March is National Kidney Month! Dedicated to raising awareness for kidney health and conditions such as kidney disease, this month offers the perfect opportunity to address the damaging effects of substance abuse on the body.

While most people know that your kidneys filter toxins from the body, there’s more to it than that. Kidneys also:

  • Promote bone health
  • Regulate fluid levels
  • Maintain balance of minerals in the blood
  • Regulate red blood cell production

Each day your kidneys filter about 200 quarts of fluids, including about two quarts which is released as urine to flush toxins from the system. Damage to the body’s natural filtration system can cause serious infections or lead to life-threatening kidney failure.

Because the kidneys’ primarily function is filtering toxins, drug and alcohol abuse can have a serious impact on kidney health. Illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines as well as heavy drinking can cause kidney damage. Substance abuse in itself has been linked to serious risks of kidney and liver failure.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is a serious health condition with symptoms including:

  • Decreased urination
  • Fluid retention causing swelling in the lower extremities
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Irregular heartbeat

In severe cases, kidney failure can also cause seizures or coma. Complications of kidney failure can cause other health complications including the heart and liver. Acute kidney failure may cause permanent damage and may lead to death.

Reversing Kidney Damage Caused by Substance Abuse

The kidneys are surprisingly resilient. According to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the kidney is capable of repairing damaged areas itself. When kidney damage is caused by drug or alcohol abuse, the first step in healing is through recovery. Sobriety allows your body to begin healing the harmful effects of addiction. The mental clarity recovery brings allows you to focus on making the best decisions for your overall health. Long-term recovery has been shown to improve one’s physical health and help restore vitality and quality of life.

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