Digestive Issues and Drug Abuse

Category : Getting Help

Digestive Issues and Drug AbuseThe gastrointestinal tract is a complex system of organs that includes the stomach, intestines, mouth, and esophagus, and it is susceptible to numerous diseases and digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcers, gallstones, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013, ulcers are among the most common digestive diseases with 6.7 percent of US adults (15.5 million people) having an official diagnosis. Some disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, can cause problems outside the gastrointestinal tract, such as eye inflammation, arthritis, skin rash, and anemia. The pain and discomfort involved in many digestive issues can motivate a person to abuse drugs, but certain drugs can also inflame or directly cause gastrointestinal problems.

Health-Motivated Drug Use

Digestive issues range from embarrassing and uncomfortable to painful and life threatening. They can even cause erratic eating habits that compromise a person’s overall health. Professional medical care can treat many of the issues, but some people opt to self-medicate the problem or suppress the symptoms using drugs. There are a number of potential motivations for such use, including the following:

  • Using narcotic opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin to minimize pain
  • Taking benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium to reduce anxiety and stress
  • Overcoming disorder-related insomnia with sleep aids like Ambien and Sonata
  • Countering diarrhea with narcotic drugs known to cause constipation
  • Chasing euphoric drug highs to drown out digestion-related discomforts

In many cases, using drugs outside medical care will exacerbate the problem. For example, taking aspirin or ibuprofen for ulcer pain will make the stomach lining sores significantly worse.

Drug-Related Digestive Problems

Normal drug use can have gastrointestinal-related side effects, and the problems multiply when an addict takes excessively large doses. Several types of digestive problems can occur, including the following:

  • Deterioration of the mucous membrane lining along the digestive tract
  • Dehydration and decreased saliva production used to break down food
  • Potential depletion of nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and D
  • Discomforts such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gastritis, and stomach pain
  • Development of ulcers, gangrene, internal bleeding, and organ-wall perforation

In 2008, a study published in the Serbian Acta Chirurgica Lugoslavica journal warned that substance abuse could also cause cancer in all of the digestive system organs. Moreover, a 2011 online article in England’s Daily Mail made the risks particularly clear with the headline, “How taking painkillers can destroy your stomach lining in days.”

Addiction and Digestive Health Treatment

Whether the drug use preceded or followed the digestive issue, rehabilitation centers know that treating both issues is crucial to facilitate a lasting recovering. Treatment typically involves numerous potential services, including the following:

  • Medically supervised detoxification with efforts to minimize withdrawal symptoms
  • Integrated care for depression, anxiety, mania, and other co-occurring mood disorders
  • Diagnosis and treatment for digestive issues and other physical health problems
  • Life skills development to improve decision making and stress/anger management
  • Therapies to change maladaptive attitudes and thought patterns related to behavior
  • Group counseling to develop a sense of connectedness and mutual support
  • Individual counseling to strategize defenses against substance use triggers

Treating the digestive disorder is especially important to minimize potential drug use triggers. Uncomfortable symptoms can be cues that trigger carvings and increase the risk of addiction relapse.

Rehabilitation Help

If you have questions or need help, speak with an admissions coordinator at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline. We can discuss treatment options and recommend facilities for addiction and digestive disorder care. If you have health insurance, we can look up the policy’s benefits. Help is available so please call now.