Digestive Health Issues From Drug Use

Drug use can have both short-term and long-term effects on your digestive health. And while some of these effects can resolve on their own or through treatment, some linger on for years. In some cases, drug-induced complications on the digestive system could cause severe health complications and even death.

You probably know that drugs affect judgment, decision-making, moods, feelings, memory, and even learning. However, drugs use can also cause or worsen digestive problems. Some of these effects happen after prolonged drug use, while others happen just after a single use.

The effects of drug abuse on the digestive system

Many common drugs, including prescription drugs that treat digestive problems, diabetes, and depression, can affect gut health. The gut system is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other organisms like fungi and viruses. All these make up the microbiome or microbiota. A healthy gut contains good bacteria and healthy immune cells that ward off infections.

It also communicates with the brain through hormones and nerves, maintaining intestinal health. A proper balance of good bacteria can result in many health benefits. Drug use affects the balance of bacteria in the gut microbiota, predisposing people to gastrointestinal tract infections and other health issues.

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Additionally, drugs damage the mucous membrane lining that runs through the mouth, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and esophagus. The mucous membrane helps with peristalsis, which is the process of breaking down food. Damage to the lining exposes the GI tract to damage and more severe health issues. Here are some common digestive health concerns from drug use.

Intestine constipation

Opiates like heroin, Vicodin, morphine, and OxyContin cause constipation. Under normal circumstances, adults have bowel movements ranging from three times a day to three times a week. But after opiate intake, they may have infrequent bowel movements or find it hard to pass bowel movements.

It’s important to note that the severity of constipation depends on factors like dosage and duration of use. Long-term use may cause bowel damage and produce a narcotic bowel syndrome where bowel functions slow down. And unlike other opiates, side effects like nausea, constipation doesn’t resolve over time with continued use. The reason is that the GI system doesn’t seem to adapt to the presence of opioids like other body parts.

But the main reason opiates cause constipation is that opiates heavily impact the GI neurons. Muscles around the intestine push stool through the body. Opioid intake slows or stops the squeezing movements of these muscles because of how it affects the messages sent to the nerves in the spine and intestines. Besides, opioids can also cause gastroparesis, a condition where food stays in the GI tract for much longer. So, the intestine ends up absorbing more water causing the formation of hard and dry stools.

Opiate-related constipation affects opioid receptions across the body and brain functionality. So, taking supplements or fiber-rich foods won’t solve the problem.

Cancers

Tobacco use can cause many cancers, including throat, esophagus, mouth, stomach, bladder, rectum, liver, kidney, and cervix. That’s because tobacco products have many chemicals that destroy DNA. There isn’t a safe level of tobacco use.

Ulcers and perforations in the stomach

Drugs like cocaine reduce appetite and cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Continual use may cause these uncomfortable symptoms to develop into more severe GI issues like stomach ulcers, abdominal bleeding, perforation of the intestines, bowel tissue decay or rupture, perforation of the small blood vessels in the abdomen, and reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal system.

Cocaine misuse can cause gangrene and mesenteric ischemia, which leads to small and large bowel perforation and intraperitoneal hemorrhage. Clinical presentation of mesenteric ischemia includes abdominal pain and possibly vomiting, nausea, and cocaine diarrhea. High concentrations of cocaine may cause blood clots which block the blood supply, predisposing one to ulceration due to prolonged exposure to acid.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

People who drink often tend to experience irritable bowel syndrome, an intestinal condition that doesn’t appear to cause actual physical damage to the intestines. It is characterized by persistent pain, discomfort, and regular episodes of constipation and diarrhea. IBS patients also experience a range of issues regarding the types of activities they can indulge in or food they can eat.

However, drug-induced GI disorders can mimic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Knowing this can prevent unnecessary investigations and treatment.

Esophagus and stomach irritation

Some people have a hard time swallowing prescription and OTC drugs in capsule or tablet form. When capsules or tablets stick in the esophagus, they may release chemicals that irritate the esophagus lining. The irritation may result in bleeding, ulcers, strictures, and perforation. The risk goes higher in people with conditions like achalasia, scleroderma, strictures, and stroke.

Other drugs may also cause stomach lining irritation. These drugs weaken the ability of the lining to resist acid produced in the stomach. In some cases, the irritation may cause inflammation of the stomach lining, bloody vomits, ulcers, severe indigestion and heartburn, perforation, severe stomach cramps, and burning in the back or stomach.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)

CHS is a condition characterized by repeated and severe bouts of vomiting and nausea. THC, which is the psychoactive part of cannabis, binds digestive track molecules, impacting the things like the time it takes the stomach to empty. Other CHS symptoms include belly pain, dehydration, and decreased food intake.

