There’s a 1997 anti-drug commercial starring Rachel Leigh Cook that you’ve probably heard of before. A remake of an older PSA (which launched the popularity of the “this is your brain on drugs” slogan), the 1997 version achieved such a high level of popularity that it has been spoofed literally dozens of times, on everything from Saturday Night Live and Robot Chicken to more serious works such as Breaking Bad and Beverly Hills, 90210.
Much of the parody stems from Cook’s enthusiastic performance. The 1997 PSA replaced the blanket term “drugs” with heroin. In the original, the speaker simply cracked an egg (representing the brain) into a frying pan (representing drugs) and cooked it. In Cook’s version, she goes on to smash everything in the kitchen, demonstrating the effects of drug abuse on career, relationships, and your future in general. It largely became the topic of parody and satire due to the perception of many viewers that the ad came across as heavy-handed and perhaps a bit hyperbolic. Even the American Egg Board was put off by the ad, fearing that children would take the ad literally and begin to see eggs as dangerous—even though it’s the frying pan doing the bulk of the damage. You can watch the ad below and make your own judgments.
While the ad certainly does go all out in stressing the effects that drug abuse can have on the user’s future, this does not mean that the message is incorrect. A future of drug abuse is an absolute nightmare compared to a future of sobriety. Below, we’ll discuss some of the dangers that addicts and alcoholics will face if they do not heed the warning signs and seek help immediately.
Physical and Mental Health Risks
To a large extent, the health risks lurking in the future for those who choose to abuse drugs and alcohol will largely depend on the substance of choice. A person who uses ketamine may not be taking all of the same risks as someone who abuses fentanyl, even if a few of the side effects may overlap. And while there are many synthetic drugs on the market, their symptoms do not necessarily overlap. But even if we are forced to speak in broad terms, the future for addicts and alcoholics is a very grim one.
The worst physical health risk of them all is death. Alcoholics risk liver damage, potentially meeting the same tragic fate as Amy Winehouse if they drink too much in a short span of time. Other addicts, such as those who suffer from opioid addiction, are at great risk of overdose. While there now fortunately exist life-saving drugs such as Narcan, not all overdoses are caught in time to be reversed. Death rates have been rising in recent years, and the trend has become quite frightening.
Mental health is also put at great risk by the continued use of drugs and alcohol. This is not just a result of brain cell death, but also the significant lack of sleep experienced by those who often stay up during odd hours in order to continue feeding their addiction. Even those who do not suffer long-term brain damage or delirium tremens will find that the manner in which drugs and alcohol alter their perceptions and lower their inhibitions can be quite long-lasting. When people talk about being in “a haze of drugs and alcohol,” they are not simply using purple prose—they are accurately describing the effects of substance abuse on our mental processes.
A future without drugs and alcohol is one in which you do not have to worry about constant damage to your esophagus, stomach, liver and brain. It is a future in which you can sleep better, think more clearly, and perhaps breathe a little easier. Those who enter our programs will find that, not long after the detoxification process is over and withdrawal symptoms have subsided, they will find themselves feeling healthier and more level-headed than they have felt in a long while. Once this happens, most recovering addicts and alcoholics will find a future of drugs and alcohol to be almost entirely inconceivable.
Lost and Broken Relationships
The “Frying Pan” PSA depicts a pretty bleak future in terms of relationships, and not without good reason. Many addicts and alcoholics will find that their relationships with family, friends and romantic partners have already soured quite a bit in the present. Naturally, the future will not hold much in the way of progress. A fair number of addicts and alcoholics reach a point where they prefer isolation from anyone who does not approve of their habits. This can cause them to push people away, often to their own detriment.
Even the most isolated of introverts requires some sort of social stimulation in their life. This is especially true of recovering addicts and alcoholics. In our article on young people in recovery, we noted that too much time in isolation might make it easy for them to focus on their reservations against sobriety, as they will not have a sounding board to tell them when their ideas have become dangerous or unrealistic. In truth, this is a danger faced by all substance abusers, regardless of age. We need family, friends, sponsors—we need an extensive support network in order to keep us sober.
We may be able to find others who share our vices, but we often find upon further inspection that these friendships are shallow, based on only one thing we have in common. This is not to say that none of the relationships we begin as addicts and alcoholics can be meaningful. But in many instances, we will lose more relationships than we gain. And once our family has made the difficult decision of turning their backs so as not to watch us slowly kill ourselves, it can take time to mend the damage that we have done. It is something that we can only achieve through long-term sobriety.
Once we enter recovery, the future of our relationships may look a little brighter. We learn how to make amends and atone for any acts we may have committed in the past to push others away and cause them to lose faith in us. It will take time to rebuild, but our odds will still be far greater than they would have been if we had continued to wreck our lives through addiction. People should not get sober for the sake of others alone—but if we care about them, we will be carrying them in our hearts throughout our journey of recovery.
Generally Diminished Quality of Life
When Cook is listing the things that drugs can ruin in the “Frying Pan” PSA, there is one item on the list besides family and friends that most definitely stands out—money. It’s hard to imagine a very successful future without a strong career. And for many of us, drugs and alcohol will stand in the way of attaining any source of income whatsoever. Even the most high-functioning addicts and alcoholics cannot spend the rest of their lives trying to find new ways of faking drug tests.
But it’s about far more than just money. Our entire atmosphere changes when we are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. It boils down to a mixture of the company we choose to keep during these times and the way we perceive the world while intoxicated. What may seem fun at first begins to feel gritty, almost morbid. And while we may become hooked on a substance because we feel it makes life seem more enjoyable, this effect will begin to wear off as our tolerance goes up. We become trapped in a cycle, constantly turning to substance abuse as a remedy for our physical cravings without truly enjoying its effects.
This cycle can lead to depression, even anger. We may feel guilt over the manner in which our behaviors have changed, but it will be hard to break the cycle without admitting the true cause. Those who do not take the First Step in earnest will often find themselves returning to the cycle, even when they find upon their return that a life of active addiction is far from enjoyable. We become slaves to something we cannot control, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise. It’s a rather unfulfilling way to live.
In other words, our environment becomes a product of our own twisted views of the world. Not only does it become harder to hold down a job or to seek success, but we often begin to give up on ever making those things happen. At Amethyst Recovery, we offer personalized care to our patients, in order to help them find the best method of breaking the cycle. But the decision to do so must be made by addicts themselves. If you or someone you know is stuck in a cycle like this, do not hesitate to call us immediately. Escape from the suffocating atmosphere of alcoholism and addiction. Embrace sobriety today.