Recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases must be included in every person’s treatment plan. We see many cases where our clients have been in treatment and did not know they had diseases directly related to their addiction. In a recent instance, Mary, a 23-year-old female with a long-standing history of intravenous drug and alcohol abuse. We found several issues that were left unchecked with this individual.
Individuals Reaction to Unknown Drug Abuse Related Diseases
When we informed her, the first response was, “What does that mean?” Then, “How did this happen?”. She was just informed that she has hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid disease). Every day here at Whole Health people are diagnosed with conditions they don’t fully understand. We thoroughly check all our patients in recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases.
Unchecked Addiction Treatment Diseases
When incorporating integrative medicine with addiction treatment medicine, we can discover many conditions upon physical examination and routine blood work that can exhibit an extensive array of signs and symptoms if left untreated. We are educating the community in recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases.
Such disorders include thyroid dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), anemia, and many more. The symptoms from these underlying medical issues can, and often do, contribute to our patients relapsing on their drugs of choice as they struggle to feel “normal” in the face of always feeling terrible!
As one specific example of recognizing recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases, many studies have shown opiate use can cause changes in thyroid-binding globulin (TBG: a circulating protein produced in the liver). High TBG levels can cause elevated TSH which is indicative of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), liver disease, and can be seen in pregnancy. On the other hand, low TBG levels can lead to elevated Free T4 and Free T3 which is indicative of hyperthyroidism.
Advantage Dealing with a Specialized Physician
In Mary’s situation, routine labs were checked within 1 month of her last use that showed mildly elevated Free T4 and a low thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). At this point we recommend re-checking thyroid function in one month for follow up and re-assess. Upon doing so, we have found that Mary’s Free T4 continued to be elevated and TSH was low.
An ultrasound of Mary’s thyroid was performed in our office which showed multiple thyroid nodule. Mary was then sent for a thyroid uptake scan to further clarify her clinical state and to evaluate for the likelihood of thyroid cancer. Luckily for Mary, her thyroid scan was not concerning.
After thorough evaluation and discussion with Mary, it was discovered that her biological mother also had hyperthyroidism, specifically Graves’ disease, which tends to run in families and is more common in women than men. Mary had been experiencing symptoms for a while but was never aware that her symptoms could be from something other than withdrawal symptoms. In treating our patients, we are always recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases.
Mary realized her recent weight loss, racing heart, palpitations, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, frequent bowel movements, and no period for the past 6 months were all contributing to her new diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. In retrospect, she realized that she had felt so poorly for so long, and wondered if she started and continued using drugs because she felt so terrible. Now Mary can be treated appropriately and her symptoms should resolve accordingly, hopefully contributing to her ability to stay clean and sober.
Diet is Often Left Untreated in Addiction Treatment
Also, when people use drugs and/or alcohol, many times they do so in a binge fashion. It is very common in this time period for a person to eat unhealthily, if they eat at all. With this poor nutrition comes vitamin deficiencies such as B1 (Thiamine), B12, folic acid, iron and these can lead to anemias (a low amount of red blood cells in the body).
It is also common for an individual to be dehydrated due to lack of fluid intake or while experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, sweating. With this comes electrolyte changes; decreased or increased sodium levels and decreased potassium levels. Consequently, these electrolyte changes can cause muscle weakness, muscle spasms and cramps, confusion, lethargy, and even seizures.
The aforementioned are just a few examples of how general medical problems intertwine with our patients’ addiction issues. Make sure your Doctor, or rehab capable of recognizing unchecked addiction treatment diseases. At Whole Health, we focus on “Integrative medicine”, or the combination of physical medical diagnosis and treatment alongside effective psychiatric care. This combination of body and mind medicine offers our patients, whether living in our community or staying at a local treatment center, a true holistic approach to healing and gives them every chance to succeed!
Dr. Ligotti has completed training sponsored by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry in the use of Suboxone for the rapid outpatient treatment of opiate addicted patients. He also has specialized training and DEA authorization as a physician offering office-based opiate detoxification using Suboxone (opiate detox West Palm). Dr. Ligotti is among a very small number of physicians licensed to offer this treatment in a private office-based setting. You may be interested in some of Dr. Ligotti’s other articles on medication assisted Treatment (MAT) like “What Does (MAT) Medication Assisted Therapy Mean for Generation Z?.
Deanna Weilbacher, PA-C
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You may also be interested in some of our other articles on addiction treatment; “What Does (MAT) Medication Assisted Therapy Mean for Generation Z?“, and “Treating Addiction (Pregnant Women“.