Premature aging is a side effect related to a number of poor habits. Still, many don’t seem to realize just how much it can be exacerbated by the abuse of drugs or alcohol. However, what most people don’t know about premature aging is that it can more than a skin-deep issue. Addiction-based premature aging has more to do with longevity and quality of life than it does with appearances. Here are just a few examples of the effects that substance abuse and addiction can have on the normal aging process.
Drugs and Alcohol Weaken All Areas of Your Physical Health
The fact that addiction plays a major role in the decline of physical health isn’t a new concept. However, the degree to which these effects relate to aging might not be as well known. The reason why substance abuse can bring about premature aging is that it directly stresses your immune system, which is essentially what keeps your body ‘young.’
It’s your immune system’s job to stave off any strange or unrecognized substances brought into the body, like drugs or alcohol. However, when your substance abuse increases with your tolerance, your immune system becomes so stressed that it can no longer function optimally. This gradual reduction in immune-response capacity ends up increasing your susceptibility to common diseases and weakening your ability to fight them off should they develop. Some examples of serious medical issues caused by substance abuse and onset premature aging include:
- Increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- Cardiomyopathy (weak heart muscles)
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Increased blood pressure
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Fibrosis of the liver
- Liver cancer
- Throat cancer
- Lung cancer
- Sexual dysfunction
Drugs and Alcohol Destroy Your Skin
Drugs and alcohol can damage your skin in a number of ways. The most common is severe dehydration. Most addictive substances interfere with your body’s natural production of vasopressin, the anti-diuretic hormone. As a result, those hormone levels plummet, and the drugs or alcohol in your system trick your kidneys into entering toxin-filter overdrive. When your kidneys are overworked, they remove water from your system, too. Without the right balance of water in your system, your skin health is drastically affected.
Dry skin may not seem like a serious health condition, or even one related to premature aging, but it is, in reality, a major factor. Having excessively dry skin results in lower collagen levels and elasticity, which are both needed for young, healthy-looking skin. In other words, dehydration brought on by substance abuse can result in the early development of wrinkles. Other severe skin conditions exacerbated by substance abuse include acne, deep tissue damage, lesions, scabs, and scars.
Drugs and Alcohol Cause Cognitive Impairment and Deterioration
One of the many medical consequences of both drug and alcohol abuse is cerebral atrophy— otherwise known as brain shrinkage. This condition results in poor memory, confusion, issues with vision, and other similar problems caused by long-term and substance abuse. Cognitive impairments like these are an example of addiction-fueled mental premature aging. If substance abuse continues past the first signs of cognitive impairment, the damage may eventually lead to even more dangerous brain conditions like dementia.
Drugs and Alcohol Break Healthy Eating Patterns
It’s common knowledge that substance abuse habits directly influence eating habits. Those who are struggling to feed their addictions often fail to feed themselves properly— if at all. The changes in your diet brought on by substance abuse may be causing you to lose weight at an unhealthy rate, which could impact your intake of essential vitamins and minerals and cause malnutrition. Drugs and alcohol can deplete your body’s storage of vitamins A and C, which are both antioxidants that combat the aging process. Additionally, malnutrition is a serious condition that impacts the severity of other medical complications. For example, an injured person who is malnourished may not heal as quickly or as thoroughly as someone who is healthy, even if their wounds are the same. Malnutrition can also lead to:
- Hair loss
- Reduced muscle mass
- Decreased bone density
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Stronger chances of liver or kidney failure
Drugs and Alcohol Disrupt Normal Sleep Patterns
The most underrated routine that doubles as an anti-aging regimen is your sleep cycle. When your sleep is disrupted by the effects of substance abuse, the decreased quality of sleep can trigger premature aging. This is because disturbances in your circadian rhythm— the internal clock that tells your body when to be alert and when to be tired— reduce the amount of REM sleep you get at night. REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is the stage of sleep where your body repairs itself so it can be fresh and new for the following day. Without this kind of rest, you could eventually slip into cycles of chronic fatigue throughout the day. Chronic fatigue not only weakens your immune system, but it can also increase your risks of developing an anxiety disorder, depression, or even cardiovascular disease.
Drugs and Alcohol Strengthen Age-Accelerating Stress
Stress is already a well-known culprit of premature aging, but the stress brought on by substance abuse habits is amplified to extremes. Science and medicine have taught us that psychological distress, even at relatively low levels, can impact longevity. In other words, those who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression or other psychological mood disorders on a regular basis— many of which have ties to substance abuse— are more likely to have shorter lifespans. Additionally, extreme stress can profoundly impact the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to chronic conditions indicative of premature aging, like the ones listed in previous sections.
TTC’s Outpatient Services Can Help You Get Sober and Feel Young Again
Substance abuse shares a larger connection with symptoms of premature aging than most people seem to recognize. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder and onset premature aging, call The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services of Palm Beach, Florida at (844) 211-7944. Our variety of personalized treatment options will have you looking and feeling your best during your recovery from addiction.