This health problem lowers the overall quality of sleep. When this condition persists, it is considered chronic. Typically, chronic insomnia is the result of a secondary problem, such as medical conditions, medications, or an SUD. Symptoms of insomnia include lying awake for a long time before going to bed, sleeping only for a short time, being awake most of the night, waking up feeling like you haven’t slept at all, and waking up too early. Sleeping problems can cause daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, and problems focusing.

Substance use tends to disrupt the sleep-regulating systems in the brain, affecting sleep quality. Upon receipt therapyInsomnia is common during intake or detox. This can crave and relapse. Poor sleep can also make it more difficult for those undergoing treatment to learn the coping mechanisms and self-regulation skills needed for recovery. In addition, insomnia can affect a person’s judgment and possibly cause a person to make decisions that they would not normally do. Those who struggle with insomnia can turn to other substances to self-medicate and try to regulate their sleep schedule. This often leads to a SUD.

lung cancer

lung cancer is a cancer that forms on the lungs and usually involves the cells that line the airways. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. There are two types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell, which are more common. Symptoms of this health problem include chest discomfort or pain, persistent cough, difficulty breathing, wheezing, blood in mucus, hoarseness, loss of appetite, fatigue, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of veins in the neck or face.

The leading cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking, which contributes to 9 in 10 cases of lung cancer in men and 8 in 10 women. The risk of developing lung cancer is higher depending on how early in life smoking is started, how long the habit has been present, and the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The risk of lung cancer also increases if a person smokes and drinks alcohol every day. If a person quits smoking, it lowers the risk of lung cancer, but it is still greater than if they had never smoked. Secondhand smoke can expose others to the same carcinogens.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is the set of health problems for newborn babies exposed to opioids in the womb. This syndrome occurs when a woman takes drugs such as heroin, codeine, Oxycodone, or methadone while pregnant. Because these substances can cross the placenta, the baby becomes dependent on the substance. After birth, an opioid dependent baby will experience withdrawal symptoms as the drug is removed from the body. NAS can also be present after exposure to alcohol, Benzodiazepines, barbiturates, even antidepressants. Symptoms begin 1 to 3 days after birth and depend on the substance abused by the mother, how much and for how long she took, and whether the baby was term or premature. The treatment also varies per fabric.

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