Anyone who has known a person suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism or has actually endured this terrible malady is fully aware of what tolls these substances can take on your life. In the blink of an eye, a person can transform from a successful, well-to-do businessman or businesswoman into a sickly, weak, anxious, and aggressive individual who cannot move without consuming their poison of choice. As tragic as this may sound, more people suffer from substance abuse and addiction than you may realize. In fact, did you know that (as of 2015) an estimated 2 million people suffer from opioid-related addiction, while marijuana continues to be one of the most popular drugs among teens? In an ironic twist, though, one of the most dangerous illnesses on the planet is also the most easily prevented. What are the odds of that?
When you think of a drug addict or an alcoholic, though, what are the first images that come to mind? In many cases, you might think of an erratic person, who shakes violently until they snort cocaine. On the other hand, you might consider a person who drowns in bottles of booze and misses out on work the next day to be the poster child for addiction. However, there is one problem here. All of these elements are related to the effects of drugs on the brain, digestive tract, or the nervous system.
Have you ever considered how these dangerous substances affect the immune system?
True, in multiple studies, researchers collect tons of information about how drugs impede everything from the liver to hormones. So how do these dangerous substance impact one of the most critical defense networks in our bodies?
According to updated reports, once a person begins consuming drugs or alcohol at an unprecedented rate, the immune system begins to work overtime as the addict’s body overflows with germs, bacteria, and viruses introduced through unclean needles, filthy living environments, and poor hygiene. Let’s take a closer look at how this foolproof system suffers as a direct result of drug addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse, in general.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Simply put, the immune system is the human body’s most powerful line of defense and a highly valuable filtration unit. In other words, this advanced network keeps nasty invaders (e.g. germs, bacteria, viruses, and parasites) from entering, but, if any of these adversaries do enter, the immune system unleashes an artillery force like a pack of ravenous wolves. Besides the nervous system, this defense network is the most advanced structure in our bodies. Its primary functions include:
- Neutralization of pathogens (including bacteria, viruses, and infections)
- Purging these foreign substances from the body
- Identification of substances that could potentially damage our bodies
- Destruction of normal cells that have mutated (example: cancer)
Overall Effect of Drugs and Alcohol on the Immune System
If nothing disrupts the flow of activity, the immune system keeps our bodies operating at full parameters. Nevertheless, anytime pathogens are introduced into the picture, this defense network will start to weaken. As a result, a person will contract a disease or virus and become ill.
However, in an interesting twist, the weakening of the immune system is not directly related to drugs or alcohol but is, instead, connected to how these substances weaken our bodies further. For example, alcohol (a diuretic) can trigger a fluid loss, resulting in dehydration and fatigue, and disrupt sleeping and eating patterns. In this state, the body cannot properly defend itself against intruders, making the risk of sickness even greater than before.
Looking at Addictive Substances in Depth
In the case of alcohol, people who consume too much of these intoxicating beverages can ultimately suffer from an immune deficiency, directly resulting from the severe damage alcohol inflicts on tissues in our bodies. After long-term drinking, alcohol damages the digestive tract and disrupts the flow of enzymes that aid in proper digestion. Likewise, excessive alcohol consumption can also disrupt activity in the liver, which will deteriorate and eventually fail as a result. Even more disturbing, habitual drinking or alcoholism can also lead to a severe case of autoimmunity, where the body begins to attack itself. In this case, defending your immune system alone is a good reason to seek substance abuse help.
Here are some more examples of how mind-altering, addictive substances can impact our immune systems as a result of long-term use:
- Heroin: After a person uses this drug, heroin will begin to disrupt sleep cycles and wreak havoc on the digestive tract, resulting in poor nutrition and lowered immunity.
- Stimulants: Interestingly, drugs like cocaine, meth, and amphetamines, are more likely to result in the transmission of dangerous viruses like hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS, which directly attack the immune system. Additionally, these stimulants also impact the synthesis of a special protein that helps the body fight off other infections and diseases.
- Prescription Opioids: Due to the significant impact on the brain, prescription opioids can completely suppress the immune system, particularly three types of white blood cells.
Ultimately, with the right substance abuse help, you can overcome these challenges and ensure your immune system becomes healthier and stronger.
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 program.