Digestive Issues and Drug Abuse

Digestive Issues and Drug Abuse

Drug abuse and addiction can result in a wide variety of health consequences. Most people are aware that drug abuse can lead to damage of the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. However, many people are unaware of the impacts of drugs on the digestive system. There are many digestive troubles that come from drug abuse, including heartburn, gastric ulcers, and chronic constipation.

Heartburn and Substance Abuse

Heartburn is a digestive condition that occurs when stomach acid gets into the esophagus, causing chest pain that occurs most commonly after eating or while lying down. This usually occurs as a result of a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the muscle between the esophagus and stomach. Usually, this muscle only opens to allow food and liquids to pass into the stomach. However, some conditions cause the muscle to relax, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus. The use of alcohol and certain medications often have this effect on the LES. The drugs that worsen heartburn are usually those that act as sedatives, including barbiturates, benzodiazepines, marijuana, and antihistamines like Phenergan.

In addition, some drugs may also slow digestion, causing the stomach to create excess acid in the stomach. This excess acid increases the risk of heartburn. Drugs that have this effect include narcotics like heroin and morphine.

Peptic Ulcers and Drug Abuse

Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, or upper portion of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Though peptic ulcers are most commonly associated with a particular bacterial infection, they may also arise out of drug and alcohol abuse. Alcohol can act as an irritant to the lining of the esophagus, possibly leading to ulcers when alcohol is frequently consumed.

A particular class of pain relieving drugs, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), is also linked with the development of peptic ulcers. Though NSAIDs are not a common choice for drug abuse, opioid painkillers are. Many people do not realize, however, that some opioids come in combination with aspirin or ibuprofen. For example, Lortab ASA is a combination of aspirin and hydrocodone, an opioid. While this drug may be abused to achieve feelings of euphoria, it may unknowingly result in stomach ulcers.

Chronic Constipation and Drug Abuse

Constipation is another concern that arises with the abuse of certain medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, constipation is defined as an infrequent occurrence of bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools. Drugs that slow bowel movement and may therefore lead to constipation include those used to treat depression, anxiety, and pain. Opioid painkillers, in particular, create a high risk for constipation if they are not taken as directed. Frequent abuse of these drugs may lead to chronic constipation.

Unfortunately, chronic constipation is more of a concern that just having an uncomfortable bowel movement. Complications of chronic constipation include anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and fecal impaction.

Get Help for Drug Addiction

Drug abuse and addiction can lead to many health concerns, including digestive issues. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about drug addiction treatment.