Substance abuse over a long period of time takes its toll not only on a person’s mental health and the way that they function in life but also on their physical health. Many people have so damaged their bodies from repeated abuse of alcohol or drugs that they end up with chronic physical diseases that continue even after they have become abstinent. A lot of people in recovery are dealing with the “burden of disease” meaning they have physical illness symptoms caused by their life of addiction.
Studies of addiction have shown that in samples of people in recovery, almost 20 percent have received a diagnosis of a health problem such as liver disease, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Research has also discovered that illnesses like hepatitis C, COPD, heart disease and diabetes occur more frequently for people in addiction recovery when compared with the general population. Certain illnesses were more often associated with specific types of drug use but problems like tuberculosis could occur with any kind of addiction.
Certain factors can increase the risk of illness such as the age when the person develops the addiction and the economic resources available to the person. Those who are younger and more socially stable when they go into recovery will be less likely to suffer from a chronic physical illness. Those who are older when they develop and recover from addiction have an increased risk for having two or more chronic diseases.
It is important for people to be aware of not only the social repercussions of addiction but the physical consequences as well. Chronic illnesses may be life long problems that are difficult to treat and can reduce quality of life even with successful recovery. Early recovery and treatment can be crucial in preventing the development of physical illnesses caused by substance abuse.