If you’re angry with a drug addict, there’s a good chance he won’t be able to tell. Looks like there’s another side effect to substance use: the inability to read other people’s emotions. A study found that moderate to heavy drug abusers couldn’t properly register faces with negative expressions.
Most drugs affect the emotional-focused parts of the brain, which impact not only people’s owns emotion, but their perception of others emotions. While the drug users were still able to recognize positive and neutral emotions like happiness and surprise at similar rates to drug-free people, they had trouble spotting negative reactions including rage, grief, fright, and disgust.
The research found that pretty much any combination of substances could have this effect, although people’s cocaine use was the most indicative of how poorly they would perceive emotions.
Unfortunately, even if addicts haven’t used substances recently, the inability to read emotions lingers and may be irreparable. Still, it is important to know this fact as it can aid in drug treatment. Emotion-based rehabilitation may be fruitless, and it explains why a drug user’s loved ones’ signs of frustration and disapproval are overlooked. Finding a way to bridge this emotional gap could be a key tool in overcoming addiction.