Meth use visually appears to accelerate aging when you browse the online before and after photos of methamphetamine users, displayed by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office. They are photos of methamphetamine users ranging from when they first started using methamphetamines, and photos as time went on. Sadly, they look very aged within only a five-year period. Meth use and its quick-to-age side effect is looked at as some unknown yet accepted process that goes with the territory, or something to be expected for living life in the fast lane.
Meth use and its debilitating outcome are being studied to determine how to stop the addictive properties and repair the mental and physical damage it causes. Fortunately, science can shake us up with new wonders and solid answers that just may spur us to great heights instead of a slow mind and body. As stunning as the side effect of apparent rapid aging is, a new science that is even more stunning, is attempting to expand our current senses and give us new senses while expanding our average lifetime exponentially! Transhumanism, or the Singularity, is a goal as well as a quasi-movement. The goal of the Singularity movement is to eventually allow humans to live to be hundreds of years old, with an immediate goal of living to be one hundred fifty years old. In addition, to increase our intelligence by incorporating different sensors to our central nervous system and acquire the ability for computers to interface with our brain, which could greatly enlarge our memory and calculating abilities and eventually reach a state, which is transhuman. The sciences NBCI (nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive science, and information technology) that are studied by the transhumanists are the very same sciences that may give the answers to correcting the damage done by methamphetamine use. While the proponents of these futuristic sciences are in many of the elite schools and labs around the world, their numbers are only in the tens-of-thousands. Contemplating the photos of the meth users, we might conclude that meth use becomes the equivalent of “aging on steroids”; distressingly millions of people have used methamphetamine.
It is common knowledge that as we age we start losing the capabilities of our senses, organs, and memory. Our mind may slowly lapse into senile dementia or some other mental or physical disorder will occur. We see this throughout our lives and with hope, we see that humans are living longer and are healthier and more robust. Therefore, what solid answers does science give us to bring us to great heights? Well, the first one is that the average human used to live only 30 years and now we live 75 years. In addition, what does science tell us about the quick-to-age side effect of the steady meth user?
Dr. Nora Volker the National Director on Drug Abuse performed brain scans on meth users and then again when they were clean for fourteen months. The brain scans showed that most of the damaged dopamine receptors in the brain had re-grown, yet they still had severe impairment of memory, motor coordination, and cognitive ability.
How powerfully does meth affect dopamine output? Dr. Richard Rawson’s studies with animals have shown that sex doubles the dopamine output, cocaine triples dopamine levels, and meth brings the level of dopamine to twelve times as much as the norm. This becomes quite the incentive to continue using it.
The destruction of nerve endings in the brain has been studied in animals to learn how meth can affect cognitive impairment and the early onset of movement disorders associated with aging. In 2006, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal published a study, which showed that central nervous system prostaglandin H synthase (an enzyme in the central nervous system) activated amphetamines to produce free radicals. These free radicals caused nerve ending to degenerate, and the DNA of nerve cells to mutate.
Another study performed in 2005 published in the Journal of Pharmacology showed that methamphetamines could affect genes to alter the protein production. One specific protein that is affected by meth is called cyclooxygenase-2, or COX-2. The activity associated with COX-2 creates Reactive Oxygen Species, or free radicals, that produce oxidative damage to DNA. This damage might be related to the brain’s defective signaling pathways.
Adding insult to injury, methamphetamine suppresses your appetite, yet the main source of polyphenol antioxidants comes from food. Therefore, while your body is producing more oxidative damage from the meth, the meth will reduce your desire to eat the much needed antioxidant-rich diet.
In aging, our teeth will deteriorate and fall out; just as meth addicts acquire meth-mouth. The combination of jaw-clenching, decreased production of saliva, and possible neglect of personal hygiene causes their teeth to rot and fall out at a rapid pace.
As we age, our susceptibility to disease increases as our immune system decreases. Meth has been thought to compromise the immune system, but the details on how this occurs have not been worked out. Since meth severely minimizes the user’s diet and creates sleep deprivation, these can impinge on your immune system’s ability to work.
Sadly, having a compromised immune system and feeling empowered and euphoric is a double-whammy. It appears that, as Dr. Grant Colfax co-director of the HIV epidemiology biostatistics, San Francisco Dept of Public Health states, “There seems to be something about methamphetamines that predisposes people to HIV infection.” With the temporary empowerment of meth, addicts will engage in sex more often and with less restraint on safety then their normal standards. Just as the aged have a tendency to reduce their sexual lifestyle, sans the little blue pill, the meth user, while at first, craves sex and has increased stamina, ultimately looks as if they have aged considerably. Their facial features become drawn and their skin may become full of blemishes and sores; they become undesirable. Since their bodies become wasted, and their cognitive abilities reduced, they also have decreased performance.
Meth use may make someone age rapidly just by the mental anxiety caused by the effect of formication. You know the scene in The Mummy when the black beetles crawl under your skin. Formication is the false sensation of bugs crawling on your skin; you scratch a lot. This article is not meant to demean or belittle the aged; quite the reverse, hopefully, we can all become very, very aged with many healthy and robust years. If you or someone you know is using meth, please contact us right away. We’re here to help. Call us at 1 (800) 626-1980 or request more information.