When it comes to gaining a deeper understand of how alcohol and drugs wreak havoc on the body, the chances are high (no pun intended) that you immediately think about these substances’ effects on the gastrointestinal tract (also called the digestive tract). After all, with the exception of injectables and smokables, every other drug is inserted directly into the mouth or up the nose before it starts to leak into our systems. Whether an addict prefers cocaine, booze, or a simple taste of marijuana, the digestive tract will eventually have to cope with these dangerous newcomers, and the results are never pleasant.
Needless to say, the situation becomes even worse for long-term abusers and addicts. Even our bodies, some of the most complex and powerful natural machines, begin to break down as a result of trying to filter out too many drugs and way too much alcohol. Ultimately, diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis will wreak havoc on the liver, while some unfortunate people will fall victim to blood clots, tissue necrosis, gangrene, and every form of cancer recorded in the medical books.
Even marijuana, the most harmless of controlled drugs, can throw the gastrointestinal tract out of whack.
So how do addictive and/or mind-altering substances affect our bodies if they are consumed in small or large amounts and a person does not receive much-needed substance abuse help? What damage will take place? Let’s take a closer look at how alcoholism and drug addiction wreak havoc on our digestive system and what the consequences constitute.
What Is the Gastrointestinal Tract?
Simply put, the gastrointestinal system is a network that is solely responsible for processing, dissolving, and absorbing nutrients that your body can use as fuel. Overall, it is a massive, twisting, looping tube containing an advanced set of muscles that literally push food and nutrients through this network. Chief parts of the gastrointestinal tract include the mouth, tongue, saliva glands, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus (yes, that, too). Likewise, the liver and gallbladder also contribute by secreting enzymes that aid in digestion and processing. Although it might not be as delicate at the brain, our magnificent digestive tract is a capable, sturdy fuel tank.
Now, you might see why the situation becomes complicated when drugs and alcohol are suddenly brought into the picture without the use of substance abuse help.
Although it can be a naturally occurring substance, alcohol is not properly digested like other sources of food or drinks. In fact, did you know that the small intestine absorbs 80% of alcohol, while the additional 20% goes through the stomach? Even so, this percentage can vary based on how many food cells are present in the gastrointestinal tract. Here are some ways alcohol negatively impacts out digestive tract:
- Overall, the liver is the organ that is in charge (so to speak) of processing booze, and an overabundance of alcohol can inflict intense damage. Due to large quantities of free radicals induced by excessive drinking, illnesses like cirrhosis can set in.
- Individuals who drink lots of alcohol will eventually develop problems producing acid, leading to problems as simple as ulcers or as dangerous as Mallory-Weiss syndrome (internal bleeding induced by tears).
- As a result of heavy drinking, an abuser or alcoholic’s mouths will lose bacteria that are essential to the pre-digestion process (due to alcohol’s antibacterial properties).
- Alcohol also damages the salivary glands, also leading to improper digestion.
Opioid Drugs and Digestion
Opioids are particularly infamous for wreaking havoc on the digestive tract. However, depending on the opioid in question (e.g. heroin, morphine, OxyContin), the symptoms may vary. Typically, these painkillers will induce constipation, but, over a longer period of time, victims will develop narcotic-bowel syndrome, which occurs when normal bowel function completely slows down. Drugs like Vicodin and Percocet also contain high quantities of acetaminophen, a component which can damage the liver in large doses.
Tobacco Freezes Digestion
Ultimately, tobacco products (including cigarettes and e-cigs) are some of the most lethal drugs on the market (thanks to the presence of the addictive substance nicotine, as well), and their effects on the digestive system are nothing short of terrifying. Tobacco is infamous for causing heartburn, which occurs when stomach acid irritates the esophageal lining, but this drug also induces stomach or small intestinal ulcers (also called peptic ulcers). Likewise, smoking cigarettes has a direct impact on liver function and can induce a variety of cancers.
Cocaine Rots Your Insides
While cocaine is typically consumed via smoking or snorting, this drug probably wreaks the most disturbing damage on the digestive tract. Here are some ways this drug can severely damage this invaluable system:
- Cocaine addicts can suffer from a condition where they develop blood clots, which can ultimately disrupt blood flow in the intestines. As a result, necrosis (partial or total death of cells in an organ) and gangrene can set in.
- Cocaine users can also suffer from severe liver damage.
- Likewise, these individuals are notorious for eating and drinking poorly, so cocaine abusers and addicts will definitely suffer from nutritional deficiencies down the road.
Can Marijuana Cause Damage?
Here is where the conversation takes an unusual turn. Throughout multiple studies conducted throughout the years, doctors and other medical professionals have not revealed that marijuana can hurt our digestive tracts in any way. In fact, on an alternative note, the little green plant is actually a beneficial medication for patients suffering from nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. So, in a sense, cannabis plants actually help our stomachs.
Nevertheless, physicians are always cautious about a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis, which occurs when a victim repeatedly vomits and feels an impulse to bathe. However, some members of the medical community are skeptical of this illness’s existence in the first place. At this time, professionals are not concerned.
Seeking Treatment for Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
At The Recover, we fully understand how difficult treatment processes can be for addicts and alcoholics through our daily work to help these individuals overcome this terrible, painful disease. Although many people believe they can overcome their problems without help, residential rehabilitation treatment programs are still an essential step on the road to recovery. Although the path to health and happiness might not be an easy one to take, you can finally enter the threshold to freedom with the help of a loving, supporting team. Additional aspects like counseling and psychological care can ensure you address underlying psychological issues that ultimately led you to become an addict. From here, you can build an infrastructure that will help you live your life with entering relapse, all with the help of a solid residential rehabilitation treatment program.
An unbiased and substance abuse and mental health news provider, The Recover works hard to help victims of drug abuse or addiction discover the right residential rehabilitation treatment programs in their local areas. We also provide detailed information concerning West Virginia Centers for addiction recovery. For more information, contact us today at (888) 510-3898 to learn more about our comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment