Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center

Health Risks of Addiction and How to Avoid Them

It’s no secret that alcohol and drug addiction can take a major toll on virtually every aspect of a person’s life — distressed relationships, strained finances, difficulties at work or school, and legal problems are just a few common repercussions of a substance use disorder (SUD). 

One of the most far-reaching consequences of living with addiction is how it can affect a person’s health. This includes short-term risks that threaten immediate wellbeing and long-term risks that can lead to a reduced quality of life or a shortened lifespan. 

For someone struggling to overcome addiction, understanding the serious health risks that come with continued drug and alcohol use can often be an incentive to reach out for help. 

With a residential treatment center in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, and an intensive outpatient and sober living facility in Sandy, Utah, that’s what the team at Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center is here to do: help people get sober and stay sober for life.

Let’s explore the various health risks of addiction — and what you can do to avoid them.

Direct health risks of substance use

Excessive drug and alcohol use has immediate health effects that cause physical and mental impairment. It also carries a direct risk of overdose, a life-threatening medical emergency that can poison your blood, suppress your breathing, or cause dangerously high blood pressure that triggers a heart attack or stroke.  

Being in an altered or impaired state also increases your risk of suffering a serious injury — people who are drunk or high are more likely to fall, drown, or get in a motor vehicle accident; they’re also more likely to become victims of sexual assault or violence.

Short-term health risks of dependency

When recreational substance use evolves into dependency, it can impact your short-term health in many ways, particularly when it comes to your mental health. That’s because ongoing alcohol and drug use tend to worsen existing mental health disorders or trigger new ones in vulnerable people. 

This can be especially challenging for people who turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with depression, anxiety, or another chronic mental health disorder, only to find that it makes their symptoms worse — and they can’t simply stop using. 

In the short term, continued substance use can lead to: 

  • Disrupted sleep patterns; insomnia
  • Irritability, confusion, and memory problems 
  • Suppressed immune system function
  • Overstimulated nervous system
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Appetite changes and digestive issues

Dependency also often leads to decreased inhibitions, a state of being that makes it easier for people to make poor decisions about their health — particularly in social situations.  

Long-term health risks of addiction

Lower inhibitions often lead people struggling with addiction to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take, such as sharing needles or abandoning condoms and other safe-sex practices. For this reason, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV are very common long-term health risks of addiction. 

People affected by addiction typically end up developing persistent health conditions that are directly related to their substance of choice: a marijuana addiction can lead to asthma or chronic bronchitis, an ecstasy addiction can give rise to kidney failure, alcohol addiction can cause loss of liver function, and so on.   

In general, prolonged alcohol and drug use are associated with an increased cumulative risk of acute health problems and a higher risk of chronic disease. For as long as an addiction persists, it may come with a risk of causing:

  • Various types of cancer
  • Heart or lung disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Chronic pain or arthritis 
  • Poor memory; dementia
  • Severe dental problems

Luckily, all health risks associated with addiction begin to decline with treatment and recovery. 

Avoiding health risks of addiction

It’s difficult to avoid health risks when you’re in the throes of addiction. But there’s still a lot you can do to minimize your risks, avoid serious infections, and prevent new or worsening health conditions. 

For starters, never share needles or other equipment, always practice safe sex by using condoms, and get tested and treated for viral infections regularly. It’s also vital to stay on top of your annual physical exam and manage any known health conditions as directed.

Deciding to seek treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction is the surest way to avoid any of its associated health risks. To learn more about the residential treatment, intensive outpatient, and sober living programs at Wasatch Recovery Treatment Center, give us a call today.

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