Bowel health is a stigmatized health concern for many people. Bowel problems can cause embarrassment but also may signal serious health issues. With addiction, bowel issues may impact a person’s chances of recovery. Concurrent conditions, including those a person may not be aware of, are also important to know about. Self-medicating can make things worse, rather than better. Learn more about bowel health and the link to substance abuse.
Using Substances for Movement
The use of drugs to create easier, more controlled bowel movements is ongoing. Caffeine (tea or coffee) can wake up tired bowels, a cigarette, marijuana, or even a drink may make people feel like they need to use the bathroom. Constipation is a common problem which may signal something else going on. Physiological and psychological effects of drugs can help relax the bowels but there are healthier, more effective ways of regulating bowel movements. Ensuring proper hydration, getting exercise, and fixing the diet to contain more fiber are ways to shift bowel health into a positive gear rather than focus elsewhere.
Coping with Gas
Passing gas is normal. Most people are healthy and pass gas multiple times a day, whether they realize it or not. In spite of the high cost of smoking, some will use it to cover up flatulence that feels uncontrollable without considering the other negative impacts on health. Smokers cannot seem to quit smoking and in social situations are thinking about how they can smoke to cover up self-confidence. People who suffer from the discomfort of trapped gas may use marijuana or cigarettes to relax the bowels and yet are too embarrassed to discuss it with their doctor. Constipation can be dealt with in other ways that may help alleviate symptoms if a doctor knows about it.
Diarrhea or Fecal Incontinence
One of the most serious impacts that people face is avoidance of life-saving detox treatment for substance use disorders because they are anxious about diarrhea or incontinence. They worry about getting proper medication management when they’ve been used to drugs for so long. People who use heroin might feel disgusted with the process of withdrawal, especially when diarrhea occurs. They want to avoid people while in withdrawal from everyone, event medical staff. Severe withdrawal symptoms need to be attended to so it is not a safety issue of dehydration.
Other Causes of Bowel Issues
The best reason to face up to bowel symptoms is to get appropriate treatment. Other health conditions may be serious and very harmful if left untreated. Staying silent about bowel systems and using drugs to cope with problems may prevent you from identifying the cause of your bowel symptoms. If the cause is addressed, whether through diet, behavior, etc, it can eradicate distress that can keep you in a harmful pattern of substance use. Incontinence is often a symptom of or co-occurs with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which can be triggered by long-term alcohol or drug use. These can mimic dementia symptoms and occasionally result in incontinence. Seeing a doctor and addiction treatment specialists may outline what is truly going on and start a process of getting the help a person needs to cope appropriately with bowel health and addiction.
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