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Long-term alcohol or substance abuse affects your body’s ability by damaging different parts of your body. This can include corrosion of the brain and other organs, leading to visible signs of decay and malnutrition over time.

However, the harm isn’t permanent. A holistic recovery approach involves nourishing the body with proper nutrition, staying active, seeking emotional and mental support, and other helpful measures.

This article will discuss how to heal your body after drug and alcohol addiction.

How Does the Brain Get Hijacked by Drugs?

In the past, many doubted drugs could alter the brain. They viewed addiction as a choice, not a medical issue. Despite progress, this misconception persists. Our brains have a reward system that drives essential behaviors like eating. However, drugs hijack it, altering the brain permanently. For those with certain factors, addiction is lifelong, making drug avoidance crucial. It’s a chronic disease. However, therapy and professional help can prevent relapse. You’re not alone; support is available.

What are the Long-Term Psychological Effects of Substance Abuse?

The connection between addiction and mental health is complex and often not straightforward. Sometimes, you might find yourself with mental health issues like anxiety and turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, while substance abuse itself can lead to mental health problems.

In 2020, about 17 million adults in the US faced both addiction and mental illness, causing varying levels of distress.

  • Depression: Depression is a common long-term effect of drug abuse, but it’s not always clear if the depression came before or after the substance use. Some of you might use drugs to feel better temporarily, but this can worsen depression in the long run, especially during withdrawal.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is another issue often linked to addiction. Some of you might use drugs to manage anxiety, while others develop anxiety as a result of substance abuse. Withdrawal from certain drugs can also make anxiety worse for you.
  • Paranoia: Paranoia can also arise from drug abuse, especially with long-term use of substances like cocaine or marijuana. You might find yourself struggling with addiction and fearing being caught, which adds to your feelings of paranoia.
  • Disorders: Using drugs, especially during adolescence, can increase the risk of developing mental disorders like psychosis later in life. This risk is higher for those with a genetic predisposition to mental health issues, as substance abuse can worsen your vulnerability.

What are the long-term physical effects of substance abuse?

Besides the mental health challenges that come with long-term drug addiction, several physical health issues affect you when you misuse drugs over time. Long-term drug abuse can impact:

  • Lungs: Smoking or inhaling drugs like marijuana and crack cocaine can damage your respiratory system. Additionally, drugs like heroin and prescription opioids, which slow down your breathing, can lead to serious respiratory problems.
  • Liver: Liver failure, typically associated with alcoholism, can also occur in individuals using cannabis, amphetamines, and cocaine over many years. Chronic substance abuse can strain your liver’s ability to detoxify your body, potentially causing liver damage or failure.
  • Heart: Many drugs can cause cardiovascular issues, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and even heart attacks. Injection drug users are also at risk of collapsed veins and infections in the bloodstream or heart.
  • Kidneys: Habitual drug use over many years can damage your kidneys directly or indirectly, leading to conditions like acute or chronic renal failure. Opioids, cocaine, and alcohol are known to contribute to kidney failure among long-time users.

Another danger for you as a long-term drug abuser is developing tolerance, where you need increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. This raises your risk of overdose and even death.

What are the long-term behavioral effects of substance abuse?

Addiction isn’t just about using drugs; it involves a whole set of behaviors and habits related to substance use. When it starts controlling your life, you may find yourself doing unexpected things and facing overwhelming challenges.

Addiction looks different for everyone. Clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose substance use disorders, which includes identifying various behavioral changes commonly seen in addicted individuals, such as:

  • Taking drugs in higher doses or for longer than intended.
  • Wanting to quit but being unable to.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from drugs.
  • Craving drugs or having a strong desire to use them.
  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, home, or work due to drug use.
  • Continuing to use drugs despite social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up important activities because of drug use.
  • Using drugs in risky situations.
  • Continuing to use drugs despite knowing they cause problems.

Can body damage from alcohol and drugs be reversed?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if someone who drinks a lot stops for a while, some brain damage might start to get better within months to a year. The biggest changes usually happen in the first year, and things keep improving after 5-7 years of not drinking. But not all brain changes go back to normal.

How much someone’s brain and body are affected by drinking too much depends on:

  • How long and how often do they drink?
  • If they used alcohol with other drugs or smoked
  • Their family history and genes
  • Their overall health, like what they eat, how active they are, and if they have other health problems

People who drink a lot might get Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can make walking hard, cause eye problems, and mess with thinking and memory. This isn’t because of alcohol itself, but because of not eating right due to heavy drinking. It’s linked to not getting enough thiamine (a type of vitamin B). If caught early, it might get better with better eating and vitamins. But if it’s been going on for a long time, even extra vitamins might not fix it all. In addiction recovery, addressing nutritional deficiencies like thiamine can be crucial for overall health improvement.

How to Heal Your Body After Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When you understand the harm caused by drug abuse or alcoholism, it’s crucial to act promptly to restore your health. For instance, if you have dental issues like broken teeth, seek treatment from a dentist.

If you’ve lost weight due to drug abuse, consider a special meal plan to replenish nutrients. Drug or alcohol addiction can also lead to physical problems like rapid heartbeats or altered breathing. They can also affect your senses and social interactions. Recognizing these issues highlights the importance of addressing substance abuse for overall well-being.

Here are some suggestions to help improve your chances of reversing the physical damage caused by drug or alcohol addiction. In your journey of addiction recovery, these tips can be invaluable for restoring your health.

Healing through nutrition

Using drugs or alcohol can lead to deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals, harming both your body and mind. Addiction often accompanies unhealthy habits like irregular eating, lack of exercise, and poor sleep, worsening long-term health issues. To heal liver damage from substance use, focus on nutrition. Eating nutritious meals filled with vitamins and minerals is crucial for your brain’s recovery. Ignoring nutritional needs can increase disease risk and strengthen cravings. Prioritize nutrient-rich meals in recovery to support your health.

Healing through exercise

Exercise offers vital benefits for your overall well-being. Despite addiction’s sedentary lifestyle, exercise is indispensable for reclaiming your health. It’s a natural stress reliever, releasing serotonin to combat stress and depression during your recovery. Despite initial fatigue, it boosts your energy levels, making tasks manageable.

Exercise enhances your cognition, improving thinking, memory, and learning. It’s crucial for your sleep quality, reducing insomnia and relapse risk. It fosters a positive mood, aiding in maintaining your optimism and healthy choices. Moreover, it supports your immune system by clearing bacteria and enhancing white blood cell function. These benefits underscore exercise’s significance in combating addiction and restoring your vitality.

Healing through emotional support

When you feel emotionally fragile, you may struggle to cope with stress due to various factors such as genetics, environment, life events, and substance use. Some individuals struggle to control their emotions, while others struggle with behavioral regulation.

Seeking support from a mental health professional, especially in the initial stages of recovery, is vital. These professionals conduct thorough assessments, and diagnoses, and provide personalized recommendations to address your unique needs.

Final Notes

Alcohol or drug abuse can cause significant harm to the body. However, recovery is possible through a holistic approach. By focusing on proper nutrition, staying active, and seeking support, you can rebuild your health and well-being. Remember, healing takes time. But with dedication, your body can regain its strength and vitality, leading you toward a brighter future.

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