Drugs that can affect the gastrointestinal system

These drugs include:

Drug abuse can affect many different organs in your body, including the gastrointestinal tract. If you are experiencing any of these digestive health issues, it’s best to seek medical help. Your doctor will run some tests and provide the best possible care. But be sure to inform them about your drug use problem, as that will help with the diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, your doctor may recommend detox and rehabilitation to help address the root cause of the GI problems.

If you or someone close to you has digestive health issues from drug use, we can help. We provide holistic drug use treatment to help you get off of drugs. This, in turn, will prevent the GI issues from escalating, allowing your immune system to bounce back. Contact us today for additional information.

Friends & Family Can Contribute to Drug Addiction

There is truth to the expression, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.” That’s because ripe apples produce ethylene, a ripening agent. When you store apples together, the ethylene prods other apples to ripen further and eventually rot.

It takes a single apple to start a domino chain that ruins the rest of the bunch. And guess what? The same holds true for drug users. You’re very likely to abuse drugs when you hang out with people who abuse drugs. Not because of weak morals, but because of several mechanisms that we’ll cover in this article.

Understanding addiction

The initial decision to use drugs or alcohol is voluntary for most people. However, repeated use changes the brain in ways that make it hard to quit, even for those who want to. Those recovering from a long term substance abuse disorder have a higher risk of drug use, even after years of leading a sober life. This is especially true if they’re dealing with mental health problems or are hanging around places or people connected to the addictive behavior.

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Friends or family members, who participated in the addictive behavior, are potential triggers for relapse, irrespective of whether or not they’re still using drugs. That’s because they bring back the memories of addiction. In some cases, they may ask you to go out or even tell you stories and share images of their happy moments in your absence. All these can lead you back to addiction.

But relapse is not the only way friends can contribute to drug addiction. This article will discuss different ways friends can worsen your drug use problems. But before we do, let’s look at the relationship between peer pressure and drug use.

Social learning theory

Social scientists who study peer pressure see it through the lens of social learning theory. According to this theory, when people observe other people’s behaviors and reactions using addictive substances, they may wish to replicate what they saw. For example, an agitated friend walks into the room.

They then sniff cocaine or smoke meth. After a few minutes, they’re relaxed and fun to be around. The person observing all this will know that the drug is a good way of coping with stress – because it’s what they’ve seen. So, any time they feel stressed or agitated, they may use the drugs to calm down.

Social learning is the most common way that people learn. When you observe your friends abusing drugs, you become more likely to try out drugs too. That’s because you have learned through observation that drugs achieved a positive result. You could also use drugs out of a need to be part of the group.

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Human beings have a strong need for social interaction. So, it becomes critical to consider the compelling social nature of many addictions. Most addictions need at least the cooperation of other people. And as the addiction progresses, the chances of a person interacting with healthy, non-using individuals become slimmer.

That’s because family and friends eventually disengage. At the same time, addiction takes up most of the addict’s time. In the end, the addict’s entire social circle is dominated by role models associated with the addiction.

How friends and family can contribute to drug addiction

Negative peer pressure

Negative peer pressure can be divided into two parts:

Direct negative often involves peers or friends directly asking you to try something, like abuse illegal drugs. It may be difficult to say no, especially if you are young and are concerned about how they’ll think of you. In some cases, they may hint that you’d be “uncool” if you didn’t take part or even provide reasoning that’s hard to argue against. The fear of losing friends or facing mockery can make you yield. Direct negative peer influence includes your friends or peers:

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Indirect negative is a subtle type of peer pressure and isn’t as apparent as direct negative. It happens when you try out drugs or alcohol just to fit in. Your friends don’t encourage you to participate in risky behaviors, but you feel pressure to do so to continue being part of that social group. Indirect negative peer pressure includes things like:

An NIH study assesses the group influences on an individual’s drinking and other drug use at clubs. A total of 368 social groups representing 986 people were anonymously surveyed. The study found that social groups had a definite impact on the individual outcome.

Group members seemed to know about other members’ drug use or drinking patterns, which were related to their drinking and other drug use. This suggests that normative patterns are established for the group, and social modeling happens within the group.

Signs your friends are making your drug use problem worse

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Positive peer pressure

Not all peer pressure is bad. Friends can influence you into making the right choices. Positive peer pressure is when friends bring a good change in your life – and this can be a useful tool in addiction treatment. In fact, many treatment facilities use this strategy to influence patients’ behavior. The same way a person in a drug-using circle uses drugs to fit in is the same way a person in a sober circle will want to stop using to fit in.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with substance abuse as a result of hanging out with wrong company, we can help. Contact us today to get started.