A decade after the shocking “Faces of Meth” campaign—documenting the clear impact of meth abuse through mug shots—the website Rehabs.com has released a new video showing how abuse of different drugs can affect the appearance of people struggling with addiction. Although there is undoubtedly a less serious, “click-bait” sort of appeal to seeing the drastic changes that occur, the website intended the slideshow to show how addiction is often a consequence of casual drug use and the impact it can have. The slideshow may attract its fair share of gawkers, but most who see the video will receive the message loud and clear: drug addiction can really take its toll on your physical health.
More Than Meth: The Faces
The video lasts just three minutes and shows images of those arrested for drug possession (or caught in possession of paraphernalia) at their first encounter with the law and then at each subsequent arrest up until the most recent. Each is accompanied by some basic information about the individual, his or her crimes and the time period the pictures cover. The images progress from fairly ordinary-looking individuals to haggard, wrinkled grimaces, pockmarked with sores and scars. The effect is more striking in some cases than others, but it’s hardly surprising that the people polled about the time periods that elapsed between the first and last images always overestimated. In most cases, it’s what you’d expect from decades of abuse, not just a few years. If you look through the full slideshow of images, you can see each picture with a time-stamp and information about the offense the individual was arrested for, often revealing an even sharper decline at the point when drug-related charges appear on the rap sheet.
How Drugs Change Physical Appearance
There is also plenty of information provided about the reasons for the striking changes in appearance seen in the images, arranged by drug. Although the first video focused on methamphetamine, the new images are taken from cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and meth addicts, showing that the effects aren’t limited to a specific substance. Cocaine abuse, for example, leads to weight loss and—when the drug is snorted—inflammation of the nose.
Oxycodone (OxyContin)—a prescription medication chemically related to heroin but technically legal when provided by a doctor—can cause either weight loss or gain, flushing of the skin, bloodshot eyes and small pupils. For heroin, the physical changes include weight loss, cellulitis and abscesses and scabs formed on the skin from incessant picking.
Meth still produces the most notable effect, causing weight loss, tooth decay (known as “meth mouth”), the appearance of rapid aging and sores on the face. Most of these effects are due to the impact meth has on bodily tissues, dampening the body’s ability to heal itself (explaining the persistent sores) and affecting the elasticity of the skin. This is why many of the meth abusers in the slideshow look so much older after just a few years—their skin loses suppleness and leaves them looking like their faces have been gradually melting.
Other Effects Of Drug Abuse And Addiction
The drastic effect drug abuse has on physical appearance is in many ways the least of users’ concerns. The issue of addiction exacerbates all of the more serious medical complications of drug abuse, which vary according to the specific substance being abused. When you reach the point where you feel like you need a dose of a specific substance in order to feel “normal,” the apparently far-off, more severe consequences don’t seem as urgent. However, addiction increases tolerance, and so those struggling with addiction need to take more and more of a substance in order to achieve a pleasurable effect, thus increasing the risk of fatal overdose and putting more physical strain on their bodies.
Considering the physical effects of meth alone, which can lead to tremors or convulsions, psychosis, hallucinations, stroke, brain damage and even coma, it’s clear that these aren’t risks you should be comfortable takng. The grip of addiction encourages you to confront these risks again and again, toying with fate until eventually your luck runs out and medical complications start to show.
The situation can only be improved by tackling the real issue: addiction. Taking steps to improve your behavioral health and break free from the grip of addiction allows you to avoid these risks altogether, and halta the decline of your appearance. As your body repairs itself and you develop new psychological coping mechanisms so that you don’t feel like you need the specific substance anymore, it gets progressively less difficult to stay sober. It isn’t easy, but if you need any encouragement to show you why getting better is worthwhile, just watch the Rehabs.com “Faces of Drug Arrests” video and ask yourself how you’d look if you kept abusing drugs for the next five years. It wouldn’t be pretty.