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Understanding the Medical Side Effects of Addiction and How to Get Help

Demi Lovato is set to release a new documentary entitled “Dancing with the Devil” on March 23rd. Ahead of the film’s release, Lovato recently discussed her years-long and well-documented drug use, specifically the lasting side effects of her addiction following her 2018 overdose. The 28-year-old pop star says that she suffered three strokes and a heart attack following the event, and that she had been five minutes from death. She also says she was left with permanent brain damage, with which she continues to struggle in her day-to-day life, and that she no longer drives because of continuously blurry vision.

Since her brush with fatality, Lovato has used her experiences to help people struggling with substance use and mental illness cope during difficult times, and has been particularly vocal about proper mental health management during the pandemic, but her experiences also serve as a cautionary tale about what drugs do to the body, and the lasting side effects of addiction. If you or someone you care about is battling drug addiction, it’s important to realize that these issues can be life-threatening and to understand how to get help when they arise.

What Do Drugs Do to the Body?

The physical side effects of drug addiction vary depending on a number of factors, including users’ physiology, pre-existing health issues, what kind of drugs they’re using, how long they’ve been using and more. It’s important to remember that the longer you use, the more serious these physical effects become, and they take a cumulative toll on your body over time. These effects can range from mild to moderate to severe, and can often require serious in-depth medical intervention, depending upon their severity. From a broad perspective, drug use has been linked to various types of long-term chronic disease, including, but not limited to:

  • Heart Failure – Drugs like cocaine, heroin and meth can severely impact heart health in a number of ways, ranging from significantly elevated heart rate during active use to serious bacterial infection. Cocaine specifically leads to aortic stiffening and thickening of the heart’s left ventricle wall, which can restrict blood flow. Cocaine is often called the “heart attack drug”, because of its potential damage to cardiovascular health.
  • Liver Disease – Heroin, cocaine and inhalants can significantly affect liver function. Specific conditions liver conditions associated with long-term illicit drug use can include increased risk of hepatitis A, B and C, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and more.
  • Lung Damage – Prolonged and untreated drug use can cause extensive pulmonary damage, ranging from conditions, like pneumonia and bronchitis to pulmonary granulomatosis (a condition commonly associated with crushing and snorting oral tablets).
  • Brain Damage – Every type of drug affects the brain in some way. The very purpose of drugs, from illicit substances to common over-the-counter medications, is to influence neurochemistry to a desired end, whether it’s relieving pain, alleviating anxiety or anything else. Illicit drugs, however, can cause lasting brain damage, as is the case for Lovato. This damage is often the lasting result of issues like seizure, stroke or prolonged unconsciousness that occurs during overdose.

Long-term chronic physical effects of addiction can also include, high blood pressure, weight issues, sleep disorder, respiratory distress, chronic pain, hyperalgesia (sensitivity to pain), chronic migraine and decreased immunity. Drug use has also been linked to increased risk of HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancer and other blood diseases.

Side Effects of Different Types of Drug Addiction

Each type of drug addiction comes with its own physical side effects, including withdrawal symptoms and bodily changes:

Side Effects Heroin and Opioid Addiction

  • Extreme Weight Loss
  • Skin Breakouts
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Blood Disease
  • Collapsed Veins
  • Infertility
  • Cardiac Infections
  • Lung Issues
  • Decreased Sex Drive

Side Effects of Cocaine Addiction

  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizure and Convulsions
  • Bowel Disease
  • Chronic Nosebleeds
  • Brain Damage
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Collapsed Nostrils
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Migraine

Side Effects of Meth Addiction

  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Convulsions and Seizures
  • Tooth Rot
  • Breathing Issues
  • Headache and Migraine
  • Brain Damage
  • Liver Failure
  • Increased Risk of HIV/AIDS
  • Hypertension

Other types of substance use disorder, like benzodiazepine addiction, alcoholism and stimulant dependency all come with their own unique side effects for which you or your loved one will need expert medical care from a trained and experienced doctor.

Getting Medical Help for Addiction Side Effects

The process of treating the side effects of addiction depends on what types of medical issues you’re experiencing. You may be able to work directly with your primary care physician to address chronic issues and ongoing discomfort; however, you may also need specialized help to address the more serious issues you might have developed (AIDS, cancer, heart disease), etc.

The process starts by medically stabilizing your body in addiction treatment to make sure you’re not in any immediate danger. Medical detox helps you rebalance your brain chemistry and provides comfortable acute withdrawal management. The reality of acute addiction withdrawal is that it can often be a painful and sickening experience, and it’s important that you get the right kind of help to make the process as comfortable as possible and avoid a serious medical emergency. Recovery Unplugged offers comprehensive, medically supervised detox at our locations in Lake Worth, FL; Austin, TX and Nashville, TN. Get help for your withdrawal symptoms from trained doctors and heal in a safe, discreet and supportive environment. We also provide multiple levels of behavioral rehab, including inpatient and outpatient programs, and are in-network with most major insurance providers to make your addiction treatment more affordable.

After Detox and Treatment

After your body is medically stabilized, and you complete addiction treatment and rehab, you should continue to work with your doctor and all other appropriate specialists to manage your ongoing care needs. This includes proper routine check-ups, medication adherence and making the proper lifestyle adjustments to get to a state of optimal health. This is a journey that is unique to each individual and may require the creation of a personalized care plan with different medical providers. Demi Lovato’s ongoing symptoms are a reminder that you can spend years or a lifetime addressing the ongoing physical effects of addiction, but your road to wellness starts with treatment. Contact Recovery Unplugged now to get medical help for your substance use disorder.

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