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What Drug Addiction Can Do to Your Appearance Over Time

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

The best way to see what drugs do to your appearance is to view before-and-after mug shots of addicts repeatedly incarcerated over the years. With the heroin and meth epidemic infiltrating just about every part of the U.S., law enforcement is attempting to show everyone exactly what addiction will do to your face, your hair, your teeth and your body by publishing before-and-after images of drug abusers.

When an Addiction Consumes Your Mind and Body

Addicts care about one thing and one thing only — getting high. Once addiction takes over, nothing takes precedence over finding drugs. Addicts will spend their last dime on purchasing drugs, foregoing their personal hygiene and nutritional needs for satisfying their craving to use. It is the combination of malnutrition, neglecting personal hygiene and pursuing a stressful, often dangerous lifestyle that takes a toll on their appearance.

Nutritional disorders and dehydration from eating junk food or not eating at all is partially responsible for the superficial damage seen on face of addicts. Skin becomes pale, loose and covered in sores. Patches of hair may be missing from the scalp, and oral health suffers dramatically.

The term “meth mouth” refers to the significant loss of teeth seen in methamphetamine addicts who crave sugary foods but neglect oral hygiene. Worsening an addict’s appearance is the fact they simply don’t care how they look — all they care about is staying as high as possible for as long as possible.

Addiction and malnutrition also reduce immune system functioning and increase the risk for addicts to suffer a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases, from sepsis, hepatitis and tuberculosis to HIV, meningitis and pneumonia. Since most addicts fail to receive necessary treatment, these illnesses exacerbate existing skin, teeth and hair problems.

Vitamin Deficiencies in Alcoholics

Alcoholics experience a different set of physical changes due to the way alcohol interferes with absorption of nutrients in the intestines. In addition to weight loss and muscle wasting, alcoholics often have chronically bloodshot eyes due to increased hypertension and ashy or grayish skin because they suffer from anemia.

Long-term alcoholics may also develop Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis due to a severe lack of vitamin B1 in their body. Both cause brain damage and present initial symptoms of short-term memory loss or mild cognitive impairment. Difficulty in walking, facial tics, bleeding ulcers and vision problems are other symptoms of vitamin deficiencies in alcoholics.

Restoring a Healthy Appearance in Substance Abusers

While skin and hair health can be restored and missing teeth can be replaced with dentures or implants, chronic conditions like heart, liver, brain and kidney disease may not be reversible. However, by eating a healthy diet, taking care of personal hygiene, receiving medical treatment and avoiding drugs and alcohol, a recovering addict can often regain at least most of the appearance and health they had before they became addicted.

If you or someone you love is suffering from drug addiction, call Synergy Recovery Services today at 661-878-9100 to get help immediately.