How Drugs and Alcohol Impact the Immune System

February 9, 2023 | Alcohol Addiction

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How Drugs and Alcohol Impact the Immune System

The body’s immune system is a complex system of organs, cells, and proteins that protect your body from infections while protecting your body’s white blood cell count. The body’s immune system works to keep a record of the gut microbiome cells that it has previously defeated so that your innate immune system will be able to recognize and overcome any gut microbiome cells. 

White blood cells are a key component of your body’s immune system. White blood cells will detect any bacteria, viruses, or parasites that are foreign invaders within your body and work to produce an immune attack to avoid any effect on your immune system. The primary components of your body’s immune system are:

  • White blood cell 
  • Spleen
  • Bone marrow 
  • The tonsils and thymus 
  • Lymphatic system 

How Alcohol Affects the Immune System

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Engaging in alcohol abuse is known to have significant effects on your mind, body, and spirit. Drinking alcohol is known to create a  weakened immune system. The health effects of alcohol abuse will impact your liver functioning and other bodily organ functions that can affect your immune system. The longer you engage in alcohol abuse, the more your body’s immune system is unable to fight off infection and avoid adverse health effects. Chronic alcohol abuse causes compromised lung adaptive immunity increasing the risks of respiratory functioning or pneumonia. Alcohol abuse is also known to weaken the immune system functioning to fight off gut microbiome concerns and infections. Drinking alcohol through heavy drinking behaviors or binge drinking will increase the risks of developing alcoholic liver disease which impacts your ability to fight off disease or infection and can lead to autoimmune diseases. 

How Drugs Affect the Immune System

Different drugs will impact immune function and capabilities differently depending on your substance. Engaging in an opioid or heroin addiction is known to decrease a person’s sleeping habits, and eating patterns, and impact mental health issues which often results in a weakened immune system. Cocaine addicts will experience damage within the mucus membranes in the nose, throat, and lungs which increases the risks of upper respiratory infections. For cocaine addicts who smoke crack as their method of choice, it increases the chances of developing lung damage due to a weakened immune system. Prescription drug abuse can cause a suppression in white blood cell count resulting in your body’s immune system being unable to fight off disease or infection. 

Long-Term Impacts of a Compromised Immune System

When your body’s immune system becomes compromised, there can be long-term health effects that can impact your body’s functioning.  A weakened immune system will affect both physical and mental health functioning. Many individuals with compromised immune function will experience increased levels of stress and an inability to manage any presenting stress. Physical health effects can include having colds for prolonged periods even after attempting to treat them or experiencing digestive concerns which increases the risks of chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, and viruses. A low immune function will cause a person to need more extended periods to heal from wounds and be exposed to frequent infections. Individuals will often feel apathetic and have severe low energy. 

Can You Heal the Immune System After Addiction?

After you have undergone an addiction treatment program and overcome your alcohol addiction or drug abuse, there is hope to store your immune function through natural, holistic treatments. Individuals will be encouraged to develop a healthy lifestyle that incorporates proper sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and reduced stress in their life. Holistic treatments help to supplement these factors by allowing you to take care of your mind, body, and spirit through a whole-person integrated approach to a healing process.