Addiction and Chronic Disease: What’s the Connection and How Can I Get Help?

Addiction and Chronic Disease
Dominic Nicosia

Written By

Dominic Nicosia
Dr. Po-Chang Hsu -

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Last Medically Reviewed on February 24, 2024

Addiction and chronic disease are closely linked[1] in a variety of ways. Drugs and alcohol impact every part of the body, including the heart, central nervous system, brain, stomach, liver, kidneys, and more. The risk of chronic disease is increased the longer and more often you or your loved one abuse drugs or alcohol.

While entering treatment and recovery is a crucial step towards improving health, it’s important to recognize that prolonged and untreated substance abuse may lead to persistent chronic health issues, even after substance use has ceased. Ongoing medical care and monitoring are often necessary to manage these conditions effectively.

The exact level of risk for addiction-related chronic disease varies based on how long and how often you drink or use drugs, as well as the way you ingest them (snorting, shooting, swallowing, etc.). If you or your loved one are struggling, you must get help now to minimize the risk of long-term health issues.

Here are just a few ways that different types of substance use can lead to chronic disease and what you can do to get help.

Heroin Addiction and Chronic Disease

Few parts of the body are unharmed by prolonged heroin use. The drug has been linked to high rates of multiple chronic diseases, including but not limited to hepatitis[2], heart[3] and lung disease, collapsed veins, blood disorders, HIV/AIDS, and more. Heroin use can also lead to skin disease, gastrointestinal and digestive issues, and other conditions that, while not fatal, can severely impact the quality of life and everyday comfort. Those who abuse prescription opioids also face an increased risk of these chronic health issues.

Cocaine and Chronic Disease

Cocaine is known for its significant impact on the heart, comparable to other stimulant illicit drugs. It also severely impacts the central nervous system and can lead to cognitive issues like paranoia and severe anxiety disorder. Cocaine has been linked to various types of heart disease[4], high blood pressure, kidney disease[5], brain damage[6], and more. Long-term cocaine use can also lead to collapsed nostrils, stroke, bowel disease, and sexual dysfunction.

Alcohol and Chronic Disease

The physical and psychological risks of alcohol addiction are practically too many to list. To name a few, alcoholism can lead to serious liver disease, heart attack, stroke, stomach issues[7], brain damage, and various types of cancer[8]. These issues can often require lifetime management long after a person stops drinking and can even be fatal.

Meth and Chronic Disease

Methamphetamine addiction, whether it’s prescription Desoxyn® or illegally manufactured crystal meth, can create severe central nervous system dysfunction[9]. It also severely increases the risk of cardiac arrest, serious dental issues, stroke, brain damage, paranoia, anxiety, and more. The risk of chronic disease associated with meth addiction may also be compounded by the chemicals that are often used to “cut” illegal supplies to make them cheaper and more potent during the refining process. These chemicals often include things like brake fluid, antifreeze, and ammonia.

Addiction IS A Disease (and a Complex Brain Disorder)

It’s easy to think of alcohol or drug addiction as a social or psychological problem. It’s a complex chronic disease of the brain that leads to a variety of other health issues that require their level of specialized care. Unfortunately, many who attempt recovery don’t get the necessary medical treatment to achieve balanced overall health. The pain and sickness of these untreated issues can sometimes lead to relapse.

Recovery Unplugged offers addiction treatment and may address chronic health conditions related to substance use as part of a comprehensive care approach. Get the help you need today for the long-term health issues associated with your addiction. We’re in-network with most major insurance companies and offer locations nationwide. Call us today to start your treatment and reclaim your physical and mental health.

We take our music-focused treatment for addiction very seriously, so we are going to hold our content to the same precision standards. Recovery Unplugged’s editorial process involves our editing safeguard and our ideals. Read our Editorial Process.


[1] Massachusetts General Hospital. (2019, March 21). Many recovering from addiction have chronic health problems, diminished quality of life. ScienceDaily.

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, August 3). Viral Hepatitis | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

[3] Greenwald, M. K., Lundahl, L. H., Shkokani, L. A., Syed, S., Roxas, R. S., & Levy, P. D. (2021). Effects of cocaine and/or heroin use on resting cardiovascular function. International Journal of Cardiology. Cardiovascular Risk and Prevention, 11, 200123.

[4] Kim, S. T., & Park, T. (2019). Acute and Chronic Effects of Cocaine on Cardiovascular Health. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(3), 584.

[5] Inayat, F., Bokhari, S. R. A., Roberts, L., & Rosen, R. M. (2020). Cocaine-Induced Acute Interstitial Nephritis: A Comparative Review of 7 Cases. Journal of Investigative Medicine High Impact Case Reports, 8, 2324709620932450.

[6] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, May). What are some ways that cocaine changes the brain? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

[7] McKenna, J. (2023, May 29). What Is Alcoholic Gastritis? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment. WebMD.

[8] CDC. (2023, March 27). Alcohol and Cancer | CDC.

[9] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, October). What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Dominic Nicosia

Dominic, a seasoned content writer at Recovery Unplugged, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the realm of healthcare writing, particularly in the addiction and recovery field.

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