The Effects of Addiction Explored
We don’t hear enough about how addiction to drugs and alcohol affect the aging process. So says clinical psychologist Dr Sandra Haeck, who explains that they affect or brain, skin, organs, nutrition and sleep.
According to Haeck, alcohol abuse shrinks the brain, causing poor memory, visual issues and confusion. Excessive drinking directly impacts on the frontal lobe, which is responsible for higher-order functioning, reasoning and logic. Alcohol is also known to dehydrates the body.
“This causes pale, grey and dry skin,” adds Haeck. “Dry skin equates to a lowered production of collagen and a reduction of elasticity, which inevitable results in wrinkles”
Here are just a few of the major complications caused by alcoholism:
- Weakening of the heart muscles
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased risk of stroke
- High blood pressure
- Cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver
- Cancers of the lung, throat, oesophagus and liver
- Increased risk for pneumonia and tuberculosis
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk for diabetes
- Fertility complications
- Sexual dysfunction
- Addiction damages neurotransmitters
Normal aging slows production of dopaminergic, serotonergic and glutamergic neurotransmitters. However, drug use causes them to work overtime, producing serotonin and dopamine at faster rates and in larger amounts. Haeck explains: “Abuse causes neurotransmitters to slow production much sooner than in non-drug users. This results in depression and mood disorders, as well as premature aging of the brain.”
Addiction increases stress
We know that being overstressed ages us, but when the abuse of alcohol or drugs is added to the mix, the stressors are quadrupled. “This speeds up the aging process and may lead to chronic diseases and premature death,” she says.
Addiction and eating patterns
Drug and alcohol use also directly affect our eating habits. It can cause rapid weight loss, resulting in vitamin and mineral depletion, and an inability to heal properly from wounds or surgeries. “Malnutrition can also lead to severe weight loss, which results in a loss of hair and bone density, ulcers and reduced muscle mass. It increases the risks of heart, liver and kidney failure. It can also affect vision, leading to macular degeneration and vision loss.”
Addiction and sleep
Haeck adds that alcoholism and drug abuse significantly impact on the amount and quality of sleep we get, which affects our health and the aging process. “Without restful sleep, moodiness, fatigue and cognitive impairment can affect our day and – over time – affect how we age.”
The road to recovering your health
Follow Haeck’s tips to reverse some of the physical damage done by drugs or alcohol addiction:
- Remain sober for as long as you can to allow your body to heal
- Take a daily multivitamin
- Exercise regularly. This will allow you to fight off illness and build immunity
Eat a healthy diet. You will notice that your weight starts normalizing and your muscle tone begins to improve. It will then be much easier to prevent injuries and ward off illness.
Following these tips will allow you to start down the road of recovery – healing not just your mind, but your body too.
Read more on the most addictive legal drugs here.