People with cancer very rarely develop substance abuse problems unless they abused drugs and alcohol before cancer was diagnosed. Generally, people without a history of substance abuse can take opioids and other drugs to control cancer pain without developing substance abuse problems. People with a history of substance abuse, however, are at risk for developing problems when drugs are prescribed to control cancer symptoms.
Patients who have a history of substance abuse may find that illegal drug and alcohol use interfere with their ability to receive cancer therapy. The use of drugs may interfere with the effectiveness of anticancer therapy and may cause patients to become even sicker.
Patients with cancer who are current substance abusers, or who have been substance abusers in the past, may find it difficult to develop a trusting relationship with a network of friends and family members and with the cancer treatment team. The lack of trust may compromise cancer treatment and follow-up care and may worsen the patient's quality of life.