It’s clear that drug use is not the smartest thing to engage in when planning for a career, yet it’s also important to understand that drug use is not something you can hide or manage while going to work.
Even if you’re running your own company and engage in drug use recreationally while in “complete control”, every single hit, tab, pop or use of an illicit drug puts you at risk for developing a physical (and emotional) dependence. That is not something you can easily recover from, and in most cases, it’s not something your professional life can survive, either.
Being a fully-functioning human adult today means accepting certain responsibilities and being aware of the pros and cons of any decision. It means being rational, taking risks into account, and not doing anything too rash if other people’s lives and livelihoods are on the line. It means thinking of your family first, of the people who depend on you, like your partner or your children. It can mean taking care of others toward whom you have a moral and legal obligation, such as employees and business partners.
All these things are nigh-impossible while supporting a drug habit. What might start as fun and games can quickly turn into a nightmare. The realization can come swiftly and painfully, but the process is slow and gradual.
Struggling to Keep Up Appearances
The thing about addiction is that no one is strictly above it. Habitual drug use puts you at a massive risk of developing an addiction. It doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time for the brain to adjust to a drug, until it eventually struggles to function without a consistent amount of drug use.
This is the core of what makes dependency such a difficult disease to combat – not only are you effectively damaging your brain, which affects memory, cognition, risk assessment, inhibition, intelligence, and personality, but dependency also makes it so that despite a commitment to sobriety and better living, cravings can be powerful enough to make you return to the drug a few times before you can finally call it quits.
All throughout this process, you will be slowly losing your judgment. Your ability to think rationally will be limited, and most of your priorities will be completely overridden by a need for the next high. Your relationships will suffer, you’ll come up with soft lies and outright falsehoods to avoid responsibility or avoid facing the reality that you’re addicted, and people will lose trust in what you say and faith in what you do.
It’s a bleak image, but that’s often what the road to addiction looks like – a steady loss of control, and the destruction of your reputation.
Drug Use and the Brain
Drugs are dangerous not only because they often come from dubious sources and can lead to accidental overdoses and poisoning, but they’re dangerous because they massively affect the way we process dopamine, a neurotransmitter intimately linked with our concepts of pleasure and reward. By increasing the release of dopamine and/or blocking the reuptake of dopamine, drugs create a very powerful and short-term euphoric effect, followed by a spectacular crash, and the neurological equivalent of your brain saying, “let’s do that again!”.
Aside from beginning and enveloping individuals in a cycle of addiction, tolerance, withdrawal, and relapse, drugs usually also damage the brain. Some are worse than others: for example, a heroin addiction can lead to an overdose, typically resulting in respiratory failure and oxygen deprivation. Surviving an overdose can leave a person permanently paralyzed, and brain damaged. Methamphetamine is also dangerous for the brain, possessing neurotoxicity, much more so than its cousin amphetamine.
Research also shows that other drugs, including sedatives, alcohol, and marijuana, reduce the amount of grey matter in the brain, effectively eating away at your ability to reason, think critically, and make decisions. This can cripple your ability to work and provide for yourself and others.
Recovering from Drug Addiction
To avoid succumbing to the consequences of continuous drug use, you must do just one thing: stop
It’s simple, but not easy – just like walking a tightrope over an endless chasm, the path is straightforward but very daunting. A drug addiction changes the way the brain works, and aside from leaving you moody and difficult to be around, it also makes you rely on your drug of choice to function at all. Quitting altogether can temporarily shut you down through a series of uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms. For cocaine, these symptoms include:
- Vivid nightmares
- Slow thinking
- Sluggish movement
- Mental agitation
Unlike some other drugs, including nicotine and heroin, the low mood introduced by cocaine withdrawal can last over month or longer. Furthermore, withdrawal is often followed by intense cravings, and there is a chance of developing another bout of withdrawal symptoms through post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Because of these severe mental symptoms, addiction treatment always focuses first on helping a patient make it through the initial stages of recovery. This means surviving withdrawal, PAWS, and the general awkwardness and moodiness of early recovery, where emotions come and go like a rollercoaster.
The hard part starts afterwards, when most treatment programs end, and you’re confronted with getting back into the game. If your drug habit ever became an addiction, then it may take some time to adjust to permanent sobriety. Focusing on your job can be a good way to redirect your attention, away from cravings and temptation, and towards seeing results in the workplace.
However, if your old profession reminds you too much of your drug usage, then you may want to change jobs. One of the hardest parts of coming back home after treatment is being surrounded by memories in the form of sights, sounds and smells. For some, something as mundane as the commute to work can trigger memories of drug use. You’ll have to play it by ear. It’s a good idea to stay in touch with an addiction specialist or therapist even after treatment, so you can discuss how you feel and come up with ways to tackle your new post-sobriety challenges.