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The Relationship Between HIV/AIDS And Substance Abuse

The Relationship Between HIV/AIDS And Substance Abuse

Drug addiction can facilitate a set of very risky behaviors. When someone suffers from addiction, he or she may go to great lengths to seek out a substance. This practice can put a person at risk for contracting dangerous viral infections that spread through blood and other bodily fluids, including HIV and AIDS. In addition, a person can see heightened HIV/AIDS symptoms when they contract the infection while addicted to drugs.

How Do You Contract HIV/AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a viral infection that targets the body’s immune cells, which are crucial to keeping the body healthy when a person is sick. When a person contracts HIV, the infection targets these immune cells and kills them off. This makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections while sick, which makes diseases much more devastating when they occur.

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is the final stage of the HIV infection. When someone has AIDS, their body cannot fight off any disease. Not every HIV patient will reach the AIDS stage, but this stage is often fatal.

A person can transmit HIV to another through specific activities that involve exchanging bodily fluids. Blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, breast milk, and pre-seminal fluids can carry HIV and infect another person through transfer. Common ways a person can contract HIV include:

  • Sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV/AIDS
  • Having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV/AIDS
  • Receiving a transfusion with contaminated blood
  • Being stuck by an HIV-contaminated object, such as a discarded needle

What Are The Symptoms And Complications Of HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS can cause significant issues for patients. However, the symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the stage that a person is in. Certain factors can worsen and heighten these symptoms, including drug addiction.

Primary HIV Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of HIV can develop within a month after infection. People describe these symptoms as flu-like and they can last for a few weeks. Common symptoms of primary HIV infection include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Rashes
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores
  • Fever

Clinical Latent Infection And Symptomatic HIV Infection

After the primary stage, many people do not experience obvious symptoms of HIV aside from swollen lymph nodes. This stage is a latent clinical infection and can last for about a decade without treatment.

The next stage is symptomatic HIV infection. As HIV progresses, a person can develop infections and persistent symptoms such as:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Oral yeast infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Shingles

Symptoms Of AIDS

Without treatment, HIV can progress into AIDS after 10 years. Thankfully, most HIV patients do not develop AIDS due to updated medical technology, screening, and education. Common symptoms of AIDS include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Skin rashes
  • Chronic fever
  • Soaking night sweats
  • White spots and lesions on the tongue and in the mouth

Complications Of HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS can lead to dangerous complications. Due to the compromised immune system of people with HIV/AIDS, these infections and diseases can often be fatal. With a compromised immune system, even a routine cold or flu can be devastating.

Common complications of HIV/AIDS include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • The development of certain cancers, particularly lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Wasting syndrome
  • Kidney disease
  • AIDS dementia complex
  • Cytomegalovirus, a form of herpes
  • Cryptococcal meningitis
  • Toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis, infections spread by animal feces

Addiction And Heightened HIV/AIDS Risks

Using drugs can pose significant risks to HIV/AIDS patients and put people who do not have HIV/AIDS at a greater risk of contracting the disease.

Risky Behaviors And HIV/AIDS Contraction

Because drugs can impair a person’s judgment, using them can lead people to engage in behaviors that they would not normally do. This puts them at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than other people. They are more likely to engage in such risky behaviors as sharing dirty needles or unprotected sex.

HIV/AIDS Progression And Drug Use

Using drugs can speed up the progression of HIV/AIDS. Drugs have a very damaging effect on the human body and overall physical health, including damage to the immune system. With both drug use and HIV/AIDS attacking this vital system, a person’s HIV/AIDS symptoms can worsen. In fact, drug users can develop AIDS much sooner than the normal 10-year period.

Brain Damage, HIV/AIDS, And Substance Abuse

Addiction can also affect how HIV/AIDS damages brain cells. When a person has an addiction to drugs, they experience changes in their brain chemistry. As a result, the HIV symptoms can appear significantly worse in these patients than in others. With a drug addiction, HIV can enter the brain more easily and affect the nerve cells, damaging memory and learning capabilities.

HIV/AIDS Treatment And Addiction Recovery

HIV/AIDS treatment has significantly progressed over the last thirty years. Fewer people are contracting AIDS and more people are receiving advanced treatment for their condition. However, many people still experience significant stigma around the disease. When combined with the stigma of addiction, many people may refrain from seeking help.

Many addiction recovery centers and counselors have comprehensive training in helping people overcome addiction and manage HIV/AIDS symptoms in a compassionate manner. Seeking help is crucial to overcoming these conditions and finding peace through recovery.

Addiction recovery centers can provide a number of services to help someone manage both HIV/AIDS symptoms and substance abuse, such as:

  • Therapy for reducing addiction habits and developing healthy coping mechanisms
  • A structured schedule to help a person develop a healthy lifestyle, such as engaging in regular exercise and eating a healthy diet
  • Medical support to manage HIV/AIDS symptoms, the body’s dependency on drugs, and withdrawal symptoms

Do you need help managing HIV/AIDS and addiction in Maryland? Maryland Recovery can help. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs for HIV/AIDS patients at our facility in Bel Air, Maryland.

  • "Maryland Recovery gave me the tools and counseling to accept my past and forge a new future for myself. Life today has a hope and brightness to it that had not experienced before. I got a job and an apartment with the help of Maryland Recovery. I am able to be part of my family’s life again."
  • "I am certain that this program helped save my life. I was provided with an opportunity to learn how to live a sober life. I learned to be responsible and accountable for my behavior. When practicing the principles of the program and remaining willing to grow on this journey, I experience a freedom I never knew, but always wanted."
  • "The only things that I knew when I arrived at Maryland Recovery (MR) was that I was broken: spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken and that my way of doing things had gotten me there. The people at MR understood who I was better than I did. They assured me that I was not alone, with that came a glimpse of hope and some relief."
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