When an adult consumes alcohol or uses drugs for an extended period of time, the effects of their addiction can affect them on a biological level. In many cases, as their bodies try to fight off the toxins in alcohol or drugs, a person’s immune system can suffer and be weakened in the process, leaving them vulnerable to other ailments.

Understanding exactly how drug and alcohol addiction affects the immune system can help ensure that you or your loved ones are taking the proper steps to improve their health in recovery.

The Effects of Addiction on Your Immune System

Whenever harmful pathogens or toxins enter our body, our immune system will try to fight them off in order to keep you healthy. However, if those substances continuously enter your body, your immune system will be weakened over time since it can’t build up a true immunity to drugs and alcohol. It can also be weakened by the side effects of drug or alcohol use, such as dehydration, decreased eating or sleeping, and mental or physical exhaustion.

As the immune system grows weaker, you’re left more vulnerable to infections, poor organ function, and disease.

How Alcohol Affects the Immune System

Alcohol abuse can lead to a number of health concerns, some of which include digestive issues (alcohol damages the enzymes needed for proper digestion), liver failure, autoimmunity, and a decrease in the number or quality of your white blood cells.

Without the defense system that proper white blood cells provide, those struggling with alcoholism can ultimately suffer from life-threatening diseases.

How Drugs Affects the Immune System

Different drugs can have different effects on the body’s immune system. Some of the more common drug-related immune issues include:

  • Opioids: Cause a decrease in sleeping, nutrition, and/or mental or physical health, resulting in a generally weakened immune system.

  • Cocaine: Causes a malfunction of specific protein systems, leading to a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections and other diseases.

  • Prescription Drugs: Cause a suppression of certain kinds of white blood cells, leaving the body open to infection and unable to fight off ailments.

How to Remedy Immune Deficiencies After Addiction

Upon entering a treatment program for drug or alcohol addiction, you will work with physicians, nutritionists, and counselors to determine a plan to improve your diet and overall health in order to help your immune system recover from prolonged substance abuse.

At Silver Ridge, we develop a personalized plan to help midlife adults break free from their substance addiction. Our holistic treatment program supports the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of our patients through a variety of research-backed treatment modalities.

Contact us today to speak to our team and find out how we can help you achieve lasting recovery.