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What Can Drug Abuse Do To The Skin?

Drug abuse can do devastating things to your physical, emotional, and mental health. Many symptoms can show up on the skin, and severe effects can destroy the tissue. Continue reading to learn about which drugs cause skin problems.  

Drug Effects on the Body

Every part of your body is affected by drug abuse, including the cardiovascular system, liver, heart, lungs, and skin. Depending on what drug you use, the duration, and genetic predispositions, these elements can factor into the effects your body will react to. Some side effects of drug abuse include:
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Brain damage
  • Weakened immune system
  • Heart conditions
  • Lung disease, including cancer
  • Strain on liver
  • Nausea and abdominal pain
These effects can affect people differently and cause lasting damage.  

Drugs Effect on Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. Abusing drugs can have a wide array of effects on the skin, including sores, infections, inflammation, and even rotting of the skin. When an individual abuses substances, they can sustain many symptoms, which can cause skin eruptions. The lymphatic system is close to the skin and makes your pores a timely exit when the body is cleaned out from drugs or alcohol.    Read about some of the major effects drugs can do to your skin.  


Some of the damaging dermatological diseases of cocaine abuse include:
  • Chronic skin ulcers
  • Necrosis, or death of skin cells
  • Developing fibrous skin tissue
  • Pustulosis, small, raised areas of the skin filled with pus
  • Blackening of the palms, also called “crack hands.”


Since heroin is injected into the skin, most of the issues with the skin include those of “track marks,” which is scarring of the veins. These marks can develop skin infections, abscesses, and cellulitis. You can also suffer from necrotizing skin lesions, from a practice called “skin popping,” when heroin users inject the drug subcutaneously. Skin popping can lead to tissue trauma and allow bacteria to penetrate the skin. It can also introduce cutting agents, which may irritate the skin. People who used heroin in this way are five times more likely to suffer from abscesses or cellulitis. Heroin users can also develop an itchy hives-like rash, which is caused by cell degranulation and histamine release. Intense itching usually occurs right after you inject the drug and can last for several days.  


Chronic users of meth can experience skin sores; this is usually due to picking their skin since they may feel as if insects are crawling on or under the skin. This is called “meth mites.” They can also suffer from dry skin and infections. Those who inject meth are at higher risk for skin infections and abscesses, just as with heroin.  


One of the most common problems of alcohol on the skin is spider angioma, which are lacy patches of red; they appear on the hands, face, and neck or torso. Another skin condition alcoholics may suffer from is called caput medusa, which causes swollen and distended veins that appear on the navel and spreads across the abdomen—often indicating liver disease. Jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes) happens with high levels of serum bilirubin.  Alcohol can also cause porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT), a skin condition that causes scarring in areas of the skin exposed to the sun. Psoriasis (flat, thick, red plaques over the surfaces of the hands, fingers, palms, and soles of the feet) can develop in those who abuse alcohol. Eczema, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis are other skin diseases that can occur with alcohol abuse.  

Ardu Recovery Center Can Help

If you or a loved one has been abusing drugs or alcohol and seeking treatment, please give us a call. We can help you detox and get your life back with our customized programs. Contact us today for more information.