Dealing with the Medical Consequences of our Substance Abuse



Addiction takes a significant toll on our mental and physical health. While most of the damage done during our active substance abuse can be repaired, it is important to undergo a full medical workup upon transitioning to sobriety so you can be aware of any underlying health issues which developed as a result of your addiction. For many of us this is a scary prospect, but in the long run it is better to be informed as to your medical condition rather than continue to proceed through life blissfully ignorant. What all should you do in order to gather this information as to your medical condition now that you are sober?


First, many residential treatment centers will require blood draws and other medical tests to determine your health shortly after admission. You should inquire as to the option of receiving STD testing during this time, as our sexual behaviors in active addiction often leave us vulnerable to contracting STIs. One of the primary concerns with alcoholics and drug abusers is the damage done to the liver, so part of the blood panel should be a liver enzyme test. This will determine whether your liver is healthy or inflamed, and if so how severe the inflammation is. Treatment centers test for liver enzymes early on so that your medication protocols can account for any liver damage you have experienced, avoiding further inflammation and allowing for your liver to repair.


Once you have completed your residential treatment and have returned to life in the real world, you should consult a physician and receive a full physical, with a focus on your kidney health, cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular health. These aspects of our systems are often negatively impacted by our addiction, either directly as a result of our substance of choice’s effect on the organ or indirectly from the malnutrition which accompanies active addiction. Diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease are prevalent in the alcoholic and addict communities, but the effects of these chronic illnesses can often be mitigated and even reversed if we take steps to correct imbalances in our diet and lifestyle. The first step towards solving these problems is identifying them, which is why it is so important you consult with your physician and receive a full physical examination in order to spot any health issues that need addressed.


Getting sober is a significant positive contribution to our overall health and wellness. It would be a shame to kneecap the potential health benefits offered in sobriety by neglecting any chronic conditions or illnesses which were formed in your active addiction. It may be frightening to face these harsh realities, but better to be informed than ignorant especially when it comes to one’s health. Your community of sober supports will be there to comfort you should you receive a particularly upsetting diagnosis, and always keep in mind that as long as we have our sobriety we are able to face any challenge our higher power places in our path, overcoming these obstacles in order to grow in life and in our recovery!



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