Substance abuse is the use of illegal or prescription substances that indulges our brain in a vicious cycle of physical, mental, and emotional dependence on them. As per recent estimates, substance impact has impacted nearly 5.5% of the world’s population between 15 and 64 years. Substance abuse results in various physical and mental health issues in many individuals. One such consequence of substance abuse is sexual disorders.
What is substance abuse?
Substance abuse is a pattern of using a substance or a drug that can harm the body or cause distress. There are several reasons why people resort to overconsumption or abuse of substances like alcohol, mood-altering medications, and illegal drugs. However, the most commonly abused substance is alcohol.
Substance abuse often leads to disruption, causing them to miss their work, school, or college. Many people who overuse a harmful substance may also end up in dangerous situations when operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Substance abuse is considered a mental health disorder and can affect one’s nature, behaviour, and relationships with friends and family.
Apart from alcohol, other illegal substances frequently abused include nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine and their products.
Substance abuse is multifactorial, and a combination of one’s genetic vulnerability, environmental stressors, cultural and societal pressures, individual behavioural characteristics, and other mental or psychological problems.
What is a sexual disorder?
Sex, or the act of making love, is a culmination of the mind and the body. Many people consider the brain the primary sex organ while the reproductive organs facilitate its desires. Mental and physical health influence one’s sexual function. For this reason, the same factors influence sexual dysfunction or disorders and can hinder a person or couple from having satisfying sex.
While it is normal to have a few days of hiccups on the bed but sexual problems are more severe and require the help of a specialist to manage them. Sometimes, the cause of sexual dysfunction can be medical, but studies have also linked the chronic use of substances with sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
There are several treatment options for sexual dysfunction, but most people avoid sharing their issues with others.
What are the dark side of substance abuse and its relation to sexual disorders?
Drug addiction and substance abuse act as a source of positive reinforcement or pleasure for those who take them. The substances used are chemicals that affect both our minds and the body. For example, having a couple of drinks relaxes your body and makes you expressive or drowsy. Nicotine found in cigarettes has a similar effect: it relaxes the body and alerts you. Substance abuse can result in negative reinforcement driven by the negative emotional state of the individual. It is called the ‘dark side’ of substance abuse.
This dark side of substance abuse results from excessive activation of the brain’s reward system and leads to antireward feeling. A complex neurobiological interplay of events occurs during substance abuse that takes an individual from the pleasures of the substance to the dark side of emotions when consumed in excess.
Substance abuse has a dire impact on one’s sexual performance and can result in sexual disorders.
How do we overcome sexual disorders related to substance abuse?
People with a sexual disorder due to substance abuse must seek professional help to deal with their problems. If your sexual disease is due to substance abuse, treating it can restore your sexual function. The first step in managing sexual disorders related to substance abuse is a comprehensive assessment by a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor. You may require to undergo a few tests before and during treatment to help monitor your progress.
A typical substance abuse treatment plan includes:
- Detoxification: The drugs or substances you consume are allowed to exit your body entirely under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
- Medication: Your body shows signs of withdrawal during the detox process. You may require medication-assisted therapies for dealing with cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Behavioural therapies: You may require professional therapy sessions like psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy that help you deal with substance abuse.
What is the effect of the dark side of substance abuse and its relation to sexual disorder?
Drug and substance abuse affects an individual’s physical, mental and psychological well-being. The impact of substance abuse can be seen in the short-term and long-term effects that it causes.
Short-term effects of substance abuse include:
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- Increased heart rate
- Temporary euphoria and memory loss
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Weight loss
When substance abuse continues for a long time (chronic use of substances), long-term mental effects that you may experience include:
Long-term impacts of substance abuse include:
- Relationship problems
- Panic disorders
- Poor performance at school or work
What are the effects of substance abuse on one’s physical health?
Substance abuse also affects one’s physical health, causing:
- Damage to the heart and blood vessels – increasing the risk for cardiovascular events.
- Damage to the respiratory system – resulting in chronic infections and other respiratory diseases.
- Drugs like ketamine can damage the kidney and increase health risks.
- Substance abuse inevitably damages the liver due to the metabolism of drugs.
Along with physical and mental effects, substance abuse also impacts one’s sexual behaviour and health, predisposing them to sexual dysfunction. The most common sexual disorders resulting from abusing substances like alcohol, heroin, methadone, etc., are premature ejaculation, retarded ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, lack of sexual desire in men, and dyspareunia and vaginal dryness in women.
Be honest with your doctor about your sexual dysfunction issues, as they can help you overcome them. In some people, sexual disorders may take a while to resolve even after deaddiction, while in others, improvement happens as soon as they begin the substance detoxification process.
It may seem frustrating to not be able to perform well sexually. Still, the key to overcoming this issue and substance abuse is being honest with your partner and therapist. Sexual disorders due to substance abuse are rarely long-term, and most people with this problem can reclaim their sex lives as soon as they overcome their substance abuse and addiction problems.