While the emotional and mental effects of drug and alcohol addiction are devastating, the negative effects of addiction on appearance can be just as unwanted and, unfortunately, sometimes permanent. Addiction can lead to issues with the skin, hair, teeth, and even weight loss or gain.
In addition to behavioral changes, the visual effects of drug abuse are often the first clues friends and family have regarding an addiction. If a loved one of yours is showing the physical symptoms of addiction, urge them to seek treatment immediately. If they are resistant to residential recovery, inform them of alternatives. For instance, Seattle based outpatient treatment and similar programs in other cities are designed to let individuals continue on with their day-to-day lives while in recovery.
Before using changes in appearance to determine if someone you know is struggling with addiction, take the time to learn which substances cause which type of damage to appearance:
Alcohol dehydrates the skin which dries it out and makes it look dull. It can also cause sagging skin, especially on the face, due to a lack of nutrients. The loss of vitamins and nutrients in the skin cause it to lose its elasticity and smoothness. Alcoholics can also develop rosacea as a result of dry skin, as well as spider veins across the nose and cheeks.
Methamphetamine users are known for having acne and sores on the skin. Meth addicts often feel like something is crawling on their skin and will scratch excessively, leading to more sores. Heroin is another drug that dehydrates the skin and leads to a dull appearance. Cocaine addicts tend to have a red and irritated nose, which can eventually lead to infections and loss of cartilage.
Drugs and alcohol can also affect the teeth, whether it is a direct effect of the substance or due to lack of proper oral hygiene. Methamphetamines cause cavities, higher risk of infection in the mouth, and even the loss of multiple teeth. The tooth decay caused by methamphetamine use is commonly referred to as meth mouth, and it is probably the most widely known physical appearance change due to the use of methamphetamines. Many drug addicts do not keep up with routine hygiene such as brushing their teeth.
The hair is another area that can suffer negative effects of addiction on appearance. An addict’s hair can appear dull and lack a natural shine. Alcohol dehydrates the hair, which can cause it to have a brittle texture. Since brittle hair breaks more easily, an addict’s hair can take on a ragged and uneven appearance. Split ends are also common due to the lack of moisture and nutrients in the hair. Methamphetamine addicts have been known to itch and scratch their scalps to the point of causing hair loss.
Body weight can also be affected by substance abuse. While most drugs cause an excessive amount of weight loss, alcohol is known to cause bloating which can make a person look as if they have gained a substantial amount of weight. Most people are familiar with the term beer belly, but alcoholics can also look bloated in the face area. Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines all typically cause a person to have a decreased appetite, therefore causing severe weight loss. These addicts will usually look extremely thin and have an emaciated appearance.
Sadly, an addict almost always experiences more than one of these physical changes at a time. Skin, hair, and teeth are almost always affected simultaneously. Multiple changes at once give an addict a haggard and unkempt appearance as if they do not care for themselves. In reality, they often do skip general care and hygiene due to the mental effects of the drug.