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Drug Abuse and Hypoxia

Drug Abuse and Hypoxia

Drug abuse and brain damage go hand in hand.

One of the most common side effects of drug addiction is brain damage, particularly acute brain damage as a result of an overdose as well as permanent organ and brain damage as a result of long-term abuse. Because drugs are created to target the brain, it’s no surprise that abusing drugs for long periods of time can cause brain damage and conditions like hypoxia. As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Stuart, we know that opioid drug abuse and hypoxia are closely related, not to mention life-threatening as well.

What Is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a drop in oxygen levels in all or certain parts of the body, such as the brain. When the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen, serious brain damage can occur. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to any drop in oxygen level and can even begin to die less than five minutes after the oxygen supply has been cut off.

The early signs of hypoxia include:

  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bluish skin or lips
  • Coughing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

While the term “hypoxia” refers to a general lack of oxygen to certain areas of the body, there are four specific types of hypoxia:

  • Hypoxic/arterial hypoxia: This form of hypoxia refers to a reduction or complete lack of oxygen that prevents the lungs from getting enough air. Hypoxic hypoxia occurs most commonly in high altitudes and closed breathing spaces.
  • Anemic hypoxia: As the name suggests, anemic hypoxia occurs when the levels of hemoglobin in the blood drop, impeding oxygen from reaching every area of the body. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. When hemoglobin levels are low, the oxygen supply is cut off.
  • Ischemic/stagnant hypoxia: This occurs when blood flow becomes too slow. Stagnant hypoxia could be caused by heart failure, cardiovascular disease, severe blood loss, or blood clots.
  • Dysoxic/Histotoxic/tissue hypoxia: Tissue hypoxia occurs when cells are unable to use oxygen, similar to someone experiencing cyanide poisoning. Cyanide binds to the proteins in blood cells, preventing them from attaching to oxygen.

Those who abuse drugs like fentanyl are at a higher risk of suffering from hypoxia; however, despite the possible damage that drugs can cause the body, people are still unable to quit. That’s because addiction is a chronic disease that is best addressed with professional care. At Banyan Detox Stuart, we offer an opiate detox that’s specifically designed to safely wean patients off the opioids they’ve been abusing.

How Drug Abuse Causes Hypoxia

While causes of hypoxia include situations like traveling at a high altitude or nearly drowning, it can also be caused by drug abuse. When it comes to drug abuse, hypoxia is the result of drug-induced respiratory depression, which is a breathing disorder characterized by shallow or ineffective breathing. Respiratory depression is one of the most common side effects of drug abuse and overdose. Respiratory depression, and subsequently hypoxia, occurs when opioids like fentanyl target the central nervous system and areas of the brain that control breathing, such as the brainstem. When respiratory depression kicks in, the person’s heart rate and temperature decrease, they lose consciousness, and they may begin to suffer from brain cell death.

While this may seem like an extreme case scenario, drug abuse and hypoxia are more common than you think. The United States has been in an opioid epidemic since the late ‘90s, which has resulted in billions of deaths nationwide. Addiction and the brain are linked because the brain becomes hooked on the effects of addiction. The pain-relieving and euphoric effects of opioids hook people into longtime use and make it difficult to quit. Even if you take prescription opioids as directed by your doctor, it’s important to remain cautious. Brain damage caused by drug addiction isn’t always reversible, and addiction doesn’t discriminate.

If you or a loved one struggles with drug addiction, call us today at 888-280-2360 to learn more about the levels of care we offer at Banyan Detox Stuart.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.