The Link between Drug Abuse and Cancer: Can MAT Help?

Is There a Link between Cancer and Drug Abuse?

Alcohol and drug abuse is a severe concern that can lead some individuals to develop cancer as a heavy consequence of their time in active addiction. Sadly, many suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs) have lost their lives to cancer, causing immense heartbreak to their families and communities. Therefore, it is essential to address the link between drug abuse and cancer to improve recovery rates and make meaningful changes in society.

Fortunately, there are options for addiction treatment, like MAT medications through a MAT treatment model, that can help prevent the possibility of developing cancer while also improving life outcomes for those struggling with drug abuse and cancer.

Drug abuse affects millions of people worldwide, and beyond cancer, it can also be emotionally damaging. Over time, individuals in active addiction to substances like opioids, alcohol, or stimulants, to name a few, endure negative impacts on their well-being and emotional health, including damaged relationships, loss of trust, and even legal troubles.

This article by MAT Care Clinics aims to provide a comprehensive synopsis of the link between drug abuse and cancer. We will also explore ways to prevent or potentially lower the risk of developing cancer while battling addiction. Finally, we will discuss ways individuals living in active addiction can receive treatment for substance abuse and addiction before it’s too late.

So, let’s delve deeper into the connection between drug abuse and cancer to understand how substance abuse can increase one’s risk of developing cancer and other adverse experiences.

Click here for more information about MAT Care Clinics and how we serve individuals who experience various substance abuse disorders across New Hampshire. Please read our other blogs about addiction and MAT medications here.

What Is Cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK, cancer is a complex condition affecting the body’s cells by causing them to multiply uncontrollably. Cancer overwhelms the immune system and can spread throughout the body. Damaged DNA can be the root cause of cancer, which can sometimes be inherited or linked to factors like alcohol or drug abuse.

Discoveries of cancer date back to ancient times, meaning it’s not a new condition. In fact, evidence in mummies from ancient Egypt shows the oldest recorded case of breast cancer dates to around 2000 BC in Egypt. According to the National Library of Medicine, the name cancer came from the Greek term for crab, “Karakinos,” which was coined by Hippocrates. Today, research about the history of cancer continues, and treatments have come a long way in helping people live longer with the condition.

What Kind of Cancer Do Those with Substance Use Disorder Get Diagnosed With?

Unfortunately, cancer can affect anyone. However, research shows individuals living with SUDs are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer. In fact, addiction in those also living with cancer includes rates ranging from roughly 2% to 35%, with particularly alarming rates surrounding opioids and alcohol, according to the National Center for Biotechnical Information.

These substances can directly damage DNA and weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to cancerous cells. Additionally, substance use can also indirectly increase cancer risk by leading to unhealthy behaviors such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, or making dangerous, high-risk choices.

Other common types of cancer seen in individuals with SUDs include lung cancer, liver cancer, and head and neck cancers. Lung cancer is strongly associated with smoking tobacco, while liver cancer can be related to heavy alcohol consumption. Tobacco and alcohol use, as well as other substances like marijuana, can also lead to head and neck cancers. It’s important to note different types of cancer are possible in the context of addiction and substance use.

Finally, it’s also important to recognize that having a substance use disorder does not automatically mean someone will develop cancer. However, the increased risk highlights the need for early detection and prevention measures in those struggling with drug abuse and cancer.

Living with Drug Abuse and Cancer

Aside from the physical symptoms, substance abuse and cancer can also exhaust a person’s mental state, as earlier described. The process of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and potential recovery can also be overwhelming and psychologically taxing. This undertaking demonstrates the importance of not only finding effective treatments for addiction but also providing support for those affected by both conditions, as each can be fatal.

It is also vital for individuals experiencing these challenging conditions to have a robust support system of family and friends in place. These networks can provide support and help individuals struggling with cancer and substance abuse maintain their sobriety during complex or demanding times.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals with cancer to turn to alcohol or other mood-altering substances as a coping mechanism, making a solid support network crucial in preventing relapses in some cases.

MAT Treatment Options for Individuals with An SUD and How They Can Help Prevent Cancer

MAT treatment options for cancer in individuals with substance use disorder can be complex and multifaceted. In most cases, the priority is to address the chemical dependency to prevent further damage or the spreading of cancer while also addressing the underlying issues leading to substance abuse. Through a multidisciplinary approach that includes medical professionals, addiction specialists, and mental health professionals, the MAT treatment model for addiction can help prevent cancer for some.

MAT medications work by reducing substance use recovery barriers for better odds of achieving long-term sobriety while promoting stability. These medications often include:

• Methadone
• Buprenorphine
• Naltrexone and more

MAT medications are helpful for many struggling with substance abuse because they reduce drug cravings and relapse rates to improve the recovery experience for many overcoming SUDs.

Furthermore, MAT can also indirectly help prevent cancer by providing a stable environment for patients in recovery to address their substance abuse issues while establishing a more positive lifestyle. For example, showing up for MAT appointments, passing drug screens, and having medical obligations help provide structure and accountability for some clients who may have experienced a lot of chaos in their addiction.

In addition, some MAT treatment providers also offer therapy approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can also help to address underlying psychological issues related to substance abuse and promote healthier emotional regulation.

Cancer and Substance Use Disorder Are Complex Conditions That Require a Comprehensive Approach but Aren’t Hopeless.

While individuals with an SUD are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer, it’s important to remember that everyone is unique and may respond differently to treatment and the impact of their dependency. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, as well as making positive lifestyle changes through MAT and other therapies, helps many with cancer and substance use disorders to improve the overall quality of living.

So, let’s continue to raise awareness and support for those affected by cancer and substance use disorder, as well as promoting effective treatments for both conditions. Because ultimately, life is worth recovering for.

More about Living a Healthier, Substance-free Life with the Help of MAT Care Clinics

MAT Care Clinics offers medication-assisted treatment to individuals struggling with substance use disorders through options that are holistic and personalized. We believe in providing a comprehensive approach to treating addiction that recognizes the realities of chemical dependency, including physical cravings and relapse prevention measures.

For more information about MAT Care Clinics and our approach to addressing substance use disorders, contact us via this online link or at (833) 622-0628.

Remember, no one is alone in their battle against cancer or addiction, and there is always hope for recovery and a better future.

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