Call us today

(973) 862 4820
Menu close
Help Available 24/7

Our Centers

  • Take the First Step in Las Vegas

    Desert Hope is a beautiful oasis with modern charm located in Las Vegas, Nevada. We provide all levels of care from detox, in-patient, outpatient and sober living.

    Visit Desert Hope Treatment Center Visit Desert Hope Treatment Center
  • A New Life Awaits

    Start your recovery at our spa-like facility in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Holistic therapies, chef-prepared meals, and LGBTQ+ support are among the many features of our premier drug and alcohol treatment program.

    Visit Greenhouse Treatment Center Visit Greenhouse Treatment Center
  • The Best Place to Recover in Orange County

    Laguna Treatment Hospital is located in Orange County, CA. The first Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital in the OC, we offer safe medical detox, mental health support, and wellness programs.

    Visit Laguna Treatment Hospital Visit Laguna Treatment Hospital
  • Start Recovery at Our Southern Resort

    Take a step back from your life and get the help you need at our premier drug and alcohol addiction center. Nestled in the countryside 1.5 hours from Memphis, Oxford gives you the support you need in a calm and beautiful setting.

    Visit Oxford Treatment Center Visit Oxford Treatment Center
  • Recovery Forecast includes Tropical Weather

    Your recovery can start at either of two premier drug and alcohol treatment facilities in the Greater Miami area - Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, FL. Our specialties include treatment for veterans and first responders.

    Visit Recovery First Treatment Center Visit Recovery First Treatment Center
  • Sunny Florida Welcomes You

    Retreat to the sunny climate of Tampa, Florida for a stay at the gold standard of treatment facilities. We offer customized care plans to help you on your recovery journey.

    Visit River Oaks Treatment Center Visit River Oaks Treatment Center
  • Helping New Englanders Find Recovery for Over 30 years

    Escape to the countryside to recovery in New Jersey’s premier drug rehab & treatment center. Located only an hour from New York City.

    Visit Sunrise House Treatment Center Visit Sunrise House Treatment Center

How Substance Abuse Increases the Risks of Infectious Diseases

infectious-disease-issues
Why Drug Use Can Lead to an Infectious Disease:

The chronic use of alcohol and nearly every drug of abuse taxes the system of an individual and potentially results in compromised immune system functioning. The use of most drugs of abuse, including alcohol, leads to the suppression of the ability of the immune system to fight off infection. Individuals who binge or use extremely high amounts of drugs and alcohol also weaken the immune system by exhausting themselves. The major drugs that affect the immune system are discussed below.

Jump to Section

What is the Immune System?

The immune system is comprised of a number of tissues in the body that fight infection. Conditions that compromise the immune system can result in an individual being more susceptible to contracting an infectious disease. Leukocytes, or white blood cells, are important cells of the immune system that are produced and stored in many areas, including the spleen, lymphatic tissues, and bone marrow.

Leukocytes circulate throughout the body and monitor for substances that need to be eliminated from the body. There are two basic types of leukocytes: Phagocytes attack and grind up invaders, and lymphocytes allow the system to recognize previous invaders and then help destroy them. There are two types of lymphocytes: B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes.

checklist

Resources: How substance use disorders are associated with the decreased immune system functioning

Alcohol and the immune system

infectious-diseases-from-drugsWhile research suggests that light to moderate alcohol use may strengthen the immune system in some individuals, it has long been observed by physicians that individuals who excessively drink alcohol have higher rates of infectious illnesses, such as pneumonia, as well as the development of liver damage. Chronic alcohol abuse results in immunodeficiency and liver damage that may also be partly triggered by alcohol-induced autoimmunity where the individual’s immune system begins to attack its own body’s tissues.

Chronic alcoholics are susceptible to such infectious diseases as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B and C

Tobacco and the immune system

tobacco-and-diseasesResearch indicates a clear relationship between chronic abuse of tobacco products and decreased immune system functioning.

