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Substance Abuse Can Affect Your Digestive System: Here’s How

Substance Abuse Can Affect Your Digestive System Heres How Resurgence Behavioral Health

Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect Your Digestive System?

Drugs and alcohol have long been known for having damaging side effects on their users and the digestive system experiences significant impacts on its ability to function normally and healthily. When you consume drugs and alcohol, there becomes a risk of long-term and short-term effects that can occur creating difficulties within your stomach, liver, pancreas, mouth, and esophagus. The digestive system is responsible for many key bodily functions and the use of harmful, toxic drugs and alcohol poses a significant threat to your overall health and wellbeing. 

The digestive system is responsible for ensuring that you can receive and absorb the proper nutrients which turn into energy which then assists in repairing and healing your body and promoting positive physical growth. When you consume drugs and alcohol, your body’s ability to retain the nutrients you are consuming becomes significantly impacted. Additionally, individuals will experience a shift in hormones which affects their brain’s ability to signal if they are feeling hungry or if they are feeling full. 

The consumption of alcohol or drugs has been known to have significant long-term and short-term effects on your digestive system. Drug and alcohol use has the potential of worsening pre-existing digestive conditions, and in some cases, can create severe complications or death. Each person’s digestive system will be impacted within different time periods and while some may experience these harsh side effects over a prolonged period of time, there are some individuals that will experience damaging side effects within a short period of time. 

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Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse on The Digestive System

A person’s ability to metabolize alcohol will be dependent on specific factors including age, gender, weight, and ethnicity. As you consume alcohol, your body attempts to break down the alcohol molecules due to the small size of the alcohol molecules, they often enter directly into your bloodstream and gut wall and the rest go to your liver to break down the rest of the harmful molecules. The use of alcohol then significantly impacts multiple areas within your digestive system causing significant damage throughout your body and its overall functioning. 

Alcohol has been known to affect the digestive system in the following ways:

  • Alcohol impacts your body’s ability to digest nutrients and, in some cases, can cause anemia 
  • Heavy drinking or excessive alcohol use has been linked to the development of colon cancer and rectal cancers 
  • Alcohol consumption can cause heartburn as it attacks your stomach’s lining and surrounding muscles 
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is known to cause nausea and vomiting within its users and, in some instances, causes ulcers which can create significant challenges and pain within the individual 
  • Regular consumption of alcohol impacts your pancreas ability to release digestive enzymes into the digestive tract 
  • Alcohol can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or if you have already had previous IBS concerns, alcohol consumption can exacerbate the symptoms of your IBS 
  • Alcohol consumption can cause damage to the cells within the esophagus which can lead to problems such as acid reflux or, in some cases, esophagus cancer 
  • Alcohol impacts your intestines by alcohol going directly from the bloodstream to your intestines. The exposure of alcohol to your intestines increases the risk of bowel or corectoral cancer 

Side Effects of Drugs on the Digestive System

Drugs come in different forms whether illicit or prescription. Depending on your drug of choice, you will experience different side effects within your digestive system. While there are a few different drugs that can produce feelings of nausea or vomiting within the user, there are specific digestive concerns that each drug can produce including: 

Opioids- These specific drugs have been known to cause complications within the digestive system causing abdominal pain, the onset of acid reflux, and constipation. Individuals engaging in long-term opioid use experience narcotic bowel syndrome which is the slowing of the digestive system.

Cocaine- Regular use of cocaine has been proven to cause blood clotting within your body. As your blood clots, it impacts your intestinal functioning by preventing blood flow which then leads to necrosis and ulcers within the stomach and intestines. As ulcers and necrosis present within your body, there is an increased risk of developing gangrene within the gastrointestinal system. Cocaine has been known to cause significant damage to the tissue within your bowels which creates abdominal pain. Cocaine use is notorious for affecting a person’s appetite creating malnutrition within many users and ultimately leading to nutrient deficiencies within your body. 

Hallucinogens- Popular hallucinogens such as mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD have been known to cause stomach issues such as nausea or vomiting within its users. Many individuals will experience “gut rot” which causes significant abdominal pain or upset stomach

Prescription drug use- Various prescription drugs have been known to cause significant damage to the gastrointestinal tract. 

How Substance Abuse Affects The Digestive System Overtime

Substance abuse, whether it be alcohol or drugs, will affect areas of your digestive system over time whether in the short term or long term. 

Short term effects of substance abuse within the digestive system are:

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Onset of constipation 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Inflammation within your digestive organs and system 
  • Decrease in normal bodily functioning and ability to digest 
  • Nutrient deficiency due to an inability to absorb nutrients from substance abuse 

Long term effects of substance abuse are:

  • Developing anemia 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Stomach cancer 
  • Rectal cancer 
  • Colon cancer 
  • Esophagus cancer 
  • Development of ulcers causing long term damage often leading to gangrene or internal hemorrhaging 
  • Liver damage leading to cancer, hepatitis of the liver, or cirrhosis 
  • Vomiting blood or having blood in your stool from severe gastrointestinal tract damage 

Treating Damage To Your Digestive System

While the damage that is created within your digestive system from substance abuse can sound daunting, there is hope for you to treat the damage that is done and work towards restoring your overall physical health. In order to treat the damage created, it is important for you to have an extended period of time within your sobriety. Individuals that have been engaging in drug or alcohol abuse for a prolonged period of time will develop cytokines which are inflammatory molecule that impacts the brain and digestive system. Once you have achieved sobriety for a prolonged period of time, these molecules will begin to reduce and dissipate. Alcohol and drug abstinence has been known to improve the following conditions:

  • Alcohol related liver disease 
  • Liver damage 
  • Peliosis hepatis 

There are some preventative steps that you can take at the beginning of your addiction recovery that will help speed up the recovery and healing of your digestive system including:

  • Take probiotics- You can either take probiotic supplements or get them naturally within your food choices such as yogurt, kimchi, or kombucha 
  • Begin taking digestive enzymes- These supplements will support you in developing a healthy digestive system again that is able to break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins  
  • Take magnesium- This supplement has been proven to support patients with an opioid or prescription drug addiction to alleviate constipation that is a result of drug addiction 
  • Attempt to decrease inflammation through the use of Vitamin C or E or by drinking green or black tea 

Drug and Alcohol Detox

Drug and alcohol use creates significant physical dependency within its users that can pose challenges for individuals to quit their substance abuse within their own home and environment.  Drug and alcohol detox often produces severe withdrawal symptoms that can create unpleasant, uncomfortable, and sometimes serious side effects that should be monitored within the care of medical professionals through a medically supervised detox program. This allows patients to have the ongoing, 24/7 support of expert medical and psychological support that will assist patients in overcoming their withdrawal symptoms with comfort, ease, and, most importantly, maintaining individual safety. 

Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Resurgence

Resurgence Behavioral Health provides patients with a whole-person integrated approach to addiction recovery that places focus on treating your addiction within your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Our team of addiction specialists including our medical team and addiction counselors will provide patients with an individualized treatment plan that takes into account your unique circumstances with addiction, the physical impact of your addiction, and the emotional or behavioral ties to your drug or alcohol addiction to ensure that you can heal from the underlying cause of your addiction to create a healthy life within addiction recovery and sober living. Your addiction treatment plan will incorporate the latest in addiction therapy methods using various evidence-based behavioral therapy, holistic treatment, and conventional addiction therapy approaches to ensure that you fully heal from the inner wounds of addiction to pave the way to a healthy, happy life in sobriety. 

Contact one of our friendly staff today to hear more about the support and rehab options we can provide to help you overcome your addiction and regain your physical and emotional health and stability today. 

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