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Avoid Substance Abuse 

Substance abuse is linked to anxiety and depression. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, you are more likely to misuse substances such as alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs or even prescription medications.

While drinking more or getting high — or taking more medication than is prescribed — may make you feel better in the short term, over time this kind of abuse can actually make your depression or anxiety worse. And it often leads to more substance abuse — even addiction — resulting in a downward spiral that leaves you feeling far worse than you felt in the beginning.

There has not been much research on the impact of substance use on people with CF. We do know that tobacco use and smoking are particularly harmful to people with CF. It should be avoided to prevent damage to the lungs. You should also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Too much alcohol use can damage your liver and immune system and may make you more likely to get infections. Use of alcohol and other substances to the point of intoxication may leave you with a hangover. During that period, people are less likely to do the things they need to do to take care of themselves, such as CF treatments.

People with CF often experience lots of pain. Physicians may prescribe pain medication to help manage the pain and improve quality of life. Most people who take prescription medications use them responsibly. But when abused — that is, when a person takes the medicine more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed or uses someone else’s medication — prescription medications can produce serious negative health effects, including dependence or addiction.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

The following common signs and symptoms may mean your substance abuse has gotten out of hand and you need help. Call your CF care team if:

  • You have built up a tolerance and need to use more substances to get the same feeling. 
  • You often use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you would not. 
  • You take substances to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without using, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking and anxiety. 
  • You are using substances under dangerous conditions, such as driving drunk, or engaging in risky behaviors when high. 
  • You continue to use substances, despite knowing the abuse is causing major problems in your life — blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia. 
  • You ignore responsibilities at home, work or school. 
  • You are having problems with your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, your boss is not happy with your work, or you have lost friendships. 
  • You drop activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports and socializing. 
  • You’re getting into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence or stealing to support a drug habit.

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Updated 12/26/12

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.