Alcohol, Drug Misuse Tied to Long-Term Health Problems

Despite recovery, chronic physical disease continues to impact quality of life, life expectancy

MONDAY, April 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-third of U.S. adults in recovery for alcohol and other drug (AOD) use have health problems related to previous substance use, according to a study published online March 16 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

David Eddie, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues evaluated the prevalence of medical conditions commonly caused or exacerbated by excessive and chronic AOD exposure. A nationally representative sample of 2,002 U.S. adults in AOD problem recovery were compared to the general U.S. population.

The researchers found that 37 percent of the sample had been diagnosed with one or more of nine alcohol- and drug-exacerbated diseases and health conditions: liver disease, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections, cancer, hepatitis C, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and diabetes. Diagnosis with these diseases was associated with a significant reduction in participants' quality of life. Among adults in AOD problem recovery, the prevalence rates of hepatitis C, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes were higher versus the general population. Each additional substance used 10 or more times, older age at disease onset, and resolving the alcohol or other drug problem later in life were associated with a 4 to 7 percent increase in the odds of having two or more chronic physical diseases. Meanwhile, being female, Hispanic, or having a household income >$50,000 were associated with reduced odds of having physical disease.

"Earlier and more assertive intervention is needed for individuals with alcohol and other drug problems to help prevent these other diseases," Eddie said in a statement.

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