Millions of people are affected by alcohol or drug abuse, but we often underrate how it affects the immune system. Substance abuse weakens the immune system when used over a long period. A weaker immune system will have a harder time to fight off common infections.
How Does The Immune System Work?
The immune system works to protect the body system. Aside from the central nervous system, the immune system is the most complex body system. It’s responsible for refining everything, which enters the body and helps the body ward off infection and disease. The immune system functions by:
- Neutralizing and getting rid of pathogens such as viruses, and bacteria
- Identifying and neutralizing dangerous substances
- Fighting self cells that have changed
How Do Drugs Affect The Immune System?
The body functions smoothly when the immune system is not disrupted with harmful pathogens. However, the immune system weak when the body encounters aggressive pathogens or something that it has not encountered before. This can lead to illness in the form of infections or disease.
Drug risk to the immune system is not directly related to the substance abuse, but rather to toll those substances. Most drugs cause dehydration, physical and mental fatigue, lack of sleep, and unhealthy eating or lack of food as a result of the weakened immune system. Whenever the immune system is down, the body is at risk for the invasion of infection and disease.
How Does Alcohol Affect The Immune System?
Drinking too much alcohol may lead to immune deficiency, increasing susceptibility to certain diseases. Over time, alcohol abuse can result in trouble with the digestive system, damaging the cells that are responsible for secreting enzymes that the body needs for proper digestion. Long-term alcohol abuse can also lead to liver damage or failure. Alcohol abuse may also affect a person’s ability to store sufficient amounts of protein.
However, the most dangerous effect of alcohol abuse is associated with body white blood cells. When the white blood cells are not working as suppose, the individual is at risk of developing life-threatening diseases, such as cancer.
How Do Other Drugs Affect The Immune System
Heroin abuse may result in addiction, as with many opioids. An addicted person is always thinking of taking the drug. This typically leads to neglect with personal health, like eating and sleeping regularly, which can weaken the immune system. Just like with alcohol, heroin addiction may affect the digestive system, which results in the body not getting the proper nutrition and having a weakened system overall.
Cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine users are much more likely than nonusers to contract sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis, HIV, and other infections due to the effect that the drugs have on the immune system. Cocaine interrupts the function of a critical protein system component. The body is not as effective at fighting diseases without the function of this protein.
- Prescription opioids (Morphine)
Opioids work by suppressing the immune system through a “brain-to-body” pathway. They set off a “chain reaction,” which leads to the suppression of three types of white blood cells. This suppression weakens the user’s immune system, putting them at a heightened risk of infection and illness. This makes taking excessive prescribing opioid painkillers dangerous.
How Can You Help?
Treatment is the only way to help those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, the compassionate staff at White House Recovery & Detox in Chatsworth can help. Contact us today.