Abuse of alcohol and other drugs can cause serious harm to your reproductive system and to a developing fetus. If you need help to stop using drugs and/or alcohol, don’t wait another day. Call to get help now.
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23.1 Million people need treatment for illicit substance or alcohol abuse — 9.1% of all Americans*
Research on humans and animals has found that women are generally more vulnerable to the long-term physical effects of drugs and alcohol compared to men 2. Differences in physiology, weight, and hormone levels can affect the breakdown of drugs and alcohol in the body. In particular, drug use can harm the reproductive system and impact women in one or more of the following ways:.
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — SIDS is the leading cause of infant death in the United States and is linked to alcohol use during pregnancy 13. In general, research studies have found that women who drink more alcohol have a higher risk of fetal death. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) — Symptoms of FASD can range on a continuum from mild to severe. Miscarriage and stillbirth — Moderate to heavy alcohol use during pregnancy is one risk factor associated with miscarriages and stillbirth, which occurs when a fetus dies in utero 13. Infants born with FASD may have problems with learning and memory, comprehension, shifting attention, emotional control, impulsivity, communication, socialization, and performing daily activities 11. Moderate to heavy alcohol use and binge drinking are especially risky. Premature delivery — Women who drink during pregnancy risk premature delivery, or giving birth prior to 37 weeks’ gestation 13. Infants who die from SIDS are two times more likely to have been exposed to alcohol in utero and three times as likely to have been exposed to binge drinking by their mothers. Breastfeeding women are urged to limit daily alcohol use to two ounces of liquor (eight ounces of wine or two standard beers) and should allow two hours between the last drink and breastfeeding. Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding also poses dangers to infants 1.
Women who use drugs and alcohol while pregnant put their unborn children at risk of pregnancy-related complications and future problems that can impact their health and ability to function in the world.
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17.9 Million people in the U.S. have alcohol dependence or abuse problems — 7% of the population.*.
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Substance abuse can negatively impact the reproductive health of both sexes in a number of ways and may contribute to serious problems like sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), infertility, and cancer.
STDs and other infections — Drug and alcohol abuse may put men at higher risk of contracting STDs. HIV and antiretroviral treatment drugs may negatively affect a male’s fertility. Anabolic steroids also pose a danger to male fertility. Sexual dysfunction — Men who use drugs and alcohol may experience problems with sexual arousal 6. Medications may also be prescribed to increase sperm production after quitting steroids. However, in most cases the body will return to normal within months after stopping the drugs. Men who use intravenous drugs and share needles put themselves at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other bloodborne diseases. Alcohol can also suppress the immune system, making it easier to contract an STD 3. Performance-enhancing drugs increase testosterone levels in the bloodstream, which leads the reproductive organs to produce lower amounts of the hormone. This may be due to lowered inhibitions associated with substance use. In some cases, infertility may be irreversible after a period of heavy steroid use. However, over time the use of methamphetamine and cocaine can lead to erectile dysfunction and delayed orgasm. Similarly, men who use methamphetamine may initially experience sexual benefits, such as heightened arousal. However, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows the body and brain and may lead to erectile dysfunction, or inability to attain or maintain an erection, and problems with ejaculation 7. Men who use marijuana and cocaine may experience changes in hormone levels that can affect sperm movement and lead to infertility. In small to moderate amounts, alcohol lowers inhibitions, which may appear to increase the desire for sexual activity and reduce apprehensions. Fertility — Substance use can lead to fertility problems in men 8. This can cause the testicles to shrink and produce less sperm.
9% of Americans needing treatment for substance abuse are receiving it, leaving 20.5 million people still in need.
Men may experience one or more of the following reproductive problems as a result of drug and alcohol use:
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Avoid worsening adverse effects and even turn them around by getting the help you need.
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It is crucial for both men and women to understand the effects of drugs on their reproductive system in order to make more informed decisions about their health.
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Substance abuse can lead to organ damage, infections, and diseases.
Specifically, heavy alcohol use can decrease vaginal lubrication and the ability to achieve an orgasm 7. Women under the influence of drugs and alcohol may be more likely to put themselves in harmful situations that increase their risk of contracting STDs. STDs resulting from risky behaviors associated with substance use may also impact sexual desire. Women who use tobacco products may also be at risk for fertility issues and delayed conception 2. Heavy alcohol use is also linked to higher rates of contracting STDs that may damage the reproductive system and/or hinder the ability to get pregnant 3. Cancer — Women who abuse alcohol and other drugs may put themselves in risky situations where they are more likely to contract an STD, which, depending on the infection, may contribute to cancer. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other infections — Intravenous drug use puts women at risk of contracting infections and diseases transmitted through the blood, including HIV/AIDS, which may harm a woman’s fertility 2. One study found that females who are heavy alcohol users are more likely to experience fertility problems compared to low and moderate alcohol users 5. For example, the human papilloma virus (HPV) is linked to increased cervical cancer risk. Sexual dysfunction — Substance use may impact sexual arousal, pleasure, and desire in women 6. Fertility — Drugs and alcohol are also related to infertility in women. Heroin and methadone use may also lead to amenorrhea (absence of a period) in some women. Changes in the menstrual cycle — Drug and alcohol use may alter a woman’s menstrual cycle and may result in lighter or heavier menstrual periods and increased cramping 2.
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