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3 Embarrassing Physical Side Effects of Substance Abuse

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3 Embarrassing Physical Side Effects of Substance Abuse

You’d be hard-pressed to find an addict who wanted to become addicted to his drug of choice. Virtually no one has a few beers or shoots up expecting to become addicted to alcohol or heroin. But it happens nonetheless. Addiction is both a mental and physical disease and there are serious ramifications for both your mind and your body if it takes a hold on your life. We are already pretty familiar with cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis C, anxiety, and depression as resultant disorders of addiction. But there are many other consequences. These strange and embarrassing physical side effects are just a few markers that substance abuse uses to claim your body.

physical side effects

Embarrassing Physical Side Effects of Substance Abuse:

1. Chronic Constipation

Opiates are very good at relieving pain. They also produce a numbing, feel-good sensation that can cause people to abuse the drug. But long-term opiate abuse can lead to chronic constipation. And this isn’t a rare occurrence. Opioid-induced constipation is one of the common physical side effects of opiate addiction.

Opioids increase the length of time it takes things to move through your gastric system. This happens because opioids decrease longitudinal propulsive peristalsis. Peristalsis is a series of muscular contractions that the small intestine uses to move food along. During digestion longitudinal muscles in the wall of the small intestine will contract to move food down the tract. Opiates inhibit and slow down this process. Food will take much longer to move through your gastric tract, which causes constipation. Long-term opiate abuse can also paralyze the muscles in your stomach, causing food to just sit in there undigested.

Constipation isn’t just an uncomfortable situation. It can also cause other serious complications due to straining. These include:

  • Hemorrhoids – swollen veins in the anus
  • Rectal prolapse – intestine protruding from the anus
  • Anal fissures – torn skin tissue

Treatment for opioid addiction is the best course of action. Not only will it help any embarrassing physical side effects, but it will also help you break free of your addiction, which is a much bigger issue than constipation. However, there are a few other things you can do to help relieve opioid-induced constipation. Exercise and probiotics can both help relieve constipation. And if your opioid addiction stemmed from a pain relief prescription, you can try these natural remedies as a healthier alternative.

2. Gynecomastia (“Man Boobs”)

Gynecomastia is the growth of breast tissue in men, usually resulting from an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen is commonly thought of as a female hormone while testosterone is thought of as belonging to males. However, men also produce estrogen just as females produce testosterone. But too much estrogen compared to the amount of testosterone in a man’s body is not good. Among other things, it can cause a man’s breast tissue to swell.

While anabolic steroids are most commonly associated with gynecomastia, this embarrassing physical side effect can also accompany heroin and alcohol abuse. So far, research on the link between heroin and breast development in men has been sparse. However, while the mechanism behind it may be unknown, it’s still prevalent and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

physical side effectsOn the other hand, the link between alcohol and gynecomastia is more easily explained. Alcohol is basically empty calories. The extra intake of calories from binge drinking or long-term alcohol abuse is likely to add fatty tissue to a man’s chest. Cirrhosis of the liver – a common result of alcoholism – can also cause gynecomastia because a failed liver is no longer able to remove extra estrogen from the body.

3. Erectile Dysfunction

There are quite a few sexual dysfunctions that can be caused by substance abuse. But erectile dysfunction may seem like the most embarrassing to many people. An erection is caused by an increase in blood flow to the penis and is held by a decrease in circulation of that blood. Some substances interrupt this process, causing erectile difficulties.


After blood flows into the penis to cause an erection, those blood vessels will close to prevent backflow of the blood so the erection can be maintained. But alcohol actually causes blood vessels to expand. This will help blood flow into the penis to start an erection, but it also makes it hard for those blood vessels to close afterwards. If the blood vessels stay open, the erection can’t be maintained. Ultimately, alcohol might help a man get an erection originally, but it will make it much harder for him to hold that erection.


Amphetamines can cause vasoconstriction, which is the narrowing of blood vessels. As mentioned earlier, blood flow is an essential part of erectile function. Blood needs to be able to flow uninhibited to the penis. Vasoconstriction obviously negatively affects that. Vasoconstriction from substance abuse can also cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the arteries that facilitate healthy blood circulation throughout the body, including the penis, which can lead to erectile dysfunction.

There are definitely bigger things to be concerned about regarding addiction besides being embarrassed. But these embarrassing physical side effects aren’t just harmful to self-esteem and social interaction; they’re also signs of bigger issues. Substance abuse and addiction are extremely detrimental to a person’s physical and mental well-being.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can call our staff at 855-737-7363 or use our live chat. Either way, New Start is here to help you.

Posted in Addiction, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction