When many think of drug use and abuse, they immediately consider the psychological or internal damage that is taking place. From liver failure to brain chemistry, the extended use of any form of drug will take its toll. What many people fail to consider however, is the intense changes to your appearance that will come with the use of drugs. It is often easy to tell people who are addicted to drugs, and what types of drugs they are taking based solely on their appearance. The following are a few areas of the physical appearance that are effected by the use of drugs.
Teeth and Gum Health
A smile is often one of the first physical aspects of the body to deteriorate when a drug addiction takes hold. Most often attributed to methamphetamines, both prescription and street meth, the saliva glands will become inactive. Saliva is key to keeping both the teeth and gums healthy and even a short amount of time can cause plaque buildup, yellowing of the teeth, and eventually tooth decay.
When living an unhealthy lifestyle, the appearance of the skin is often the first to go. Your skin (especially the skin on your face) is extremely sensitive—even the smallest change in your diet or anything you apply to the inside or the outside of your body will manifest in your skin. The extended use of any drug that affects the liver, kidneys, or glands throughout the body will eventually change skin color and complexion. This includes the yellowing of skin or even acne, and some of the worst offenders include heroine and other opiates. Most of the drug mug shots you see will feature a user with weathered or discolored skin.
Drug abuse affecting hair is a relatively new concept that is only now being studied in-depth. Many of these studies are being directed at recreational drugs such as cocaine, molly, and other forms of MDMA. These drugs in particular affect the adrenal glands which can quickly become ineffective. The adrenal glands are directly connected to the hair growth cycle, therefore it may cause hair loss.
Open sores are one of the most direct ways that drug use can affect an individual’s appearance in an obvious way. This almost always means the injections of drugs such as heroine or crack anywhere that veins are readily accessible. There is a very high likelihood of infections occurring after repeated use and common locations include the inside of one’s arms, the inside of their legs, and on their feet. Aside from drug side effects, serious addicts typically don’t have the best hygiene because of their lifestyle, which worsens these types of sores and wounds.
Depending on the type of drug that is being used there can be dramatic changes to one’s weight. While weight is not typically directly affected by the drug, the effects of the drugs themselves will often alter weight. The abuse of drugs such as Adderall or cocaine will act as appetite suppressants while marijuana will often increase one’s appetite. This recent study shows how gynecomastia (also known as man boobs) can be caused by marijuana use. Whether drug users experience weight gain or weight loss, extreme changes in weight typically accompany drug use and is not only unflattering, but unhealthy.
In the end, those abusing drugs can expect that every facet of their life will be changed over a short period of time. Most of these side effects don’t disappear as soon as the drug is discontinued—it will take time to replenish skin, re-grow hair, or gain and lose weight. Other damages, such as damage done to the teeth, or sores on the skin could leave permanent damage that will cost money to correct. To anyone who thinks that drugs merely destroy the inside of your body, look into the face of a drug addict and you’ll see the serious toll that drugs take on the body’s exterior as well.