Does Addiction Follow Aging Earlier?

Does Addiction Follow Aging Earlier?

Never before have had so many people lived for so long. Life expectancy has nearly doubled over the last century. The aging of the population — in past decades and in the foreseeable future -presents both a challenge and an opportunity for all of us as we seek to stay healthy throughout our longer lives.


The brain has different regions for memory, perceiving and processing sensory inputs, executive functioning, and even internal reflection or "musing". These communicate with each other via a network of white matter channels that help the brain coordinate and share information among its various regions.

The chemical connectors in the brain act on their functions warped by the presence of illicit substances, alcohol and other addictive substances beginning with the usual euphoria and, over time, facilitating the decline into full-blown physical dependency and its many resulting disorders. In the aging process your circulation may slow down, which affects how quickly drugs and alcohol gets to the liver and kidneys.

Persons with developmental disabilities often live in residential settings or with aging parents, who may be growing frail, ill or no longer able to care for them. As these children grow older, they encounter health problems related to their disability. For example, people with Down syndrome often age prematurely and are at higher risk than the general public of developing cataracts and Alzheimer's disease.

The interactions between drug abuse/addiction and the onset and development of neurological diseases and disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, cognitive deficits/ dementias, cerebrovascular disease) are linked to aging. Factors that impact on a person’s aging are genetics, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and attitude.

Compared to persons in the general population, most individuals with intellectual disabilities/ mental retardation will have similar rates of older age-related health conditions such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, osteoarthritis, disorders of hearing and vision, dementia etc. Risk factors for older age-related health conditions (e.g., obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, mental health disorders, obesity, ocular anomalies, poor oral health, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol-related concerns) are the same as in the general population.

Alcohol impacts every organ in the body. Since, the aging body is unable to metabolize alcohol as quickly as it once did, alcohol stays in the system longer, causing more damage to the organs mostly effect on heart, brain, pancreas, bones and blood, digestive tract, kidneys, bladder, liver etc.

A collaborated study by Southcity Family Medical Centre and Herston Medical School, Australia shown that addiction was associated with an altered profile of common biomarkers of ageing raising the possibility that the ageing process may be altered. Infective and immune processes may be centrally involved. They suggest that addiction forms an interesting model to further examine the contribution of immune suppression and hyper stimulation to the ageing process.

Scientists already knew that as people get older, the bundles of nerve axons in the brain degrade, as does the brain's white matter. These are critical for the transmission of signals from brain cell to brain cell, brain region to brain region. Cognitive decline in aging may be linked to disruption of communication between different regions of the brain.

Ecstasy is an illicit recreational drug popular among young people. Research in both humans and animals suggests that the drug can harm the brain. According to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals; ecstasy may damage nerve cells that respond to the hormone serotonin, which is involved in mood, thinking, learning and memory.In conclusion, they indicated that low doses of Ecstasy are associated with decreased verbal memory function, which is suggestive for Ecstasy-induced neurotoxicity.

Clinically significant maladaptive behavioral or psychological changes (e.g., initial euphoria followed by apathy, dysphoria, psychomotor agitation or retardation, impairment in attention or memory, impaired judgment, or impaired social or occupational functioning) that developed during, or shortly after, opioid such as morphine, methadone, heroin, pethidine, codeine etc. use.

Methadone also appeared to be associated with a higher frequency of seizures and incidence of jaundice. Moreover an addicted person’s effect may carry generation to generation. Suppose; genetically transmitted behavior disorder of attention deficit and impulse disorder giving rise to school failure in middle childhood, and drug abuse emerging in adolescence. And on it goes to the next generation.

Excessive drinkers unconsciously pay too much attention to the alcohol-related stimuli that surround us all. When excessive drinkers encounter drink-related stimuli, this activates automatic thought processes which stimulate them to want a drink and to actually take a drink. Hence the simple consequence of helping excessive drinkers pay less attention to alcohol in their environment is that they gain more confidence in their ability to control their own behavior, and then they drink less.

Alcohol problems among older persons often are mistaken for other conditions associated with the aging process, alcohol abuse and alcoholism in this population may go undiagnosed and untreated or be treated inappropriately. It’s the drug of choice for older adults and the most damaging drug to the human body.

The physical changes that occur with age, especially the slowing of the ability to metabolize substances out of the body, allow alcohol and other drugs to stay in the body longer and have a greater impact on the brain and other organs. Consequently, normal adult doses of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – can cause dangerous side effects.

Advancing age is the greatest risk factor for development of the two main human neurodegenerative disorders: Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). These two diseases, and some others, are characterized by the occurrence of distinct neuronal changes – in particular, neuronal death and the increased presence of ‘senile plaques’ and ‘neurofibrillary tangles.

Study at U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) found that abstinent methamphetamine abusers who reported they avoided harmful situations had higher resting metabolic rates in a part of the brain responsible for making decisions and modifying behaviors than those with low harm-avoidance scores. In non-addicted, comparison subjects, there was no significant association between harm avoidance and metabolism in this brain region.

Recently (November 7, 2007) another study at BNL suggested that new measurements of brain activity in individuals addicted to cocaine confirm that addicted individuals have compromised sensitivity to monetary rewards and some drug-addicted individuals are unable to modify their drug-taking behavior, even in the face of well-understood negative consequences and/or positive incentives for behavioral change.

A study done ( 27 Dec 2007) recently by Charlotte Boettiger, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina found that a variant of the COMT gene, which controls the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the cortex, was associated with a tendency to make impulsive decisions and with high activity in certain brain areas during decision making.

Boettiger used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows brain activity while a subject performs a function, to see what happened inside their heads when sober alcoholics and people in a non-alcoholic control group made decisions between immediate and delayed rewards.

While decisions were being made the imaging detected activity the predicted individual choice in regions associated with decision making the posterior parietal cortex, the dorsal prefrontal cortex, the anterior temporal lobe and the orbital frontal cortex.

People who sustain damage to the orbital frontal cortex generally suffer impaired judgment; they manage money poorly and act impulsively. Boettiger's study revealed reduced activity in the orbital frontal cortex in the brains of subjects who preferred "now" over "later," most of whom had a history of alcoholism.

The orbital frontal cortex activity may be a neural equivalent of long-term consequences. "Think of the orbital frontal cortex as the brakes," Boettiger said. "With the brakes on, people choose for the future; without the brakes they choose for the short-term gain."

The dorsal prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex often form cooperative circuits, and this study found that high activity in both is associated with a bias toward choosing immediate rewards. The parietal cortex and the dorsal prefrontal cortex were much more active in people unwilling to wait. This could mean, Boettiger said, that the area is working less efficiently in those people.

So addicted people with mental retardation must be prepared from an early age to confront the expectations and demands of the different age periods. As for the comparison between levels of mental retardation and affects of aging, the number of health problems was higher for those with moderate mental retardation compared to those with mild mental retardation.

Study found that people with mental retardation can start having health problems as early as age 40, but that they occur at a lower rate than the general population. Further more, those categorized as having moderate mental retardation experience the affects of aging more.

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