What to Do When Addiction Affects Your Health
Sometimes, the consequences of addiction don’t go away. If an individual with substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) isn’t treated effectively, they can suffer numerous complications—and even if they are, it still might be too late to avoid chronic illnesses.
The Toll of Addiction
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “People with addiction often have one or more associated health issues, which could include lung or heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health conditions. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests can show the damaging effects of long-term drug use throughout the body.”
Further, individuals with AUD or SUD are more likely to have motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries. Additionally, “methamphetamine can cause severe dental problems, known as ‘meth mouth,’ and opioids can lead to overdose and death. In addition, some drugs, such as inhalants, may damage or destroy nerve cells, either in the brain or the peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord).”
One of the hard truths of SUD and AUD is that some people will deal with various aspects of these conditions for the rest of their lives. This isn’t a “scared straight” tactic, but simply a means to help individuals and the people who care about them understand how to accept these changes in recovery and make a plan to manage their health more proactively.
In fact, some people actually choose not to seek rehabilitation treatment when they’re suffering the medical difficulties resulting from addiction because they don’t believe there’s any point to it all. But let’s face it: it’s easier to live a drama-free sober life without the other entanglements than to continue to deteriorate. Quality treatment always matters, as rehab can not only address the symptoms of AUD and SUD but also shed light on other health issues that, if caught in time, can be treated as well.
Essential Self-Management Skills For Your Best Health
The underlying factors of addiction are serious and often complex. Many people find it challenging to take the time to uncover the root causes of their addiction in addition to managing a chronic illness caused by it—and stay sober. It’s easy to lose hope.
Fortunately, medical experts understand the fatigue, disappointment, and frustration that often accompany this particular journey. There are programs that offer coping techniques, education, and peer support to make the process easier.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control offers a vast number of programs for a nominal fee throughout the U.S. to help people learn how to manage various chronic conditions, from depression and chronic pain to diabetes and cancer. This self-management education, often introduced in a workshop environment, helps people reduce stress, improve energy, and enjoy life more by providing strategies to:
- Cope with condition symptoms
- Manage fatigue
- Decrease depression
- Communicate with doctors
- Manage medications
- Eat healthfully
- Be more active
The Multiple Chronic Conditions Resource Center also has an extensive list of conditions with corresponding information and agencies designed to be portals of medical and community support. There might be a link to tips from Johns Hopkins on how to manage diabetes properly, or additional sleep hygiene methods from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
To trust that you have resources like these to turn to is similar to life in recovery: you’re never alone, as there’s always someone who understands and can provide a helping hand.
Keeping Realistic Expectations
SUD and AUD can’t be cured, and neither can some other chronic medical conditions. But they can all be managed well. There’s also the possibility of relapse—usually 40 to 60 percent of people will relapse in recovery.
However, the Partnership to End Addiction indicates that “if we look at the relapse rates for other chronic diseases such as diabetes (30 to 50 percent), asthma (50 to 70 percent) and hypertension (50 to 70 percent), we see similarities.” What does it mean when someone with a chronic health condition relapses? They don’t take their maintenance medication as prescribed or follow the recommended lifestyle changes.
Knowing this, you or a loved one can work with therapists and other healthcare professionals to make a plan that helps you work through challenges and celebrate the little victories. You’ll start to recognize that prioritizing your health is always worth it—and you deserve this attention.
Continuing Support at Seabrook
Alumni of Seabrook’s New Jersey rehab centers receive an extensive network of support both during treatment and afterward. They’re healthier, self-empowered, and excited by a new, sober way of living—and it’s our goal to make certain they have all the tools necessary to maintain all aspects of health. Find out how we can help you.