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When a person struggles with substance abuse or addiction, they may experience several side effects from chronically ingesting these substances. Long-term struggles with alcohol or drugs can lead to considerable damage to many systems in the body, especially the immune system. The immune system may be harmed directly by intoxicating substances, or the way the drug is ingested may contribute to a higher risk of infection, coupled with a lower immune response.
Even if someone who suffers from addiction does not develop more serious problems, like cognitive problems, heart disease, lung disease, or liver failure, harm done to the immune system can lead to serious, recurring, or incurable infections. Some of these infections may cause other long-term problems, or lead to death.
Some of the addictive substances that can damage the immune system and lead to infectious diseases are described in further detail below.
Entering a rehabilitation program to overcome addiction can help the body heal. Medical professionals can treat infections like pneumonia, STIs, or other diseases. Conditions like HSV or HIV that are incurable can also be treated, allowing the person to live for extended periods of time without further harm from the disease. Some harm done to the immune system or other body systems may be reversed when the person becomes sober, so prompt treatment is key.