Heart Health and Recovery: The Benefits of Getting Sober

Heart Health and Recovery: The Benefits of Getting Sober

From alcohol to opioids, long-term substance misuse can increase your risk of developing certain diseases, cognitive decline, and other health concerns. The heart and cardiovascular system are especially vulnerable to damage caused by drug and alcohol misuse. This is due to the way illicit substances are absorbed into the bloodstream and circulated around the body before being filtered out by the liver and kidneys. 

Fortunately, there is a way to prevent and potentially reverse the damage of substance abuse on your body. Seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can give your body a chance to heal and reduce your risks for substance use related health issues.

Long-Term Substance Abuse Affects the Organs

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 25 percent of people ages 18 and older admitted to binge drinking within the previous month during a survey in 2019. The same year, the studies determined that around 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had an alcohol use problem. 

One factor that contributes to these numbers is misinformation. While some data suggests alcohol use is perfectly safe and may support heart health, this pertains to small quantities of alcohol and reflects only a small portion of the population. People with a history of arrhythmia or heart failure should avoid drinking alcohol altogether, as even moderate amounts of alcohol could prove harmful.

Does regular drinking have a negative impact on heart health? Yes. Excessive drinking has been linked to:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

Alcohol misuse can also be linked to obesity and other health issues that can prove harmful in the long-term.

Drug use also presents its own heart health risks. Recreational drug use has been linked to “profound changes” in cardiovascular function; some of those changes are only temporary while others are acute (severe) or chronic. According to one study, some of the heart-related health conditions that could be caused by ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and other drugs may include:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Aortic dissection
  • Endocarditis
  • Valvular damage 
  • Cardiomyopathy

No matter what kind of substance it is, if it is being abused, there is a risk that it could damage the body over time. 

An Increased Risk of Disease

Drug use, misuse and abuse can all lead to an increased risk of disease throughout the body. For example:

  • Tobacco addiction has been linked to lung and heart disease 
  • Methamphetamine has been linked to convulsions, an elevated heart rate and cardiac damage
  • Inhalants may cause brain, kidney, and liver damage
  • Cocaine could cause strokes or heart attack

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the impact of addiction can also lead to:

  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Lung disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Mental disorders
  • HIV/AIDs

…as well as other serious consequences. 

The Impact of Substance Abuse on Older Adults’ Heart Health

The older a person becomes, the more likely they will experience negative effects from misusing drugs and alcohol. Older adults are more likely to experience problems such as:

  • Lung and heart problems
  • Memory issues
  • Mood disorders

For the heart specifically, cardiovascular disease is most heavily linked with opioid and stimulant misuse. These drugs may weaken the heart muscles or damage the vascular system. 

How do they do this?

The use of illicit substances may cause the heart and blood vessels to deteriorate over time. This leads to cardiovascular disease. Sometimes, substances negatively influence the electrical impulses of the heart, damaging the way the muscle works. These murmurs or arrhythmias can be life-threatening if left unaddressed or further exacerbated by continued substance use.

Drug and alcohol use can increase the risk of myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks as well. Blood clots related to certain forms of drug use can travel through the cardiovascular system and become lodged in the heart, lungs, or brain, causing catastrophic consequences. Likewise, infections caused by intravenous drug use can lead to organ damage and failure, chronic disease, or death.

Cardiovascular Disease and Addiction

Cardiovascular disease occurs when there is a dysfunction occurring involving the blood vessels or heart itself. This may be caused by physical damage to the heart and circulatory system or disruptions in the cardiovascular system’s functions. Cardiovascular disease interferes with basic functions such as maintaining a regular heartbeat or blood pressure. These issues are particularly dangerous because a malfunctioning cardiovascular system can cause widespread damage throughout the body. Lack of oxygen and nutrients and inability to filter toxins and waste can have life changing consequences including requiring organ transplants, dialysis, or even amputations.

How Recovery Helps the Body Heal

Drug and alcohol addiction recovery is vital to preserving your health and preventing future heart conditions. While sobriety may not magically cause all of your health issues to disappear, it can help your body begin to heal itself. When your body is no longer focused on processing and purging itself of drugs and alcohol it can turn that energy inward on repairing pre-existing damage and returning to normal functioning. If you have pre-existing health conditions like heart disease, please be sure to inform your doctor or addiction treatment specialist so they can take the necessary steps to ensure your safety throughout the recovery process.

Reach Out to Discovery Point Retreat

The right treatment options can help you walk away from a life of addiction and get you on the road to recovery. With options like cognitive-behavioral therapy or supportive medication-assisted therapy, it is possible to end physical and psychological substance dependence and focus on improving your health. 

At Discovery Point Retreat we’re committed to your recovery and can help you get on the path to a healthier lifestyle and healthier heart. Substance abuse can have a negative impact on the body, but with the right support, it’s possible to start moving in the right direction. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you take back control of your health.


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