Most people are aware that drugs and alcohol take a toll on the body. In recent news, the skyrocketing number of drug overdoses and deaths is causing serious concern nationwide. Not only can drugs and alcohol cause sudden lethal effects, but they also affect the way one ages.
Both drugs and alcohol accelerate the aging process by harming skin, organs, hair, and overall nutrition. All substances affect the entire body, but some substances harm other parts of the body more than others.
Aging caused by substance use can have a range of affects. It can be very minor to very severe and life shortening. Those who have a couple of drinks a day may see aging in their skin. While those who drink heavily every day may suffer strokes, heart disease, or liver disease. Substance abuse can cause the need for organ transplants or other invasive treatment.
Skin treatment, dental work, and other medical bills can be extremely expensive. So it is best to moderate or practice complete abstinence if one wants to avoid aging caused by substance use. These are some of the specific ways drugs and alcohol affect the aging process.
Both drugs and alcohol can significantly affect the skin. One might notice that after a night of drinking they don’t look so great. They may notice circles around their eyes and an off-complexion. This is because alcohol is known for causing dehydration. Dehydration can cause baggy eyes, dry skin, and wrinkles.
Often if one hydrates accordingly, this skin damage will have little permanent effect on the body, but if drinking consistently, the skin begins to take on these traits. Without hydrating, the skin cannot heal the damage caused. The best way to prevent skin damage caused by alcohol is to quit drinking or moderate. It is advised that if drinking every day to attend an alcohol detox program to avoid complications caused by withdrawal.
Drugs like crack cocaine and methamphetamine have serious effects on skin. These drugs often cause rashes and sores on the surface of the skin. They also cause the user to go without food for an extended period of time. This leads to malnutrition and causes wrinkles, bad complexion, and scarring which can all become permanent over time.
Drug and alcohol abuse takes a heavy toll on the teeth. These are often permanent effects as well, and need dental procedures to be repaired. Smoking crack or meth directly causes severe tooth damage. Tooth decay, cavities, and gum damage are all permanent effects caused by drug use. Drug use also stains teeth which can be permanent as well.
Heavy drinking can also cause tooth decay and gum disease. Heavy drinking is considered 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks a week for men. If one is heavily drinking they can expect to see visible damage to their teeth over time.
Vomiting caused by drinking or drugging also is very harmful to the teeth. Stomach acid destroys enamel leaving the teeth less protected. This makes it easier to get cavities and permanent stains. Often those who are severely abusing a substance have poor hygiene. This also enables permanent tooth damage.
Liver damage may not be visible, but can have serious effects on longevity. The liver is a vital organ that processes toxins in the body. If the liver is severely damaged a person may need to change their diet, undergo complex treatment, or even have a liver transplant. Alcohol usually causes the most liver damage. Even drinking small amount every day can begin to have a lasting effect on liver function.
Heavy drinking can cause hepatitis and cirrhosis. If this occurs a person may get jaundice, which causes the skins and eyes to become pale or yellow. Hepatitis can also be caused by sharing equipment for intravenous drug use. Sharing needle or spoons can cause hepatitis or HIV/AIDS. HIV is not curable and will most certainly shorten one’s lifespan.
Both drugs and alcohol use make a person at higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Stimulant drugs put heavy strain on the heart and can cause sudden heart failure. Stimulants keep the heart pumping at a very high rate. This is not good for the heart or body. This strain can cause permanent damage to heart muscles.
Heavy drinking is also proven to cause diseases of vital muscles in the heart. Alcoholics are at much higher risk of heart attacks than those who moderate or abstain. Binge drinking can also cause irregular heart rhythms which can lead to heart attacks.
Alcohol and drugs have permanent effects on several areas of the brain. They can reduce cognitive abilities, memory, and motor skills. Those who drink or use drugs are at a high risk of dementia and diseases like Alzheimer’s. Drinking and drugging also drains the brain or pleasure producing chemicals. This makes it more difficult to enjoy life without drugs or alcohol.
Those who drink and drug are also at higher risk of strokes. Strokes can significantly reduce one’s longevity. Strokes can permanently disable or a person leaving them unable to perform tasks they once could perform. Strokes can also cause sudden death or leave a person at higher risk for another stroke.
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Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.