Common Health Problems of Drug Users – Addiction Example

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"Common Health Problems of Drug Users" is a great example of a paper on addiction. Drug abusers are usually prone to several types of infectious diseases since their immune system is suppressed by the drugs they take. Respiratory tract infections are more common than other infectious diseases since inhalation is the most common route of administration of drugs in drug abusers followed by IV administration and oral ingestion. In cocaine abusers with upper respiratory tract infections seeking further information is very important to rule out other diseases and to rule out if the infection is caused by drug abuse or not.

First of all, it is important for a physician/nurse to ask the patient if he has been taking other drugs along with cocaine or not since other drugs such as Marijuana, Hash, Charas and simple cigarette smoking could lead to symptoms mimicking Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. Also, it is important to ask the patient for how long has he been abusing cocaine and what is the usual route of administration since IV drug abusers share a needle and it could lead to serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS (Bickley, 2009).

The history of drug abuse is the most important information required along with family and socio-economic history.                       Examining a patient with Respiratory Tract Infection who is a known drug abuser is one the most crucial steps in reaching a diagnosis. The first and foremost step in the examination is the general appearance of the patient. Looking for cyanosis and pallor, flexors surfaces of the elbow joint which is a common site of infusion in IV drug abusers is a very important and oral examination to look for signs of infection in case of ingestion (Jarvis, 2012).

Also, chest examination is important, auscultation of lung’ s apices and base, hearing respiratory sounds, looking for signs of labored breathing and dyspnea, abnormal breathing sounds, and abnormal chest movements should be observed. Also, sputum culture, throat swab, Full Blood Count, and Urine culture should be done to detect the causative organism.                       The treatment plan for such a patient should start with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Blood and other samples should be sent for culture and analysis and empirical treatment started until the results arrive.

Once the causative organism has been identified, proper antibiotic treatment should be started accordingly. Also, it is very important for a patient who is an IV drug abuser to test for HIV since these patients usually share needles for drug infusion and may carry the virus in latent or active form. Counseling of such patients is another important step in the management of these patients. Guidance should be given to these patients, they should be educated about the effects of drugs on their bodies and immune systems, they should be told about how drug abuse would destroy both their social and personal lives and what can be done to avoid it (Davidson, 2014).

If needed, the patient could be referred to a rehabilitation center or a support group after their infection has been treated and other causes ruled out.          


Jarvis, C. (2012). Physical examination & health assessment. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier/Saunders.

Bickley, L. S., Szilagyi, P. G., & Bates, B. (2009). Bates' pocket guide to physical examination and history taking. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

In Walker, B. R., In Colledge, N. R., In Ralston, S., In Penman, I., Britton, R., & Davidson, S. (2014). Davidson's principles and practice of medicine: Editors, Brian R. Walker, Nicki R. Colledge, Stuart H. Ralston, and Ian D. Penman; illustrated by Robert Britton.

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