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autoimmune diseases
April 16, 2021

Drug Abuse and Autoimmune Diseases

Your immune system plays a vital role in protecting you and keeping you healthy. When a foreign “invader” such as a germ or pathogen enters your body, your immune system’s job is to remove or neutralize it. However, among all the other physical and mental health issues it causes, drug abuse weakens your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses and other health problems.

How Does a Healthy Immune System Work to Protect You?

Antigens are specific proteins on the surfaces of bacteria, viruses and fungi that trigger the immune system’s response. Various inanimate objects also have antigens – for example, if you get a splinter and don’t remove it, the surrounding skin will become red, swollen and hot to the touch. These symptoms are characteristic of an active lymphatic system, which plays a role in your immune reaction.

Drug abuse can directly harm your immune system and impair its ability to fight off illness. In some cases, people may also choose to take drugs in a way that leaves them more vulnerable to an infection, which is particularly dangerous when coupled with a lower immune response. For example, snorting drugs like cocaine or crushed Adderall can erode the mucous membranes and make users more susceptible to recurrent respiratory infections.

Among the many other mental and physical health problems stemming from drug abuse, people who live with untreated substance abuse disorders are at an elevated risk of developing chronic, severe mental and physical health issues, including autoimmune diseases.

What Are Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system goes into overdrive and recognizes your body’s tissues as threats. Your immune system then produces antibodies that attack these tissues. There are many examples of autoimmune diseases, including the following. 

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Antibodies attach themselves to the joints’ linings. Immune system cells then create inflammation, swelling and pain. Untreated rheumatoid arthritis eventually causes permanent joint damage. 
  • Lupus: People with lupus develop autoimmune antibodies that can harm tissues throughout the body, affecting the joints, lungs, blood cells, nerves and kidneys. 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: The immune system goes after the intestinal lining, causing diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent bowel movements, abdominal pain, fever and weight loss. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two primary forms of IBD. 
  • Multiple sclerosis: The immune system targets nerve cells, causing symptoms that can include pain, blindness, weakness, poor coordination and muscle spasms. 
  • Type 1 diabetes: Immune system antibodies attack and destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 diabetes often receive a diagnosis at a relatively young age compared with some of the other autoimmune disorders on this list. Diabetics require insulin injections to survive. 

Is There a Cure for Autoimmune Diseases?

While it is not possible to cure an autoimmune disease, you can learn to control your chronic condition. When treating autoimmune diseases, doctors usually recommend medications that suppress the immune system and make it less overactive. Other effective treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling and physical therapy to improve mobility. 

Your physician may also suggest eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole foods, taking steps to limit your stress and getting seven to nine hours of restful sleep per night. 

Finding Freedom From Drug Abuse

If you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, it’s essential to address it through medically managed detoxification, followed by clinically excellent therapeutic approaches. In treatment, you will learn healthy coping mechanisms that help you manage the symptoms of drug abuse and any co-occurring mental health issues that may accompany addiction. 

Substance abuse causes a cascade of issues that impact every aspect of your well-being. To learn more about breaking the cycle and making a fresh start at Beach House, please contact us today. 

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