Substance use, whether occasional use or chronic use, cause numerous negative consequences for a person’s body. The short and long-term health effects on overall well-being can become disastrous with frequent or heavy use. Substance use can damage more than just health, too, and begin to affect a person’s relationships, career and daily functioning.

Substance use alone can have serious repercussions. Substance use combined with a medical condition, like diabetes, can cause even greater harm. If you’ve struggled with substance use in the past or are facing an addiction currently and have diabetes, you’re likely wondering how the two are related and what the risks are.

In this article, we’ll answer these top questions regarding addiction and diabetes.

  • How do drugs affect diabetes?
  • How does alcohol affect blood sugar?
  • Can drugs cause high blood sugar?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, here’s what you’ll want to know to protect yourself against potential health risks and aim for sobriety.

How do drugs affect diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which a person’s body is unable to effectively regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin is the chemical that is responsible for the management of glucose (or sugar) in the blood. A person with diabetes will either have a pancreas that fails to produce insulin or overloaded insulin receptors that are unable to appropriately disperse insulin.

A person with diabetes will often experience low blood sugar, due to high doses of insulin to counteract high blood sugar. This excess of insulin creates a sensation of hunger. While this can create unnecessary dietary habits, for someone who uses substances the consequences are much graver. Generally, the cravings for food experienced by the body are experienced as cravings for drugs or alcohol.

The body’s response to low blood sugar becomes an urge to use substances and continue a drug dependence. The cycle becomes extremely problematic when a person succumbs to these urges and drinks or uses drugs in response to a low blood sugar-induced craving. Low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia) can occur multiple times a day and contributes to an addictive cycle.

How does alcohol affect blood sugar?

Alcohol especially is associated with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This occurs because alcohol inhibits the body’s natural ability to regulate blood sugar, making a bad problem worse. A healthy body will be able to raise blood sugar levels to normal after drinking, but the combination of alcohol and diabetes perpetuates the cycle of low blood sugar, cravings and continued use.

Can drugs cause high blood sugar?

Numerous opioids, prescription drugs and other illicit drugs are associated with glucose dysregulation. These substances may raise or decrease insulin production or affect the way insulin is dispersed through the body. Even prescription drugs, taken according to a doctor’s orders, like anxiety and depression medication, can disrupt blood sugar levels.

If you’re taking a prescription medication and having issues with blood sugar levels, you may want to discuss this with your healthcare provider. In any medical care, it’s essential that the doctor treating your diabetes and the doctor treating mental health or substance use issues are communicating and collaborating to ensure your medications are compatible.

What health problems are associated with substance use and diabetes?

Both substance use and diabetes are independently responsible for health issues. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes contribute to health challenges that must be overcome. These issues can include:

  • Delayed healing or sores and cuts
  • Difficulty controlling weight
  • Itchy skin
  • Blurred or hampered vision
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of feeling in fingers and/or toes

While diabetes can create these painful and dangerous consequences, the combination of substance use and diabetes can increase their severity.

How can I get sober from drugs and alcohol?

Healing the whole person is key to managing these two conditions. While diabetes is a life-long condition, medication and treatment can decrease negative symptoms and make normal life possible. Alcohol or drug addiction can be overcome with the right professional support and therapy.

Getting in control of your body and mind takes disciple and a strong commitment to treatment, but it is possible for anyone. Regardless of your history with substance use or your current physical state, there are interventions that can make a real difference in your life.

If you’re ready to break the cycle of cravings and heal from the inside out, check out Real Recovery. A variety of treatment programs and psychiatry services can help you determine a course of care and ensure that medications for numerous conditions are working compatibly, instead of working against each other.

For your best shot at success in health and recovery, reach out to Real Recovery today.