If people engage in alcohol or drug abuse they are taking a risk with their health. It is not necessary for the individual be become addicted before they begin to cause harm to their body and mind. Substance abuse can damage almost every organ, and even a short period of using these chemical can have a lasting impact. As well as the problems caused by alcohol or drugs, there are also additional risks associated with the lifestyle of substance abuser. One of these additional dangers is sexually transmitted disease.
A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is any disease that an individual can acquire while engaging in sexual intercourse. Up until the 1990s the term venereal disease was more commonly used to describe such conditions, but now STD is the preferred description because it is a broader term.
The most common types of STD that addicts are likely to encounter include:
* Chlamydia is most likely to affect the genitals and eyes. This is the most common form of STD in the US, and it is caused by a bacterial infection.
* Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection. It can cause damage to many body organs if it is not treated.
* Genital herpes is a viral infection that can lead to sores appearing on the genitals. Some people can have repeated attacks for many years after the initial infection.
* Genital warts are soft growths of skin that appear on the mucous membranes of the genitals. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
* Viral hepatitis includes hepatitis A, B, and C – all of these can be caught by having sex with an infected person. Hepatitis can cause inflammation to the liver, and it is potentially life threatening.
* Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is most usually found in those parts of the world that would be considered undeveloped – it has mostly been eradicated in the west through the use of antibiotics.
* Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the STD that has received the most attention by the media in recent years. This is a virus that interferes with the normal functioning of the immune system.
The exact symptoms of STDs will depend on its type. Some of the most common symptoms that people are likely to experience include:
* Burning sensation during urination
* Discharge from the penis or rectum
* Vaginal discharge
* Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease in women – this can include pain in the pelvis, vaginal discharge, and blood after sexual intercourse
* Testicular tenderness
* The individual experiences pain during sexual intercourse
* Muscle aches in the buttocks, lower back, knees, or thigh
* Swollen or tender lymph nodes in the groin area
* Warts appear in the genital area
* Itching around the genital area
* Abdominal pain or tenderness
* Weight loss
* Jaundice is a sign of liver problems. The symptoms of this include yellowing of the skin and eyes. This symptom is often associated with hepatitis.
* Ulcers that appear on the genitals
It should be noted that some STDs can stay in the body for a long time before they create any noticeable symptoms. During this time the infected individual may infect many more people.
There are a number of reasons for why substance abusers are more susceptible to STDs including:
* When people are intoxicated they are more likely to make bad decisions such as having unprotected sex.
* The lifestyle of people who abuse mind altering substances tends to encourage unsafe sex.
* Alcohol and drugs lowers inhibitions and this can make people more promiscuous. This can often mean that promiscuous people are having sex with other promiscuous people.
* The addictive personality describes a number of characteristics that substance abusers tend to share and one of these traits is risk taking. This type of individual is likely to be less cautious when it comes to protection so more likely to catch STDs.
* Not only are addicts more likely to catch sexually transmitted disease but they are also more likely to ignore the symptoms. This means that treatable diseases can progress for longer and cause more damage.
* If a substance abuser is being treated for an STD their alcohol and drug use may interfere with their treatment. Their lifestyle might also interfere with their ability to follow any prescribed treatment.
* Most addicts tend to have low self esteem. This may mean that they are more willing to engage in promiscuous sex with strangers, and that they may not believe they have the power to safeguard their future by using protection.
There are things that people can do to reduce their risk of catching sexually transmitted such as:
* Staying with one partner and avoiding one night stands.
* Use a condom consistently. The individual only has to have unprotected sex once for them to catch an STD.
* It is important to keep in mind that condoms are not 100% effective at preventing STDs.
* It is recommended that people get regularly tested for STDs.
* Those people who are beginning a new relationship should get tested for STDs. This is particularly important if they plan to have unprotected sex.
* People should avoid intoxication as this increases the likelihood that they will engage in high risk activities such as unprotected sex with strangers.
* It is vital that the individual has enough self-esteem to be able to say no to unprotected sex.
* It is important to keep in mind that there are often no visual clues that indicate that another person has an STD. They may dress very conservatively or even behave in a chaste manner – sexually transmitted disease can be picked up by anyone.
* It is a good idea for people to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. This is particularly important for those who engage in promiscuous sex or have a partner who has chronic hepatitis.
There is no a treatment available for most types of STD. Many of them can be cured with a course of antibiotics. The problem is that too many people ignore the symptoms of STDs so that they are allowed to progress and cause damage in the body. Ignoring the symptoms may be due to embarrassment or just lack of knowledge about the dangers involved. Addicts are most at risk of ignoring the symptoms of sexually transmitted disease, and they are also highly likely to spread them. It is essential that anyone who is experiencing suspicious symptoms seek a professional opinion as soon as possible.
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