Substance Use Disorder and Diabetes

It should be of no surprise that we have a prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country.  How does that impact diabetes management and education? What about other substances?  Cigarette smoking and alcohol use are prevalent among individuals with diabetes in the US, but little is known about screening and treatment for substance use disorders in the diabetes population.

What are the clinical implications of the public health problem of coexisting substance use and diabetes? Diabetes is major cause morbidity and mortality in the US with an estimated 24 million adults in the US with type 2 diabetes.  In addition, prescription drug abuse affects nearly 3 million adults.

Approximately 20% of adults aged 18 years or older with diabetes report current cigarette smoking. The prevalence of current alcohol use in the diabetic population is estimated to be around 50%–60% in epidemiological surveys and treatment-seeking populations. Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in a dose-dependent manner and is an independent modifiable risk factor for development of type 2 diabetes. Patients with diabetes patients with an alcohol or other drug use disorder show a higher rate of adverse health outcomes including more frequent and severe health complications as well as an increased risk of hospitalization, and longer hospital stays. They are also less likely to seek routine care for diabetes or adhere to diabetes treatment than those without an alcohol or other drug use disorder.

There is an increased trend to facilitate integration of preventive services and evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders with diabetes care in community-based medical settings.  Do you know the treatment options in your community? How do you address substance abuse disorders in your patients with diabetes?


One thought on “Substance Use Disorder and Diabetes

  1. I have been struggling to help a fairy young type 1.5 DM patient who regularly smokes marijuana. His self care is significantly affected by the substance abuse. He forgets to take his medications, he has lost all of his teeth b/c of poor dental hygiene and because his new dentures don’t fit well, he eats lots of carbohydrate rich soft foods. He has gained significant abdominal weight. I have a list of resources to help patients quit smoking but none to help patients quit marijuana. With the new legislation, using marijuana seems acceptable but as I watch this person’s health decline, I think it is destroying his health.


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