Managing Medical Complications

Health complications of addictions

Treating men for addiction to drugs and alcohol is complicated and difficult.

Men (and women) who use drugs in an abusive way often also exhibit a dual diagnosis (like trauma, depression, anxiety disorder, etc.). 80% of alcoholics exhibit another axis I disorders.

The price that the body pays for the abuse of alcohol is high as well and complicates the treatment we provide even further.

Heavy drinking (more than 5 drinks a day for men) causes problems with the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems.

Gastrointestinal Complications

Chronic heavy alcohol consumption can lead to fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic heptatits, and cirrhosis. Steatosis- the first stage of alcoholic liver disease-can occur from heavy drinking for just a few edays but can be reversed with abstincence from alcohol. Prolonged use can lead to alcoholic hepatitis.

Symptoms of Steatosis include:

Abdominal pain and tenderness
Lack of appetite
Spider-like blood vessels
Increased bleeding
Cirrhosis of the Liver

Liver damage that occurs from alcoholically drinking is not necessarily reversible by abstinence and cirrhosis can develop. Cirrhosis is a potentially fatal liver disease and is contracted by about 70% of patients who have developed alcoholic hepatitis.

Some of the common physical manifestations of cirrhosis include:

Generalized weakness
Anorexia (with signs of malnutrition)
Increased bleeding
Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is the most common cause of hospitalization from alcohol related GI complications. Is seen more often than liver disease, although it is not as closely associated with alcoholism in the public eye. The severity of acute pancratitis can vary but it can be very difficult to treat and is often fatal. The treatment of pancreatitis is very unpleasant and there can be nothing taken orally – not any water. The sad fact for many alcoholics that develop pancreatitis is that they end up in the hospital with the sensation that they would like nothing more than a drop of water but cannot even have that – due to years of imbibing liquor.

Cardiovascular Effects

Recently news stories that have trumpeted the potential “benefits” of light drinking on the cardiovascular system have probably done more harm to people than good.

Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypertension and ischemic heart disease. Incidence of hypertension is two-fold greater in individuals who have more than two alcoholic drinks per day and highest in the demographic who has more than 5 per day.

Prolonged excessive alcohol consumption is the leading cause of nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy.

Symptoms of alcoholic cardiomyopathy include:

Loss of appetite
Irregular pulse
Producticve cough (with pink/frothy material)
Lower extremity edema
Cardiac function CAN recover with early diagnosis and alcohol abstinence.

Cognitive Decline

The effects of moderate or light drinking on cognitive function have been the controversial subject of many studies. One thing that is known for certain is that heavy drinking (over 30 drinks per week) is known to cause cognitive decline and serious impairment to the ability of the user to think and react to normal life situations.

Alcohol dependent individuals have a hard time with verbal enunciation, short term memory problems, and exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting Help

It is heartbreaking when someone comes to our treatment center with some of the symptoms or diseases above and has to face the reality that their drinking has caused them issues that can permanently change their ability to function and may end their lives.

People who are in the throes of alcoholism often also exhibit a strong sense of denial and it can be extremely difficult to get men to agree to alcoholism treatment. Contact our treatment center because we can help connect you with a professional who is trained to confront family members who lives are threatened by their drug or alcohol use.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous