Taking drugs and alcohol negatively impacts your physical health. Except for alcohol and cocaine, the addiction lifestyle causes more physical health damage than the actual drugs.
Alcohol: Alcohol is the most damaging drug and the most toxic. Alcohol contributes to the majority of highway accidents, accidents at home, and violence-related injury. It is truly the most dangerous drug for families. Heavy alcohol consumption and resulting poor diet harms the entire body. The liver is progressively damaged (cirrhosis) and may lead to liver failure and death. Alcohol damages the brain and nervous system resulting in poor memory, poor problem solving skills, confusion, dementia, loss of balance, impotence, numbness of the feet and hands, tremor, and blindness. Alcohol also plays a role in many other diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure,stroke, and diabetes. Alcohol is clearly harmful in developing pregnancies and damages the unborn child leading to a life time of problems (Goodwin, 2000; NIDA Info Facts: Science-Based Facts on Drug Abuse and Addiction).
Cocaine: Cocaine constricts the blood vessels and raises blood pressure. It can lead to heart problems including stroke and sudden death. The extent of nasal inhalation can destroy the cartilage in the nose causing huge holes in the nasal passage (NIDA Info Facts: Science-Based Facts on Drug Abuse and Addiction).
Heroin: Heroin is a good example of a drug where much of the damage arises from the addiction lifestyle. Street heroin is cut with harmful substances and injecting heroin can result in extensive brain damage. Serious infectious diseases result from dirty equipment or sharing injecting equipment and include HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) and Hepatitis C. Sexually transmitted diseases from unsafe sex practices, head injuries, and general infections can also result from the lifestyle. Longterm use leads to extensive tooth decay and gum disease (Rosenstein, 1975). Heroin use reduces the body’s ability to produce its own natural painkillers. When heroin use stops, the sensitivity to pain increases. Heroin destroys appetite, disrupts the menstrual cycle, weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to fight off infection (Simpson, 1997).
Information about drugs that are commonly abused is readily available through quality web sites such as those maintained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (USA) found at http://www.nida.nih.gov/. It is well worth your time to research the specific drugs you have used and to become knowledgeable about their short and long term effects, withdrawal symptoms, and treatment so you can make concrete plans to improve your physical health.
The addiction lifestyle: Results in increased stress, lack of quality, regular sleep, poor nutrition, and irregular or no exercise. This leads to the increased risk of dying prematurely, dying from heart disease, developing diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, depression and anxiety, and obesity (NIDA Info Facts: Science-Based Facts on Drug Abuse and Addiction). These risks are all good reasons for you to refuse to return to the addiction lifestyle and to focus on developing your relapse prevention plan.
Take time now and list all the physical health problems you have experienced as a result of using and drinking. Think carefully about the health problems that have resulted from your addiction lifestyle (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, weight loss or weight gain) and add those to your list.
If you are currently experiencing physical health problems that you need to address add them to your “Problem List Worksheet” at the end of Chapter Two.