Studies show that the long-term effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the body are widespread. The internal organs of someone suffering from a substance use disorder are no exception. The kidneys, liver, pancreas and stomach may be damaged, sometimes permanently, due to prolonged substance abuse.
The kidneys are a pair of internal organs that sit on either side of the spine at the back of the abdomen. Their function is to filter blood. Several times each day, the total volume of blood in our bodies passes through our kidneys. The functions of the kidneys are to remove waste, regulate the balance of fluids in the body and maintain electrolytes levels. The kidneys make urine as they filter the blood, which is channeled into the bladder.
Certain drugs may cause kidney damage or failure, sometimes from dangerously high increases in body temperature and muscle deterioration.
MDMA is a stimulant, also known as ecstasy, that can lead to kidney failure. It’s often taken at parties and raves where there is vigorous physical activity for extended periods of time, and the body’s temperature can rise markedly. The extremely high body temperature leads to rapid muscle breakdown, releasing fibers into the bloodstream. The kidneys cannot eliminate this waste, which can cause them to fail. 1
The liver is a large organ that sits on the right side of the abdomen. The main function of the liver is to clean old and damaged blood cells out of the bloodstream. The liver also detoxifies substances and metabolizes drugs. When the liver is carrying out these functions, it produces a bile that goes into the intestines.
Alcohol abuse research has shown about 20-40 percent of people who drink heavily develop serious alcohol-related liver diseases, including alcoholic hepatitis, where inflammation and swelling of the liver result. Cirrhosis is another common disease among people with alcohol addiction, leading to liver failure from the development of scar tissue.2
The pancreas sits across the back of the abdomen. One part of the pancreas is on the right side of the body and connects to the small intestine. It aids digestion by producing digestive enzymes, transporting them to the intestine. The pancreas also regulates blood sugar.
Alcohol can also have serious health effects on the pancreas. When a person drinks heavily, the pancreas produces toxic substances that can result in an inflammation called pancreatitis. This is a dangerous condition because blood vessels swell in the pancreas, preventing proper digestion.3
The stomach secretes acids and enzymes that are needed to digest food. Drinking alcohol in large amount or for long periods of time can lead to stomach issues.
When inflammation of the stomach develops from heavy drinking, cells are lost and replaced by fibrous tissues. As a result, the stomach’s abilities to secrete the needed substances are impaired, leading to serious digestive problems.4
Treatment for Addiction
When individuals are struggling with addiction, it’s essential to seek help to avoid serious internal organ damage and other health conditions. Professional substance abuse rehab treats both physical disorders and addiction to promote healing and improve well-being.