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When Getting Sober Reveals Another Illness

Health in Addiction Recovery While getting sober is often touted as the solution to all your problems, it’s not a magic bullet. As you grow accustomed to repairing relationships and waking up hangover-free, you may think that nothing could ever go wrong. In spite of the numerous benefits of recovery, everyone will eventually experience some sort of difficulty with their physical and emotional health. As your body recovers from prolonged drug and alcohol misuse, it’s not uncommon to start noticing some issues. Below, we explain what to be on the lookout for, as well as what to do when you uncover maladies associated with drug use.  

Why Am I Just Noticing This Issue Now?

During active addiction, the only priority is one’s substance use. Activities are restricted to those that contribute to drug use. More and more time will be spent trying to obtain drugs or alcohol, using them, and recovering from their effects. As these substances take over day-to-day life, other necessary obligations fall by the wayside. This means that it’s normal for those addicted to drugs and alcohol to begin ignoring critical aspects of self-care. This extends beyond pop culture’s idea of self-care as face masks and bubble baths. People in the grip of addiction often ignore their personal hygiene, resulting in oral health issues, as well as a generally unkempt appearance. When using illicit substances in particular, people avoid interactions with healthcare professionals. They do not want to be “found out” or have anything happen that could interfere with continuing their drug use. These factors combine to create a perfect storm for bad health: a lack of preventative maintenance, along with zero preventative measures, mean that those entering sobriety may begin to notice issues that were completely hidden during active addiction.  

The Health Effects of Drug and Alcohol Use

It’s no secret that drugs and alcohol use wreaks havoc on your physical health. When your body is forced to process increasing amounts of narcotics, the consequences can be severe. Drug use weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infection and illness than ever before. Stimulants and hypnotics alike can affect your heart rate – by speeding it up or slowing it down over and over again, you are more at risk for heart conditions like cardiac arrhythmia, heart attacks, and collapsed veins. Gastrointestinal issues are also common in early recovery, resulting in nausea, changes in appetite, and weight gain or loss. The liver is overtaxed by addiction, meaning that you should begin taking steps to prevent liver damage and failure as soon as possible. Finally, there are a number of mental side effects of prolonged exposure to drugs and alcohol. Disorientation, confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and decision-making issues are all commonly experienced by those coming out of active addiction. In these cases, it’s vital to begin speaking with professionals who can equip you to navigate day-to-day life without your substance of choice. Luckily, the sooner your addiction is brought under control, the sooner you will be able to work with your healthcare provider to begin undoing the physical damage done by continuous substance use.  

Managing Chronic Pain Post-Addiction

Many people first find themselves in the grips of addiction when they begin taking prescription painkillers. Often, these are taken from a loved one’s medicine cabinet in an effort to self-medicate or are prescribed by one’s physician for the management of chronic pain. We now know that opioid medications are highly addictive substances, and not ones that should be taken lightly. If you have been using these drugs, or others, to lessen chronic pain associated with other health concerns, it’s highly important to work with your doctor to find non-opioid solutions for pain management. Be transparent with them about your history of substance use. This ensures the best outcome and preserves your sobriety.  

Steps to Take After Addiction Treatment

Once your residential treatment program has concluded, we encourage you to begin taking steps to address any potential health concerns as soon as possible.

  1. Make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP). Get them up to speed on your substance use history, your medical concerns, and anything that has happened since your last appointment. Ensure that they give you a thorough examination and screenings for any potential health problems.
  2. Coordinate with your insurance. It may have been some time since you reviewed your coverage. Update your insurance plan to reflect any concerns or tests you would like to have run in the near future.
  3. Visit a mental health professional. Don’t forget that mental health is a critical component of your overall well-being. By making an appointment with a psychiatrist, you can rule out or treat any mood disorders or personality disorders that may come into play with the cessation of drug or alcohol use.
  4. Go to the dentist. As you work on the rest of your health, another preventative step is to receive adequate dental care. This can clear plaque buildup and rid you of cavities before they worsen or become infected.
  5. Prioritize a balanced diet. A crucial element of your health is consuming nutritious meals. By lowering your intake of processed foods and focusing on the amount of vitamins and minerals consumed, you’ll see immediate positive effects. If you’re unsure of how to get started, consult with a nutritionist.


The Complete Continuum of Care

BRC Recovery is uniquely structured to address each piece of the addiction treatment process. From detox to ongoing aftercare, we specialize in walking with people through their full journeys to recovery. If you or a loved one has uncovered health concerns post-treatment, we encourage you to reach out to BRC today by calling 866-461-1759.