Effects of Drug Abuse on the Liver

Drug abuse and its effects, while considerably less well-known than the effects of alcohol abuse, can wreak equally harmful havoc on the liver. When you think about it, it’s very simple. The liver is responsible for breaking down all things ingested or absorbed into the bloodstream and filtering out the toxins so the body can absorb the healthy nutrients that remain. This normal function for this organ becomes problematic when we start putting extreme amounts of toxins into our bodies, essentially making the liver work overtime to remove all of the poison so it doesn’t have adverse effects on the rest of our system. And as you can probably guess, there are not many things out there that can cause the buildup of toxins in the body the way that drug abuse can.

Heroin and the Liver

Heroin has its most profound effect on the liver through the illness of hepatitis. Hepatitis basically means the swelling and inflammation of the liver most often due to a viral infection. People can get hepatitis from using heroin regardless of the method of ingestion. Many heroin addicts get hepatitis through snorting the drug as it’s never cooked in this form. It’s also extremely common for heroin addicts to pass hepatitis from one party to another through the practice of sharing unclean needles. Hepatitis B is the most common and can be the most severe form of the virus to affect heroin addicts and others who engage in intravenous drug abuse. This is because this particular virus is generally transmitted via blood and the severity of it is linked directly to the physical health of the sufferer before they contracted the disease, and heroin addicts are notoriously malnourished and generally unhealthy.

Inhalants and the Liver

The effects of inhalants on the body in general somewhat resemble the effects of alcohol abuse. What happens here is when the various chemical vapors are inhaled, the body is immediately starved of oxygen, causing each organ in the body to work that much harder to restore it back to healthier levels. Chronic inhalant abuse can cause significant damage to the liver, which depending on the longevity of the drug abuse will determine if the organ can recover at all after prolonged abstinence. Carbon tetrachloride specifically, which was commonly used as a dry cleaning solvent and refrigerant has such a strong association with liver damage that it is actually used to induce liver disease in animal models.