This guide includes the most important health conditions and external factors that may speed up the aging process – from how they occur to their symptoms and how to treat or avoid them. On this page you will find the first one: addiction.
We don’t hear enough about how drugs and alcohol affect 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.”
And here are just a few of the major complications caused by alcoholism:
Normal aging 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. This results in depression and mood disorders, as well as premature aging of the brain.”
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.
Drug and alcohol use also directly affect our eating habits. This 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.”
Click on the link to see the effect of alcohol on your weight.
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.”
Follow Haeck’s tips to reverse some of the physical damage done by drugs or alcohol addiction:
Following these tips will allow you to start down the road of recovery – healing not just your mind, but your body too.