Chronic Health Problems Don't Go Away Once Addicts Are in Recovery

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More than a third of the millions of Americans in recovery for drug or alcohol misuse still experience physical health issues, finds a study from Massachusetts General Hospital Recovery Research Institute in Boston published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The MGH researchers analyzed data from the 2017 National Recovery Survey. Of the more than 2,000 adults in recovery from misusing alcohol, cannabis (marijuana0, opioids, stimulants, or other drugs, 37 percent had been diagnosed with one or more of the serious health problems listed below, which can be caused by or worsened by drug and alcohol abuse:

  • Liver disease
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

The health problems recovering addicts developed depended in part on the type of substance use disorder. For example, those in recovery from opioid or stimulant abuse had a higher risk of hepatitis C than those recovering from alcohol use disorder.

Compared with the general population, people in recovery had higher rates of hepatitis C, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes, say the researchers. Those with severe substance use disorder who were older when they developed a disease and entered recovery later were up to 7 percent more likely to have two or more chronic health problems.