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Can Drug or Alcohol Addiction Lead to Raynaud’s Disease?

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Addiction is a pervasive disease that can affect every area of a person’s life. It can affect their psychological well-being, emotional stability, and physical health.

Those abusing drugs or alcohol may wonder just how much damage is being done. And, when new health-related symptoms appear, drug users may wonder whether or not their substance abuse is what contributed to their health problems.

One condition that may or may not be linked to drug and alcohol addiction is Raynaud’s disease.

What is Raynaud’s Disease?

Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome, is a condition that causes certain areas of the body, usually the fingers and toes, to feel numb and cold during cold temperatures or times of high stress. This phenomenon is caused by sudden vasospasms, or the sudden narrowing of the smaller arteries that supply the skin with blood.[1]

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Cold fingers and/or toes
  • A prickly or numb feeling upon warming up
  • Color changes to the affected areas of the skin (usually turning white or lighter in color)

Raynaud’s attacks can come on suddenly. When they first occur, fingers or toes may turn white and later turn blue and feel cold or numb. As a person warms up and their circulation improves, the affected areas can throb, turn red, tingle, or even get swollen.

Raynaud’s disease is more common in women than men. It is also more common in people who live in colder climates.

There are two primary types of Raynaud’s syndrome:

  1. Primary Raynaud’s – Occurs without any other illness and symptoms are typically mild.
  2. Secondary Raynaud’s – Symptoms result from another illness such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms can also be more severe and lead to skin sores or gangrene.

One condition that is known to lead to Raynaud’s is smoking. This is because smoking narrows the blood vessels. Certain medications such as ADHD medications, migrate medications, and beta-blockers may also contribute to Raynaud’s phenomenon.[1]

Is There a Relationship Between Drug or Alcohol Addiction and Raynaud’s Disease?

Drug and alcohol addiction can affect the body in a variety of devastating ways. While researchers have yet to find a direct link between addiction and Raynaud’s disease, there may be some sort of relationship between the two conditions.

First, smoking tobacco or other substances can affect the cardiovascular system and may exacerbate vasospasms, potentially increasing the risk for Raynaud’s syndrome. Studies have found that regular smoking in the last year is associated with a significantly increased risk of Raynaud’s syndrome in men, but not in women.[2]

On the other hand, heavy drinking has been found to increase the risk of Raynaud’s in women, but not in men.[2] However, similar studies have revealed that drinking red wine, in particular, can reduce the risk of Raynaud’s in both men and women.[3]

These studies suggest that avoiding heavy drinking as well as smoking may reduce the risk of developing Raynaud’s or help reduce the severity of symptoms in people who already have the condition.

What is Drug-Induced Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

While drug and alcohol addiction may not directly lead to Raynaud’s disease, certain drugs and medications may be able to induce symptoms of the disease in some individuals.

Drug-induced Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP) has been associated with a variety of different drugs including cancer chemotherapy and β‐adrenoceptor blockers. However, current research has revealed that drug-induced RP may be more common than previously thought.[4]

Researchers have identified 12 classes of drugs that may be responsible for drug-induced RP. These include:[4]

  • β‐adrenoceptor blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Ergot alkaloids
  • Dopaminergic agonists
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Stimulants (both prescription such as Amphetamine and illicit such as cocaine)
  • Ciclosporin
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Cancer chemotherapies
  • Interferons (IFN)
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors

These drugs are thought to increase the risk of RP because they enhance vasoconstriction which can promote vasospasms.

While these medications do come with slight risk, they are typically only prescribed when the benefits outweigh the risks. People who begin experiencing Raynaud’s symptoms while taking any of these medications should speak to their doctor about the side effects they experience.

Find Help for Yourself or an Addicted Loved One

If you are struggling with addiction, developing Raynaud’s disease is the least of your worries. You’re more likely to suffer from an overdose, cardiovascular issues, infections, and general problems in your personal and professional life than you are to develop Raynaud’s phenomenon. However, that doesn’t mean you should delay getting professional help.

At Carolina Center for Recovery, our dual diagnosis treatment program helps you address the underlying cause of your addiction, change your behaviors in a positive way, and introduce you to healthy coping skills that will help you stay sober in the future.

Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with one of our dedicated admissions coordinators.