Substance Abuse as a Remedy for Chronic Jet Lag

Substance Abuse as a Remedy for Chronic Jet LagThere are many joys and benefits that come with both leisurely and occupational traveling. Experiencing new cultures, tasting new foods, and meeting new people are just a few of the benefits gained by frequent travelers. However, when a person frequently crosses time zones, they may experience something called jet lag. When jet lag occurs chronically, some people fall into substance abuse to cope with its negative effects.

What Is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a condition that occurs as a person makes a long-distance travel across time zones. When travelling from east to west or west to east, it can result in disruption of the body’s natural circadian rhythm. The body’s circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour clock that is involved in the mediation of sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, and body temperature, among several other body functions. Though the body’s circadian rhythm is produced internally, it has a strong connection with certain signals from outside the body. The presence or absence of light is the strongest circadian rhythm mediator outside of the body. This is why circadian rhythm can become altered when traveling across time zones.

Those who travel to distant locations may notice the unpleasant effects of jet lag. Perhaps the most frequently observed symptoms include disturbed sleep and daytime fatigue. Disturbed sleep most often comes in the forms of insomnia or early waking. Throughout the daytime, those experiencing jet lag feel fatigued and may have difficulty with concentration. In addition, jet lag can have physical effects on the body that include upset stomach, diarrhea, and muscle soreness. Due to the effects of jet lag on the body’s hormones, it can also result in menstrual symptoms in women.

Substance Abuse and Chronic Jet Lag

Some people experience jet lag as a chronic state. This occurs often in individuals who must travel frequently for occupational reasons. Chronic jet lag leaves those suffering with feelings of constant fatigue and lethargy. In order to cope with the effects of constant travel, many individuals abuse substances like drugs and alcohol to help with falling asleep and waking up. Those with chronic jet lag most often abuse stimulants during the day and depressants at night.

Commonly abused stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and coffee. Adderall and Ritalin are drugs that are often prescribed in the treatment of narcolepsy, as these medications increase energy and focus. These effects make the drugs appealing for abuse by those experiencing the daytime sleepiness of jet lag. Though coffee is generally thought of as a safe, socially acceptable method of increasing energy, the high caffeine content can be detrimental to health. The body can develop a physical addiction to coffee, as with all drinks that have high levels of caffeine.

At nighttime, on the other hand, those experiencing chronic jet lag may abuse depressant substances like alcohol, sedative-hypnotics, and opioids. These substances are frequently abused to initiate sleep. However, they can also interrupt sleep and prevent the body from achieving the deep sleep it needs.

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