Understanding the Effects of Drug Abuse On the Skin

The effects of drug abuse are many, but some of the most unsightly effects can be seen on the skin. No matter what type of substances you are addicted to or ingest, they do damage to the body. One of the main consequences of drug abuse is that it leaches nutrients from the body, and this deficiency shows up on the skin.

The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Skin
Among the many effects of drug abuse on the skin is jaundice. This is a yellowing of the skin and eyes. The patient can also suffer from itching of the skin, also called pruritus. The skin can also darken in a condition called hyperpigmentation or break out into hives, which are red, itching welts that can grow to cover a large area of the body. Discoloration of the skin is very common, and while not dangerous, are unsightly and psychologically damaging.
People in recovery from substance abuse can also suffer from spider veins. This is when the tiny veins, especially those found in the face, dilate and become unsightly. They can also suffer from angiomas, which are skin tumors made up of blood vessels. The skin is also subject to flushing and a condition called caput medusae, which are enlarged, snaky veins that appear around the area of the navel. Caput medusae are also known as the palm tree sign. The patients can also suffer from palmar erythema, which is when the palms of the hands redden.
Effects of Drug Abuse from IV Drug Use
The effects of drug abuse, specifically intravenous drug use can be serious. Often patients suffer from skin granulomas, ulcerations and infections of the skin that persist or return. Granulomas are small, inflamed areas on the skin that appear when the skin has been injured. They occur when macrophages from a person's immune system wall off a toxin from the rest of the body but can't eliminate it. Granulomas that are one of the effects of drug abuse are usually not cancerous but are unsightly. Blistered skin and track marks or needle marks are also common. The skin may also atrophy and appear shiny. Patients who are in recovery from methamphetamine abuse also might suffer from tooth decay and severe oral diseases like trench mouth. Patients might also scratch and pick at their skin to the point where the skin is injured. This also puts the skin at risk for infections, bruises and sores. The skin might also have a faint but unusual odor that might be acrid or somewhat sweet.

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