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Addiction Recovery Patients Often Suffer from Chronic Health Conditions

Addiction Recovery Patients Often Suffer from Chronic Health Conditions

Physical Health is Important to Lasting Recovery

There is no doubt that substance use disorder has a dramatic impact on health. Physical, mental and emotional well-being always suffer when an individual becomes dangerously dependent on harmful substances. Drugs and alcohol have a variety of adverse effects on the body, ranging from painful withdrawal symptoms to lasting impairment of vital organs. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that patients recovering from addiction often suffer from chronic health conditions.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine suggests that more than one-third of people recovering from addiction continue to suffer from a physical disease.

Studying Chronic Health Conditions in Addiction Recovery

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Recovery Research Institute are the first to examine the national prevalence of medical conditions typically created or magnified by chronic and excessive use of drugs or alcohol. The data in the study comes from a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 American adults. Each of these individuals described themselves as recovering from a range of substance issues, including:

Researchers then looked for the presence of diseases known to be exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, such as:

  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

What they found was that out of all the adults recovering from substance abuse issues, 37% of them had been diagnosed with one or more of these nine conditions.

Additionally, researchers conclude that significant reductions in the participants’ quality of life connect to these conditions. Not to mention, researchers note that each of these health problems is known to reduce life expectancy.

Trends Relating to Different Drugs

When looking at the details of the data, there are a few trends that stand out. For instance, when compared to the general population, individuals in recovery have much higher levels of:

  • Hepatitis C
  • COPD
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

And in many cases, certain diseases more often correlate with certain substances. For example:

Hepatitis C

Rates of this condition were significantly higher for those recovering from opioids or stimulants than those recovering from alcohol.


Lifetime prevalence of these health conditions was significantly higher in the group of people recovering from stimulant abuse than in the alcohol group.

Heart Disease

The lowest rates of this condition were actually found in individuals recovering from opioid addiction.


This health problem was discovered to be least common for those reporting cannabis as their primary substance issue

Multiple Chronic Conditions

The odds of experiencing two or more chronic physical diseases were increased by 4%- 7% due to certain factors, such as:

  • Each additional substance used 10 times or more
  • Older age at onset of diseases
  • Resolving alcohol or drug problems later in life

Reduced Rates of Disease

Researchers also note a few elements that appear to coincide with reduced rates of physical diseases. In general, such factors include being:

  • Younger
  • Female
  • Hispanic

There were also social stability and economic factors linked to lower rates of physical disease for those recovering from substance abuse, including:

  • Having a household income greater than $50,000
  • Higher education
  • Being Employed
  • Married or living with a partner

Some of these may be a bit of a surprise, especially considering that women are typically considered more susceptible to serious health problems associated with substance abuse.

Highlighting the Importance of Health in Recovery

According to the researchers, this study is important to a larger conversation about the quality of life for those in recovery from addiction. The lead and corresponding author David Eddie, Ph.D., research scientist at the Recovery Research Institute is an MGH clinical psychologist and an instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. He states,

“We’ve known for a long time that chronic and heavy substance use can cause a multitude of diseases directly and indirectly – The extent to which these diseases and health conditions continue to persist for the millions of Americans who achieve recovery remains to be clarified, but this study highlights the fact that these negative impacts may continue to affect quality of life even when people achieve addiction recovery.”

Eddie believes it is important to appreciate that even those who overcome their issues with substance use disorder and drug dependence still face real physical diseases. In some cases, men and women who manage to finally make progress away from abusing drugs or alcohol still have to live the rest of their lives with other life-altering conditions. If the evidence points toward a better chance at young people and those with a shorter history of drug use being able to avoid chronic illness, then, of course, more effort should be put toward early intervention. Eddie adds,

“In addition, addiction treatment needs to be more seamlessly integrated with primary health care, and more research is needed to explore the complex relationships between alcohol and other drug use and physical disease.”

Moreover, this would further support the idea that we must address addiction as a public health issue. If we want to effectively address not only substance abuse but the long-term adverse effects of drugs and alcohol, we have to offer more comprehensive treatment options.

Part of building a healthy and effective foundation for recovery is a personalized treatment plan. Every individual is unique, and each person struggling with substance use disorder faces different challenges. That is why Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing customized and comprehensive care to every client. From medical detox resources to medication management and nutrition, we believe better health and well-being make lasting recovery possible. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Higher Risk for Hep-C among People with Opioid Addiction

Higher Risk for Hep-C among People with Opioid AddictionThe opioid epidemic continues to reach epidemic numbers, and with the increasing overdoses comes increasing cases of hepatitis C. New cases of hepatitis C have nearly doubled over the past few years. Furthermore, those with opioid addiction are more likely to suffer from a variety of health disorders, complicating treatment for substance use disorder.

Hepatitis C is among the most concerning disorder to affect people with opioid addiction. People who abuse opioids are 9.1 times more likely to have hepatitis-C (HCV), in comparison to those who did not abuse opioids, according to an analysis by the health care company Amino. Amino drew data from the claims of 3.1 million privately insured patients between 2014 and 2016.

As the opioid epidemic spreads throughout the country, new cases of HCV have skyrocketed.  In 2014, there were an estimated 30,500 new cases in the United States. This is nearly double the number of new cases in 2011, according to STAT News.

The CDC reports that new HCV infection is rising specifically among intravenous drug users under 40 years old, particularly in more rural areas. People with opioid use disorder are more likely to drink to excess, and more likely to have suicidal ideation.

While these numbers are shocking, many are not surprised:

“It’s known that people with co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues are at high risk for addiction even when prescribed opioids for a bonafide prescription medical use,” Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist, and opioid addiction expert, told Amino.

However, Lembke was particularly moved by the fact that people with opioid addiction are seven times more likely to suffer from “failed back syndrome,” a chronic condition that is diagnosed following back surgeries.

“What I thought was really interesting was the correlation with failed back syndrome,” she said. “Perhaps failed back syndrome is a risk factor for developing an opioid use disorder—and that could be part of the reason why this community experiences such chronicity and lack of improvement. This is a subgroup that’s especially vulnerable to opioid misuse.”

The data collected by Amino looked at health claims among people with a variety of insurance codes, representing conditions from opioid dependence to opioid abuse in remission. Amino is a private insurer, and the data revealed a sharp increase in opioid abuse specifically among those with private insurance.  According to the data, there was a six-fold increase in opioid-related insurance claimed between 2012 and 2016 among private insurers.

However, Lembke notes that this sharp increase may be underrepresented:

“Patients don’t want to carry them on their charts, and doctors don’t want to stigmatize their patients,” said Lembke. “But they will go ahead and chart it if there’s utility in it. And the utility is you can’t get buprenorphine, methadone maintenance, or naltrexone paid for by a third-party payer unless it’s diagnosed.”

Last month was Hepatitis Awareness Month.  The treatments for hepatitis C have really come a long way, and it no longer as life endangering as It once was. The key is to seek treatment early. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of addiction, many are afraid to get tested.

Studies like these show that the numbers are not improving. Those with opioid addiction seriously need testing to prevent the disease from progressing any further. Please do not feel shame about testing for this disorder. Furthermore, if you are struggling with substance use disorder, please reach out to us. We have the tools to guide you to a sober life. Do not wait. Call today.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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