Chronic tobacco abuse is associated with:

  • Decreased antibody formation in both animals and humans
  • Decreased lymphocyte proliferation in both animals and humans
  • Decreased availability of antioxidants in heavy smokers
  • Increased infection susceptibility to nearly every bacterial and viral infection tested
  • Extreme susceptibility to respiratory infections as would be expected

Opioids and the immune system

morphine-and-diseaseOpioid drugs all originate from substances derived from the poppy plant. Their primary medicinal use is to control chronic pain. As a side effect, many of these drugs produce significant feelings of euphoria and are high potential candidates for abuse and the development of physical dependence.

It has long been established that chronic use of opioid drugs, such as morphine, heroin, Vicodin, OxyContin, tramadol, etc., results in hindering the immune system’s ability to fight off both viruses and bacteria invaders. Research suggests that morphine, the prototypical opioid drug, suppresses the activity of the different types of white blood cells that are important in fighting off infections. This suggests that individuals who chronically abuse opioid drugs are susceptible to any number of infectious diseases and will most likely experience respiratory infections like colds and influenza (due to a combination of the drugs inhibiting respiration and suppressing the immune system), cardiovascular infections, and issues with the liver and kidneys.

It is also probably safe to assume that not all opioid drugs have similar effects on the immune system; however, the specific effects on immune system functioning of each opioid drug are not well known. Currently, it is probably safest to assume that opioid drugs in general suppress immune system functioning. When taken in large doses over lengthy periods of time, drugs that combine opioids with medications like acetaminophen, such as tramadol, can suppress the immune system and result in liver toxicity, which further suppresses the ability to fight infection.

Marijuana and the immune system

Infectious-DiseasesThere are a number of animal models that suggest that chronic use of cannabis products may be associated with decreased immune system functioning; however, these findings are less clear in adult humans. However, it is safe to conclude that children and adolescents who use cannabis products regularly most likely do experience suppressed immune system functioning.

Cocaine and the immune system

As with other drugs, chronic use of cocaine affects the immune system and leads to an increased susceptibility to develop infections. One interesting aspect of cocaine abuse is its suppression of the thymus gland that produces T lymphocytes, which attack foreign cells. Chronic cocaine abuse appears to hinder the ability of certain groups of the cells to develop and also increases the rate of the number of the cells that undergo programmed cell death prematurely (apoptosis). The more cocaine one uses, the more cells die off.

Issues with Injecting Drugs and Other Risky Behaviors

While the majority of research indicates that chronic abuse of any class of drugs results in decreased immune system functioning and an increased susceptibility to develop a number of different issues, there are various other methods by which individuals with substance use disorders increase their susceptibility to the risk of contracting infections.

Drugs that are commonly injected include morphine, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Injection of these drugs and sharing needles accounts for a significant proportion of cases of HIV per year and is also a major factor in the spread of hepatitis C, which is a serious and potentially fatal disease of the liver. Obviously, needle sharing as a result of drug abuse is a major factor in the spread of these serious infectious diseases.

In addition, the use of many of these drugs increases the likelihood that individuals will engage in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex. This can result in a number of sexually transmitted diseases, the spread of HIV, and the spread of diseases like hepatitis B and C.
dangers-injecting-drugsChronic drug abusers engage in a number of other behaviors that open them up to the risk of developing infection. Oftentimes, these individuals neglect aspects of their personal hygiene and nutrition. They often engage in bingeing behaviors that result in a number of different stresses on bodily systems and also lead to increased susceptibility to infections and diseases. Individuals who abuse multiple drugs multiply their risk factors significantly.

Individuals with chronic substance use disorders very often have comorbid (co-occurring) psychological or psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. People with these mental health issues are also known to be particularly susceptible to infections and diseases of all types. Thus, individuals with substance use disorders typically have increased chances of catching an infectious disease through a number of different pathways.


Comorbid Issues & Substance Abuse Hub

Other Comorbid Issues Relating to Addiction