July 27, 2016

On the Fast Track: Three Ways Stimulants Negatively Change Your Life

On the Fast Track: Three Ways Stimulants Negatively Change Your Life

It’s easy to see the relationship between drug abuse and deteriorating physical health. It’s not a total surprise when an alcoholic experiences liver failure or a meth addict’s teeth fall out; these drugs are known to damage the body if routinely used to excess. But how do these physical effects translate into the overall quality of life for an addict? Here are three ways stimulants in particular, like methamphetamines and cocaine, change the lives of people who frequently use them.

  1. Decisions get harder. Because addiction is a neurological disorder that puts the brain on a hamster wheel of drug seeking and using behaviors, the addict’s ability to make sound decisions is handicapped. A recent study of moral decision-making ability in incarcerated addicts found that key areas of the brain that provide meaningful emotional and empathetic contexts for our decisions were less active. These results suggest that over time the addict considers less of how a decision will affect him or her holistically, including the people around them, leading to choices that may not help or even explicitly harm the addict and their loved ones.
  1. You age faster. While many people slather on expensive face and body creams to fend-off the unavoidable signs of aging, long-term methamphetamine and cocaine users are going in completely the opposite direction. On a microscopic level, stimulants and especially methamphetamines, trigger your cells to begin an accelerated aging process, easily making someone in their late thirties with ten years of stimulant abuse look twice their age. Conversely, if you’re concerned someone you know may be abusing stimulants including methamphetamines but aren’t sure, pay attention to their face and teeth. If your loved one’s looks seem worn beyond their age, it may be a sign of stimulant abuse.
  1. Reality blurs. There’s an even more insidious way long-term stimulant abuse changes your outlook on life. Experienced regularly over time, common side effects like anxiety and paranoia can agitate any predisposition an addict may have towards psychological disorders like psychosis and schizophrenia, making them more likely to develop a mental illness. Even addicts without a physical or emotional predisposition are still at a risk of developing a psychological disorder if they continue to abuse stimulants over a long period of time. Using methamphetamine or cocaine can take away more than your physical health; they can rob you of your mental well-being too.

There are so many more than just these reasons to avoid abuse of stimulants. Addiction often begins as a short cut to pain relief and an escape from anxiety, but the way it ends is usually neither pleasurable nor care-free. If you or someone you care for has recently started to use stimulants, reach out to them and let them know that you care. Share this list with them, and make sure they know there are many more reasons that they should reconsider using and seek help. Consult a trained medical professional like a doctor or psychotherapist if you’re concerned the stimulant abuse isn’t going away; the life and physical well-being of your loved one may very well be on the line.

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About Constance Scharff PhD