How Drug Addiction Affects The Liver

How Drug Addiction Affects The Liver

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People turn to drugs and alcohol because of how it makes them feel. The highs can feel liberating.  But addiction to drugs and/or alcohol destroys the body. There are genuine and sometimes irreversible impacts on the brain, lungs, reproductive organs, heart, and liver. In this article, we’ll discuss specifically how drug addiction affects the liver.

It is well documented that drug addiction affects the liver, though more research certainly needs to be done. From autopsy reports, clinical data, and research, we know that drugs and alcohol can temporarily or even permanently damage the liver.

From heroin and inhalants to prescription medication abuse, we want to explain just how damaging addiction can be to the liver.

Signs of Liver Problems

The liver is the body’s main filtering system. It cleans the blood. So when someone uses drugs, it impacts the liver. In addition, when you introduce harmful, foreign chemicals into your body, you make it extremely difficult for your liver to filter them out effectively. That means your liver has to work overtime and experiences unnecessary fatigue and potential organ failure.

When the liver is not working properly from an overload, you might feel tired and have a poor appetite. In extreme cases, your eyes and skin become yellowish. You may also experience very itchy skin because the organ is not properly clearing toxins. [1] 

Liver Damage From Cocaine

Cocaine abuse impacts the overall functionality of your body. The damage that cocaine can cause to both your heart and lungs is well documented. The devastating effects the substance can have on your liver is less known, but it is just as concerning.

In recent studies, doctors found people who used cocaine occasionally or frequently present with dangerous liver enzyme elevations. This reaction to the drug has a toxic effect on your liver and can lead to serious medical complications, such as:

  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Arterial hypotension
  • Renal failure
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Severe liver injury

Heroin’s Impact on the Liver

Heroin is an opioid made from morphine and is a white or brown powder. It can also come in the form of a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Users will inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Researchers studied a group of intravenous heroin users following their deaths and found more evidence that drug addiction affects the liver. The liver autopsy samples showed several impacts of the drug on the organ. [2]

Those included:

  • Degenerative vesicular and fat changes
  • Chronic active and persistent hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Reduction in the amount of glycogen in hepatocytes, as well as the Kupffer cell’s dominant hypertrophy

Oxycodone’s Impact on the Liver

Typically a physician prescribes Oxycodone to a patient for pain relief. Doctors often attempt to stay away from Oxycodone because of its addictive properties. But oxycodone does relieve pain that other pain medications don’t treat or patients can’t tolerate.

Despite being used for many decades, researchers are finding the combination of the drug and other opioid-acetaminophen medications has become a common cause of acute liver injury. The injury to the liver in this scenario typically occurs due to excessive use of the medication for the opioid effect. This leads to a secondarily and usually unintentional overdose of acetaminophen. [3]

The Impact of a Meth Addiction on the Liver

Methamphetamine, METH, is a highly addictive stimulant that has many negative effects on the brain. Methamphetamine can be produced in several different forms, and so it is consumed in many ways. METH can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed.

Much of the research around the use of METH focuses on the drug’s impact on the central nervous system. Abusing the drug contributes to negatively altered neuronal function and cellular damage[4].

Damage to the liver and other organs, while less researched, has also been reported.  Following METH use, a person can experience METH-induced hyperthermia and ultimately liver damage. METH-induced hyperthermia contributes to structural liver damage and functional impairment associated with hepatotoxicity.

Inhalants and the Liver

Inhalants overall have a vast impact on the body. People inhale a wide range of products, some very surprising. These include gasoline, aerosols, and freon. They often produce negative impacts on the brain, motor skills, and sensory system. [5]

Researchers have found addiction to this group of drugs damages internal organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and bone marrow. Freon is particularly damaging because of its cooling effects. In addition, experts believe paint thinners and degreasers have major impacts on the liver, though more research is needed.

Ecstasy Use and the Impact on the Liver

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA or Molly, is a common nightclub drug. The drug is similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, and it produces a feeling of increased energy, happiness, emotional warmth and distorts the senses and time perception. [6]

 Researchers have found that MDMA side effects include:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias
  • Hepatitis and liver induced injuries

Ecstasy hepatotoxicity, liver damage from the drug, varies in people who consume the drug. The impact can range from mild hepatitis that will eventually resolve to full-on liver failure that requires a transplant. 

Drug Addiction Affects the Liver: Withdrawal and Treatment

People who abuse drugs will experience a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms. If not cared for properly, the withdrawal process can cause a relapse or even death. With many of the drugs discussed above, you may feel withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, anxiety, rapid heart beating, sweating, and shaking. [5]

At Desert Cove Recovery, we help you begin to understand the root of the addiction and how you can heal from the addiction and mend your body from the devastating effects of drug addiction on the liver.

You can overcome your addiction and regain a healthy life without drug use. Get help today.

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/sometimes-drugs-and-liver-dont-mix

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596609/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547955/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4184573/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64116/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331654/

About Blake Nichols

Blake Nichols is the Director of Operations at Desert Cove Recovery. Blake battled his own addiction to drugs and alcohol and was given the gift of recovery at the age of 23. Since 2008, Blake has dedicated his life and career to the field of addiction. He has experience in all aspects of addiction treatment including direct care, admissions, marketing, and administration.
Blake feels that the greatest reward of working in the recovery field is being part of the transformation that a person goes through from the time they arrive and begin treatment, through the hard work and the Miracle of recovery, and ultimately the change into a confident and capable person ready to carry the message of recovery.
"My career has focused on serving others. I have accepted ownership of my responsibilities as that is the key to working at the highest level of professionalism. I have worked to be positive and offer solution-based suggestions in my work and personal life."