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What You Need to Know About Addiction, Your Immune System, & Lung Cancer

Drug Abuse’s Suppression of the Immune System

It’s lung cancer awareness month!

Drugs are bad, m’kay?

But, did you know addictive substances are detrimental to your immune system? Opioid use depresses the respiratory system and inhibits one’s immune response.

Cocaine users have an increased risk of developing infections, according to the Journal of Biological Psychiatry.

Addictive substances compromise the immune system by weakening the body’s ability to respond to pathogens. Alcohol is one of the main culprits spurring fatigue, exhaustion, and dehydration— all contributing factors to a weakened immune system.

Additionally, prolonged use of addictive substances contributes to organ damage (ie: alcohol derived cirrhosis). Excessive use of alcohol specifically may cause autoimmunity, wherein the body begins attacking its own cells.

Ouch.

Do Drugs Increase Your Risk of Developing Lung Cancer?

According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute chronic substance use disorders induce a medley of potentially fatal diseases including heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.

Did you know 30 percent of people who die from cancer were made sick by their addictions?

Tobacco addiction that is, but wait— there’s more!

The three most likely federally illicit addictive substances to cause respiratory (or lung) complications include marijuana, crack cocaine, and opiates. Conversely, injection needle use of any substance exposes users to communicable diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C.

Most notably, Hepatitis C and HIV’s compromise of the immune system give rise to lung infections, tuberculosis, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer of the lymph nodes or blood vessels and causes tumors on the skin. The disease foments when the cells of one’s body grow exponentially— and completely out of the normal scope of healthy, regulated growth.

In other words, the body loses its ability to regulate cell growth.

Using the Immune System to Fight Addiction

New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience speculates we may be able to harness the power of immune peptides within the immune system to curb cravings for addictive substances.

That’s the theory anyway.

Researches are currently looking to prove their theories in human clinical trials after successfully controlling cravings for food and sugar in mice.

Although initial findings are exciting for the new age of precision (or genomic) medicine, researchers warn their findings will never be a panacea for substance use disorders, but one of many tools in our arsenal of the future to help people on the road to recovery.

Further Reading:

4 Healthy Eating Habits for Addiction Recovery

7 Ideas for Your Mental Health This Week

5 Healthy Habits to Replace Your Unhealthy Addiction