Illicit Drugs & Diabetes: Blood Sugar Extremes, Lower Judgment for Self Care

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • After past blogs about alcohol and sex in relation to teens and diabetes, we now come to the next element that teens face: drugs.


    As far as your healthcare team is concerned, there is absolutely no room for illicit drugs in your lifestyle. You already use drugs for medicinal purposes; why ask for more complications? Illicit (otherwise known as recreational) drugs may include inhaled, oral, or intravenously injected preparations. No matter the mode of drug entry, all drugs are dangerous and will wreck havoc on your health and diabetes control. Please be aware that commonly prescribed drugs for teens also may be abused and taken as directed by your physician. I am realistic and aware of the availability of non-medicinal drugs. I am also aware of the social and peer pressure that teens face on a daily basis. JUST SAY NO is a statement more easily advertised than actually verbalized. Although I am more flexible in certain areas of your life experience, illicit drug use is NOT one of them.

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    Recreational or illicit drug use clouds your judgment, alters your response times, changes your heart rate and blood pressure, and may expose you to diseases associated with drug use (HIV/AIDS, STD's, and Hepatitis B and C), especially if you use intravenous drugs. Illicit drug use often introduces users to criminal activity, which can lead to a criminal record and incarceration. These side effects and consequences occur in all teens, even those without diabetes. As a person with diabetes, illicit drugs can significantly alter your blood sugar high or low and decrease your ability to care for yourself, thus exposing you to potentially fatal circumstances. Seizures resulting from the drug itself and/or hypoglycemia may be severe and land you in the closest emergency department or intensive care unit. Because these recreational drugs may alter your senses, you may even be less inclined to check blood sugars and administer insulin by syringe, pen, or insulin pump. Drugs can cause a lack of attention and forgetfulness secondary to the drug's effects. Eating routines may be affected as well, causing you to either eat too much (resulting in extremely high blood sugars and ketones) or not eat at all and go low with a resultant insulin reaction.


    In fact, I often counsel my teen patients that if a situation arises where you face peer pressure to consider illegal drug use, you can counter respond by saying that you already "do drugs," which will at least be a humorous response and perhaps remove you from a dangerous situation. Another consideration in this regard is your choice of peer groups. I suspect that you would not want to be in any compromising situation. Don't forget that if you keep company with those who use, others will suspect you are a user as well. Surrounding yourself with family and friends who watch your back is so important. If your friends are high on drugs, how will they notice if you are having a severe hypoglycemic episode? How will they be able to assist you? How are they going to be able to drive a car and get assistance? What about school? How will you be able to pay attention in class, do homework, pass examinations, and play sports? Your teachers and coaches (not to mention your family) will notice changes in your usual personality and diabetes control.


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    The key to understanding why recreational drugs are dangerous is to understand your body and how it functions. I believe by virtue of your diabetes diagnosis that you are more educated than most in terms of understanding how medications work to help your body function more normally. Recreational or illicit drugs make your body function abnormally. You, as a young adult with diabetes, and we, as your healthcare providers have enough to worry about already. Why compound the situation and make it harder to control your diabetes? You do enough work as it is.




Published On: September 15, 2008