How Drug Use and Addiction Can Affect Your Immune System

How Drug Use and Addiction Can Affect Your Immune System

Addiction and Immune System: How They Affect Each Other

There are many ways addiction and immune system affect each other.  They range from immunosuppression, weakened lungs, sleep deprivation, and lack of good nutrition.  They can even affect how your thought processes work. Everyone should be cautious when taking drugs - whether they are prescribed or not. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with a wide variety of drugs and the corresponding effects they have on your immune system for each.  

How Opioids Affect Your Immune System

The most recognized drug addiction in recent times is the addiction to opioids and heroin.  No matter how you ingest it, whether it is oral, smoking, or intravenously, they all pose a potential threat to your health.  Opioids suppress your immune system and affect three types of the body’s natural defenses - the T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells.  This seriously affects how your body addresses pathogens that can harm you. Using opioids or heroin can also affect the time it takes your body to heal since your immune system can’t function correctly.  This can lead to additional healing time for open or unhealed sores.

Intravenous use can also introduce bacteria directly into the blood stream and cause infections to weaken structures within the body.  Intravenous use can also lead to the transmission of Hepatitis C. If an epidural was performed, a blood infection can appear near the weakened spot. This may lead to an epidural abscess.  To correct this, back surgery is necessary to clean out the infection that caused the pain to the user, leading to a diminished ability to walk and stand for long periods of time. Not a pretty picture, is it?

How Cocaine & Meth Affect Your Immune System

Cocaine and methamphetamine can lead to severe dehydration and exhaustion not to mention skin irritations.  This too can lead to unhealed or slow healing sores in the nose and nasal passages which is caused by a suppressed immune system.  

Cocaine and meth are both capable of altering key functions of your immune cells which have been identified as making the body more susceptible to cancer and infections.  It has been found to also affect the thymus gland (thymocytes) which detrimentally affects the production of T-cells and causes decreased immune responses and increases disease and tumor growth.

How Alcohol Affects Your Immune System

Often times, alcohol is used with other drugs such as cocaine or meth.  It also depresses the immune system. Prolonged alcohol use when combined with another illicit drug creates a whole host of ailments. The key affected areas of the body are the stomach, intestines, liver and brain.

Alcohol also paralyzes nerve cells which can keep a person from making good judgement calls or reacting quickly.  People often say “it kills brain cells” but alcohol actually damages dendrites at the end of neurons. Some people damage these cells so much that they lose the ability to function at all, ending up in a long-term facility.  Death can follow rather quickly at this point.

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addiction and immune system

How Ecstasy Affects Your Immune System

Ecstasy is not absent of immune deficiencies as it causes many ailments. It can lead to increased body temperature which then leads to sweating, teeth clenching while sleeping, cramps, depression and paranoia.  Ecstasy can also cause hallucinations and blurred vision. While this drug is not as addictive as cocaine or methamphetamine, it is just as deadly.

How Marijuana Affects Your Immune System

Marijuana or cannabis has been known as the “gateway” drug until recently. While it has been proven that CBD has some beneficial effects and many places in the US and Canada have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults, there are still detrimental effects of using this drug.

Marijuana can cause changes in perception, increased heart rate, not to mention chronic cough and other health issues.  While there are immediate and long-term effects of the use of marijuana, we are still awaiting more research to either condemn or approve the use of the drug for the masses.   The science is scrambling to catch up.

Synthetic marijuana is not really cannabis but they are a chemical compound that binds to the same receptors in the brain.  They are 2-100 times more potent than marijuana, and can cause vision issues, kidney damage, agitation, and psychosis just to name a few of the effects.  These can all lead to a depressed immune system. It also has the other effects much like marijuana such as high blood pressure, lung damage and much more.  Attempting to stop using marijuana isn’t easy either, as It also has significant withdrawal symptoms.

How Smoking Affects Your Immune System

Smoking any substance can lead to asthma or COPD and then turning to chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  Weakened lungs and immune deficiencies often lead to the necessity of using oxygen full time which limits your ability to function normally.  Portable oxygen tanks are usually delivered, but you must drag them with you if you go out or to functions. The new oxygen generators help with mobility; however, the cost is often prohibitive.   

Many think that smoking drugs is less dangerous than other methods, however, you only get one pair of lungs and the damage that you can cause is massive.  No one wants to be coughing and hacking the rest of their life and being more susceptible to pneumonia. Drug addiction causes abnormal vital signs like increased heart rate, high blood pressure, respiration, chest or lung pain.  It can also cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This can lead to extreme dehydration and immune disorders that are linked to drug use.

Stop Using Drugs and Drinking and Heal Your Body

Addiction and immune system problems go hand in hand.  While your body suffers from the effects of the substance in your immune system, other areas of your life may suffer from addiction as well. Your immune system isn’t the only thing affected when you use drugs or alcohol. It takes a toll on your relationships, your decisions, your finances and your overall health.  Making the decision to stop using drugs or alcohol is your first step to your recovery journey. The compassionate staff at SpringBoard Recovery can help. Contact us today.