4 Diseases Caused by the Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Drug and alcohol use may create a short-lived, feel-good sensation, but using these substances often leads to lifelong health problems. There are many serious diseases and health conditions caused by drug and alcohol use. While some are treatable, others can plague the user’s health for life. It’s important to fully understand the risks associated with these substances. Consider these four diseases caused by the use of drugs and alcohol.

Heart Disease

Individuals who regularly use four or more substances are nine times more likely to suffer from premature heart disease. Some researchers refer to cocaine as “the perfect heart attack drug.” Recreational cocaine users show higher systolic blood pressure, more aortic stiffening, and greater thickness of the left ventricle wall of the heart. These conditions all contribute to higher risks of stroke and heart attack.

Cocaine isn’t the only culprit, though. Individuals who drink regularly are 50% more likely to have premature heart disease. Excessive drinking can contribute to stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, and cardiomyopathy. Alcohol also causes excessive calorie consumption, which can lead to obesity, further increasing one’s risk of heart problems.

Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease is common in heavy drinkers. This comes in several forms. Fatty liver is the most common alcohol-related liver problem. This disease causes an enlarged liver and symptoms like weight loss, weakness, tiredness, and belly discomfort. Alcoholic hepatitis is acute liver inflammation, which can lead to permanent scarring. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. Alcoholic cirrhosis causes the destruction of liver tissue and leaves scars as well. This disease can lead to an enlarged spleen, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, and even liver cancer.

Intestinal Ischemia and Gangrene

Cocaine causes the blood vessels to constrict, leading to a condition known as intestinal ischemia. Symptoms include abdominal pain, frequent, forceful bowel movements, and blood in the stool. Chronic intestinal ischemia causes nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain. Intestinal ischemia can kill sections of the intestines, leading to gangrene. In extreme cases, gangrene may even lead to death.

Pulmonary Complications

Any drug that’s smoked or injected can lead to pulmonary complications. There are several pulmonary diseases caused by drugs and alcohol. These include bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, airways disease, pleural disease, and many others.

Patients who inject drugs are 10 times more likely to suffer from community-acquired pneumonia than the general population. Opioids can lead to slow or irregular breathing and even hypoxia and death. Individuals who use heroin or methamphetamines can develop acute pulmonary edema. Crushed tablets and injection drug use may lead to the development of pulmonary granulomatosis. Pulmonary granulomatosis slows the blood flow to your organs, which can cause swelling and the formation of granulomas. This can, in turn, cause a rare complication known as pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases in their own right as well. If you suffer from addiction, it’s important to get the treatment you need so you can make it into recovery and reduce your risk of developing these and other complications associated with drug and alcohol use.


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