If you’ve seen photographs of the progress of a person’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, you’ve probably been shocked by their appearance. With missing teeth, wrinkled skin, and cuts and sores, a person battling addiction can often look many years older than their actual age. While you might be aware of the adverse effects of addiction on internal organs such cirrhosis of the liver and lung cancer, did you know that the skin itself is also an organ? As such, drug and alcohol addiction can quickly take its toll on your skin, because substance abuse prevents your body from absorbing essential nutrients, and can prevent you from maintaining your health and hygiene. Here are three examples of how addition harms your skin:
Skin and soft tissues infections (SSTI)
Addiction weakens your immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infection. SSTIs are skin infections ranging from abscesses to cellulitis and are particularly prevalent in injecting drug users. This is because when the needle punctures the skin infection can soon set into the wound. If the needle is being reused, an infection could already be lingering on the needle. Due to the weakened immune system, any infections that are picked up can often become worse before healing, if at all.
Effects of the drugs
When you take drugs, you are ingesting poison into your body, and as such, your body is going to experience some of the side effects of this poison. Drugs can cause redness, itching, and skin irritation, especially at the point of injection, and can cause your skin to break out in a rash or become very dry. Hallucinogenic drugs, such as meth, result in hallucinations that have been likened to the sensation of insects crawling beneath the skin, known as “parasitosis.” Believing that they are scratching away the insects, addicts claw and pick at the skin. This causes open sores that are susceptible to infection and, because of a reduced immune system, take a long time to heal.
If you are struggling with addiction, remember that help is always available from programs such as Ignite Teen Treatment. With determination and professional help, you can overcome your addiction and prevent these adverse skin effects.
Discoloration of the skin
The faces of drug addicts often appear gray, pale, and washed-out. This is due to the addiction robbing the body of essential nutrients, as well as causing a general lack of personal care. Hyperpigmentation, the darkening of the skin, can occur at the point of injection. In addition to drugs, alcohol addiction can have a hugely detrimental effect on the skin. Liver disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver, which is often linked to alcoholism, can result in jaundice, a condition that causes the skin to appear yellow. Alcohol addiction can also result in spider angioma, lacy patches of red that appear on the face, hands, neck, and torso. This is because alcohol causes blood vessels to relax and widen, causing redness to be more visible on the skin.