Substance Abuse and Eye Health

October 31, 2019
It is no secret that the misuse of opiods including alcohol and other neuro depressive agents is one of the most serious public health problems in the world today.

It is also noteworthy, that the harmful effects of alcohol results to 3.3 million deaths each year. Substance abuse is broad in its definition, and these include alcohol and other substances such as tobacco, cocaine and caffeine. Dependence on these substances can have a severe and detrimental impact on overall health, mental wellbeing and in many cases, wellbeing of others.

The most commonly abused substance (alcohol accounts for 3.5% of death annually). The consumption of this abused substance creates adverse effects which include Liver cirrhosis, Neurotoxicity, and Carcinogensis.
Macular Degeneration: Degeneration of the light sensitive part of the eye, this is common among aged heavy drinkers.
Cataract: This disease condition has been linked to alcohol abuse through a proposed mechanism of metabolism. This in turn leads to lens opacification.
Ocular Motility Disturbance: Alcohol contains ethanol which is a brain depressant. Therefore, it reduces the movement of the eye.
Posterior Eye Impact: Alcohol abuse could lead to loss of vision in certain field of view.

Cigarette smoke’s inflammatory effects can destroy the eye’s blood vessels and ocular surface.
Ocular Surface: Cigarette increases the risk of Dry eye disease due to smoke acting as a direct irritant to the eyes. It can also reduce healing process in the eye.
Cataract: Smoking is a very strong risk factor in the development of cataract.
Glaucoma: Smoking is associated with increased eye pressure and also known to reduce blood flow at the back of the eye.
Posterior Eye Impact: Tobacco abuse could lead to loss of vision in certain area of view.

Paucity evidence exists for the direct ocular side effects of cannabis. Marijuana is known to increase heart rate, and blood flow.
Visual performance: cannabis has a direct effect on short term memory and decreased eye movement, leading to trouble in reading. Cannabis abuse could also lead to colour discrimination distortions.

Cocaine’s primary mechanism of action is inhibition of dopamine reuptake, making it a powerful agent of long term addiction.
Cornea: Cocaine abuse (whether via smoking or snorting) may lead to a condition called crack cornea, a popular syndrome of chronic corneal cocaine toxicity.
Orbital inflammation: While snorting cocaine users damage the mucous lining of their nose, which most time, is primary to some disturbing eye disease conditions such as canaliculitis, orbital apex syndrome and orbital cellulitis.

The smoke of cigarettes and marijuana is an irritant to the eyes of individuals around the smoker. For instance, when a non-smoker is exposed to a person smoking it is called involuntary smoking or passive smoking, invariably both parties share similar risks. Therefore, we must be mindful of the condition of the air we allow our nose to take in.

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