CleanSlate Blog

How Addiction Affects the Body

by Dr. Sat Grewal | Mar 16, 2021


Addiction affects virtually every part of the body. However, the effects of addiction on specific parts of the body depend on how the substance is delivered. For example, an individual using substances intravenously will experience different health difficulties than someone struggling with alcoholism.

The immediate effects of substance use can be erratic, risky behavior, memory issues and lapses in judgement. Some individuals experience serious withdrawal symptoms after alcohol or drug use, such as nausea and fatigue, which can lead to more frequent substance abuse. Medication-assisted treatment works to lessen symptoms of withdrawal for individuals in recovery.

Long-term addiction can cause serious and even life-threatening damage to some of the body’s most important systems and organs.

  • Cardiovascular System: Most substances carry a risk of damaging the heart in the long-term, and opioids are no exception. A study by the Vanderbilt Department of Health Policy revealed patients who took opioids had a 65% higher chance of cardiovascular death. Heavy drinking is also associated with high blood pressure and hypertension, which can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Drug treatment and alcohol treatment are integral components that can help ensure you live a healthy and fulfilled life.
  • Respiratory System: Inhaling drugs can cause significant damage to the respiratory system over time. Many people are aware of tobacco’s effect on the lungs, however opioid use can also damage the respiratory system. Because opioids are depressants, they slow down breathing. This can eventually worsen existing conditions like asthma and inhibit the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the organs.
  • Liver: Long-term substance abuse can cause severe damage to the liver. This damage can manifest into life-threatening illnesses like jaundice, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Kidney: The kidneys play a large role in your body’s filtration system. The majority of abused substances are filtered through your kidneys. This means over a long period of time chronic substance abuse can significantly affect how the kidneys function and even lead to kidney failure.
  • Cancer: While tobacco use is the number one cause of cancer, it’s important to note that heavy drinking has also been linked to the development of a variety of cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol use causes about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all U.S. cancer deaths. Research is also being conducted around the impact of opioids in cancer development.

Seeking addiction treatment is an important part of prioritizing good health and avoiding preventable long-term health issues that can stem from addiction. If you or someone you know is living with addiction reach out to us at 833-505-HOPE or find the CleanSlate location closest to you. Furthermore, read our Wilkes-Barre Medicaid Drug Rehab article for more information.

Related Blog: The Facts About Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid and Alcohol Addictions

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Dr. Sat Grewal

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If you or someone you know suffers from the disease of addiction, please call 833-505-HOPE to speak with a professional.

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