How Drug Use Damages the Musculoskeletal System

Drug use and misuse can have lasting consequences on a person’s health, including damage to the body’s muscles, bones, tendons, and joints. This article will discuss how substance abuse can impact the musculoskeletal system and how to get help if you or a loved one has lost control of their drug or alcohol use.

Can Drug or Alcohol Abuse Harm the Musculoskeletal System?

Yes, drug or alcohol abuse can cause lasting damage to the musculoskeletal system, often from falls and fractures that occur during intoxication.

Additionally, drug and alcohol use can affect the body’s ability to metabolize some nutrients, such as calcium, which can reduce bone and muscle growth, or impede the immune system’s ability to fight diseases.

Certain methods of drug use (e.g., injection) can cause infections in muscles or bones, and substance use can also increase the risk of cancer, including bone cancers.

Some substances are more harmful to the musculoskeletal system than others. Read on for more information about how alcohol and specific drugs affect the body’s muscles, joints, and bones.

How Does Alcohol Misuse Affect the Musculoskeletal System?

People who struggle with alcohol use disorder disrupt their digestive system’s ability to absorb calcium, and on a long-term basis, this can lead to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, or other brittle bone conditions. These conditions increase the risk of fractures or breaks, especially when combined with the loss of physical coordination people experience when intoxicated.

Also, changes to the muscles and kidney function can lead to rhabdomyolysis, in which the muscles begin to break down and release toxins into the bloodstream, eventually overwhelming the kidneys.

How Does Drug Use Affect the Musculoskeletal System?

A variety of prescription and illicit drugs can affect the musculoskeletal system. These include:

  • Benzodiazepines: These prescription psychiatric medications (e.g., Xanax) are often diverted for use, as they rapidly induce a sense of relaxation and euphoria after a person takes them. That intoxication causes side effects like muscle weakness and pain, as well as a loss of physical coordination. This can lead to falls, fractures, sprains, and other problems that impact musculoskeletal system.
  • Inhalants: This type of substance abuse is extremely dangerous and likely to cause damage to some body systems upon first use. Chronic abuse of inhalants, like benzene, damages bone marrow. Other inhalants cause skeletal abnormalities if misused over a long period of time.
  • MDMA: Also called Molly and sometimes confused with ecstasy, this amphetamine is a club drug that can have serious health consequences. One of the most dangerous effects of MDMA is hyperthermia, which leads to muscle breakdown similar to rhabdomyolysis. This can poison other organ systems, especially the kidneys.
  • Opioids: Prescription opioid medications are often used to treat muscle and bone pain caused by many conditions, ranging from fractures or surgery to chronic illnesses like arthritis or cancer. However, opioid drugs can cause side effects like muscle aches and pain. Additionally, opioids like heroin, which are shot directly into the veins, can cause infections of the tendons or joints (osteomyelitis or septic arthritis). Brown heroin, in particular, can lead to side effects like joint stiffness, muscle pain and aches, and low back pain.
  • Steroids: When adolescents or young adults abuse steroids, the drug forces bones to stop growing, leading to shorter stature and potential bone problems later in life. Prolonged steroid use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs can also change the ability of muscles to grow and cause tendon rupture in any age group. The practice of doping in athletes adds stress to muscles and bones, increasing the risk of fractures and torn muscles. Steroid injections are typically done into muscle tissue, which can cause muscle infections.

Fractures, sprains, and other trauma from falling while intoxicated can be painful, but complications from infections, reduced nutrition, and the breakdown of muscles and bones can have serious physical consequences.

Back Pain, Joint Pain, & Body Aches Caused Drug Use

Although it’s rare, drug use can sometimes cause various body aches and pains.

In addition to some of the side effects mentioned above, long-term opioid use can lead to a curious phenomenon known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). OIH occurs when opioid medications actually make the pain they are meant to alleviate worse.

OIH can complicate the diagnosis and treatment of opioid use disorders, as doctors or providers must distinguish between this condition and opioid tolerance.

Additionally, some prescription stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been shown to cause muscle cramping, pain, and stiffness.

However, the most commonly experienced pain associated with drug use is the bone and muscle pain people may feel during opioid withdrawal, or when a person abruptly stops or reduces use.

How to Prevent Muscle & Skeletal Damage from Drug or Alcohol Use

For many people, the way to prevent muscle and skeletal damage from drug or alcohol abuse is to stop using substances and begin the path to recovery.

At Sunrise House Treatment Center, we tailor treatment plans to meet the individual needs of each patient. Our different levels of addiction care include medical detox, which helps patients stay as safe and comfortable as possible while their bodies come off drugs and alcohol.

Our inpatient rehab facility in New Jersey uses a combination of evidence-based and alternative therapies to address the many issues underlying addiction and teach patients more positive ways to cope.

For more information about what to expect in inpatient rehab, ways to pay for rehab, or using insurance to pay for rehab, call us at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer your questions and start the admissions process.

Substance use and misuse can do a lot more harm than causing an addiction. If you or a loved one is ready to get help, contact us today.

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