When people think of all the bad things about having a substance use disorder, they typically think of negative outcomes–your health suffers, you spend too much money on drugs, you alienate people you care about, you get into trouble with the law, and so on. However, perhaps even more disturbing is that substance use can fundamentally change your personality. You don’t just do different things while drunk or high; at a certain point you are like a different person. The following are three interrelated ways that a substance use disorder can change your personality for the worse.
It changes your priorities.
Perhaps the keystone way substance use affects your personality is by changing your priorities. Drugs or alcohol become more important to you than anything else and that affects other parts of your life and personality. Substance use becomes so important that you feel like you need it to survive. You may carve out a specific part of your day just for substance use and that part may gradually grow over time. You may find you can function more or less normally for most of the day, but if someone disrupts the time you set aside for drugs or alcohol, you may get extremely angry. You might cancel plans with friends or family or neglect other responsibilities to preserve that time. You may discover that work or family, which used to be important to you, have taken a back seat to substance use.
It compromises your values.
Another consequence of substance use becoming your top priority is that you’re willing to sacrifice your values in order to preserve your access to drugs and alcohol. Typically, this starts out innocently enough. Maybe you go out for drinks with friends and don’t mention you already had a few drinks at home. It’s a small lie of omission. However, people with substance use disorders often gradually become more secretive and deceptive as their condition progresses. You may find yourself borrowing or stealing money to buy drugs or alcohol. Although you may normally be an ethical person, addiction undermines your commitment to higher principles.
It affects your cognition.
Finally, addiction affects some of the basic ways your brain works. Your brain chemistry changes whenever you develop a tolerance for drugs or alcohol. One important implication of that is that the flood of dopamine associated with substance use quickly rewires your brain to seek out that substance again, leading to the problems described above. However, there are other consequences as well. Working toward other worthy goals becomes more difficult. You have more trouble focusing. Some studies suggest that prolonged addiction actually bypasses your prefrontal cortex so that you have less control over your behavior. And specific drugs affect your cognition in different ways. Prolonged opioid use, for example, can make you drowsy and uncoordinated, while prolonged drinking may cause depression or even early dementia. When a substance changes your brain, it also changes your behavior.
People with substance use disorders often reach a point where they don’t like who they’ve become. Often, people decide to get help when they realize they’ve been hurting their family or after they suffer some other consequences like a DUI or job loss. There’s no need to wait for serious problems to seek help. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon, we help men with substance use disorders develop individualized plans to recover from addiction. Call us today at (503) 850-2474 to learn more.