How Addiction Affects The Aging Process: Now And Later
We don’t hear enough about how drug and alcohol addiction affects the aging process.
So says clinical psychologist Dr Sandrina Haeck, who explains that they affect our 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 dehydrate 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 inevitably 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 brosis 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 ageing slows production of dopaminergic, serotonergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitters. However, drug use causes them to work overtime, producing serotonin and dopamine at faster rates and in larger amounts.
Haeck explains: “This causes neurotransmitters to slow production much sooner than in non-drug users. It results in depression and mood disorders, as well as premature ageing 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 disorders
Drug and alcohol use also directly affect our eating habits. is 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:
• Get help in order to remain sober for as long as you can, to allow your body to heal.
• Take a daily multivitamin.
• Exercise regularly is will allow you to fight oiliness and build immunity.
• Eat a healthy diet. You will notice that your weight starts normalising and your muscle tone begins to improve. It will then be much easier to prevent injuries and ward oilliness.
Following these tips will allow you to start down the road of recovery – healing not just your mind, but your body too. Click here to find out how Harvard Health describes the way addiction hijacks your brain.