One dangerous potential complication from chronic drug or alcohol abuse is dehydration—the loss of too much water from the body. Many people erroneously discount the dangers of drug and alcohol related dehydration, due to the fact that when sober, we naturally drink water when feel extreme thirst. However, this natural process of hydration gives us a false sense of security when dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. Due to the mind-altering effects of chemical dependency, many individuals do not realize they have reached dangerous levels of dehydration until it is too late. If you have experienced an episode of either dehydration or overhydration in an alcohol or drug related instance, you should obtain immediate medical treatment and seek out an alcohol or drug rehab program that can facilitate your full physical and mental recovery.
Dangers of Alcohol Related Dehydration
Because alcohol is a diuretic, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause severe dehydration. The liver uses water in the body to filter the toxins produced by alcohol in the bloodstream. The kidneys then begin to remove an increasing amount of water from the body as they process their own toxins, which triggers an urgent need to urinate—usually within 20 minutes of the first consumed drink. Futhermore, alcohol strips the body or important vitamins and minerals, like potassium. As a result, an ionic imbalance occurs, leading to the cramps, lightheadedness, and thirst commonly associated with dehydration. As the dehydration worsens, the body experiences weakness, fatigue and thirst pangs—all signs of an urgent need for water.
Because of the numbing of bodily sensations and the inability to act rationally when inebriated, many alcohol dependent individuals still fail to drink the water their body needs—often interpreting thirst as the need for another alcoholic beverage. If the signs of alcohol related dehydration continue to be ignored, alcohol dependent individuals can experience dehydration that requires hospitalization in order to treat. In some cases, alcohol related dehydration can lead to overheating and death. Fortunately, many inpatient alcohol recovery centers will ensure that alcohol dependent individuals receive adequate hydration as part of their physical recovery process.
The Effects of Dangerous Drug Related Dehydration
Many drugs can also cause severe dehydration—with many of the main culprits being amphetamines and their derivatives. Drugs such as speed, Ecstasy (MDMA), and methamphetamines are stimulants that increase both heart rate and blood pressure while raising overall body temperature. Drugs like Ecstasy further exacerbate dehydration, as they are often taken in club environments where aerobic activities like dancing are performed for prolonged periods in an increasingly warm space. While active people can lose up to 2.5 litres of water in perspiration, those on drugs such as meth, Ecstasy and speed can lose even more as activity levels spike. Additionally, the euphoric and physical sensations associated with amphetamines tend to mask the body’s warning signs of hyperthermia. This can lead drug dependent individuals to experience seizures, and even die from heat-stroke if they do not receive proper hydration through immediate medical treatment and hospitalization.
Drug Dependency and Overhydration
Unfortunately, even drug dependent individuals who are aware of their need to rehydrate tend to overcompensate, causing other dangerous side effects. Overhydration—the excessive consumption of water—can disrupt the body’s balance of electrolytes, causing the ion levels to sink to dangerous lows. Ionic balance becomes further hampered as individuals sweat out salts that are not replaced nutritionally, causing a condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication), disrupting central nervous system transmissions and potentially leading to death.