Many of the dangers associated with heroin addiction do not come directly from the drug itself. Of these, perhaps malnutrition is the most concerning. Though heroin use is not the cause of malnutrition, the drug does affect the appetites of its users. Unfortunately, this appetite loss will often lead to malnutrition.
While malnutrition is not a major concern in the larger scope of heroin addiction, it does work to negatively affect other types of complications surrounding the issue. Disease, infection and rheumatological issues may result from extreme malnutrition, as the lack in food nutrients inhibit the body’s immune system’s ability to maintain itself. As such, infection and disease are free to take over the struggling system.
Malnourished addicts will often appear underweight, with digestive issues and poor complexions. Fatigue and muscle aches are also common.
In addition to its effect on the body’s ability to ward off disease and infection, malnutrition can ultimately pose issue with bodily functions. Hair and body will stop growing, women will stop menstruation, and the risk for tooth decay is heightened.
In an effect to counter the damage caused by malnutrition, physicians will provide nutrient-rich supplements to the individual. However, this alone will not address the issue completely. Addicts will continue living with appetite loss until the drug is removed from their system completely. Relapse will likely result in a return to the malnourished state.
Many people hang on to the belief that malnutrition only affects long-term heroin users. However, studies show that that addicts can in fact suffer from the condition after days without food or consuming foods that lack nutritional value.