Drug use and diabetes happens – I don’t judge. The key is to do everything in life in moderation, particularly if we are talking about drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol should be taken sparingly if you are a diabetic. If you feel that drugs or alcohol are a problem in your life seek professional help now. It will only get worse over time making diabetic complications almost a certainty.
Drug use and diabetes – the main problems
The long term effects of regular drug use is clear to most. In my experience the worst part about taking drugs as a diabetic is the self management of your blood sugar levels. When you are “high” on drugs you are more likely to forget to eat or not feel like eating at all which can lead to low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia. You may also mistake the feeling of having a hypo for thinking it is just the effects of the drugs. On the flip side diabetics may forget to take or adjust their insulin injections which can lead to high blood sugars levels or hyperglcemia. Other problems relate to the long term effects on the body which is explained in more detail below.
If you are diabetic and you are going to take drugs here is what to do
Make sure you are with someone who you can rely on who knows that you are a diabetic. Like alcohol consumption, there is probably only a small chance of anything going seriously wrong on the night, but everyone reacts to drugs differently. The more people you have on your team that know you and can help you, the better. Make sure to take some sweets or lollies with you and be sure to take your Accu-Chek Nano with you.
The different types of drugs
Hallucinogenics – can affect the mind and give you a false sense of what you see, feel or hear
Downers – can slow down normal processes in the body. They alter the speed at which your brain sends and receives signals.
Uppers – can make the body react faster. They can increase your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
Uppers such as caffeine, cocaine, ecstasy, speed, crystal meth etc speed up bodily processes. Diabetics can suffer from very low blood sugar as the body breaks down carbs in the body very quickly. To ensure that you avoid symptoms of hypoglycemia you should carry sweets or lollies with you when you go out. Problems may arise if you’re too out of it to recognize the symptoms of a hypo.
Uppers can also suppress your appetite which again puts a diabetic at heightened risk of having a hypo. Uppers as the name suggests can make you want to engage in physical activity eg dancing, this can also increase the risk of a hypo.
The main types of uppers and their effects
The main problem with ecstasy tablets is that many of them are made in home made laboratories which means you have no idea what ingredients go in them.
Taking ecstasy can suppress your hunger and make you want to exert yourself eg on the dance floor. Be ultra aware that you may have a hypo and adjust your insulin/ medication accordingly.
Another thing to watch for is the day after. When you come down from ecstasy you can have a severe emotional reaction such as depression or anxiety.
Cocaine can cause blood vessels in your body to constrict and subsequently increase your blood pressure. This makes heart attacks and strokes more likely in diabetics over the long term. Cocaine use also causes appetite suppression.
Cocaine in its purest form is quite a natural occurring ingredient and usually leaves the body quite quickly compared to other drugs. It can be cut with odd ingredients however, including rat sack.
Can result in high blood sugar as the ingredients mess with insulin and hormone levels. Methamphetamine use can also lead to a loss of appetite, memory loss and depression, especially if it is taken regularly. Certainly not on the recommended list.
Downers are the opposite in terms of effects on the body to uppers. Things slow down in the body after taking alcohol, or marijuana or heroin. They have a depressing effect on the body and mind.
Probably the most commonly used drug by diabetics. It is a natural ingredient but it can stay in the body for up to 30 days after use. A major problem is the increased appetite/ hunger or the munchies that can cause very high blood sugar/ hyperglycemia. Making sure to monitor your blood sugar is the best course of action. Smoking marijuana can impact the organs in the body in a similar way that smoking cigarettes does.
This is a particularly dangerous and addictive drug. The effects on the body can severely impact insulin and hormone levels making it very hard to predict blood sugar levels. In fact heroin can counteract diabetes medication making it particularly dangerous.
There are many organs in the body that are affected by heroin. Blood vessel damage and bad circulation are two of the worst affects for diabetics. Diabetics are already highly susceptible to blood vessel and organ damage. Amputations are a reality for diabetics due to circulation problems. Taking heroin regularly can cause extensive damage to the body that a diabetic may not recover from.
Can cause hallucinations by affecting the mind and the senses. They can also increase your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. If hallucinations occur, an individual may see objects that are not really there. This has a tenancy to cause paranoia or panic attacks or result in very abnormal behaviour. LSD, ketamine and magic mushrooms are all classified as hallucinogens. Again monitoring your blood sugar levels may not be top of your priority list when taking these drugs
The effects of drugs use and diabetes are clear although many of the long term effects are still unknown. If you choose to take drugs it is best to be very open and honest with your physician. It is also very wise to carry an Accu – Chek Nano with you when you are out. These devices are tiny and can easily fit in your pocket. The best piece of advice I think is to act responsibly and ensure that you have people with you who know you and know that you are diabetic. Again moderation is the key. Drugs like heroin are probably best avoided altogether.