In an online forum, an admitted addict asks why she doesn’t care about showering anymore and asks if others have had this problem. Many respond to her and tell their own stories about their decline of personal hygiene while struggling with drug addiction. Some talk of the dental work that they needed after becoming sober. One forum member explained it this way: “The entire external world becomes a chore and all of our happiness comes from our pills (or whatever) and the thoughts they bring. Probably the same reason I could watch paint peel on oxycodone and be totally entertained. This applies to relationships and passions as well. Pretty much anything that requires effort in the external world is bound to go away at some point if it’s a powerful addiction.” Let’s take a closer look at how drug addiction can alter someone’s physical appearance.
Addicts may lose their teeth.
Because of their chemical makeup, drugs can cause many oral health problems on their own. Combine that with not brushing and flossing regularly, and it can spell disaster for someone’s oral health. Some drugs such as methamphetamines eat away at the enamel of the teeth and cause them to rot. The term “meth mouth” is often used to describe the decay that they cause. Stimulants can cause users to grind their teeth excessively which can lead to cracking or loosening of the teeth as well as jaw problems. Opiates and some barbiturates often cause a decreased salivary flow, which can make people more susceptible to tooth decay. This is especially true for users who often indulge in sugary foods or beverages. The combination of a dry mouth and sugar accelerates decay. Most of the time the teeth will rot away completely, or to such a degree that extraction is the only solution. One study showed that drug and alcohol abuse resulted in higher than normal rates of oral cancer as well.
Some drug users stop showering.
Many addicts will say that personal hygiene is at the bottom of the list of things to do. When they’re not high, they are working on getting high, and when they are high, there’s no need to do anything. Many users cite a lack of motivation when it comes to anything other than using. Furthermore, some addicts will avoid showering after they have gotten their fix, in fear that their high will be diminished. For addicts who find themselves homeless, showers are a luxury they can’t always afford.
They lose their hair.
Certain drugs can cause temporary hair loss and hair thinning. Poor diet and nutrition can accelerate this and make hair brittle as well. One addict in recovery said that while she was in active addiction, she developed a huge knot in her long hair from laying on the couch for such a long period of time. Instead of trying to deal with it, she just cut it off. She said that her hair became so brittle that she could break it off in chunks. Fortunately, once someone has stopped using, their hair can return to normal in time.
They develop skin infections and lesions.
Because of poor hygiene, many addicts will develop various skin afflictions. Puncture wounds from needles can easily become infected, and without proper nutrition, the situation can become exacerbated. Certain drugs such as opiates can cause extreme itching and when the skin is broken, infections often occur.
Some addicts may smell.
Poor physical hygiene, especially for an extended period of time, leads to excessive body odor. Methamphetamines cause excess sweating and body odor, even when the user does shower regularly. Halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, which can be caused by tooth decay and poor oral hygiene adds to the problem. This can cause problems with personal relationships and their ability to get and maintain a job.
They can become dangerously thin.
When your only worry is your next high, proper nutrition takes a back seat. Many addicts spend whatever money they have on drugs. Hunger diminishes and food becomes an occasional indulgence. Often times food choices are poor and lack the vitamins and minerals that are needed to maintain proper health. Additionally, some drugs such as cocaine, act as an appetite suppressant. Cocaine and other stimulant users can go days, even weeks, without craving food.
Their eyesight can get worse.
Some drugs can cause excessive drying of the eyes, which over time can lead to visual impairment. Some develop harmful infections due to poor hygiene. One user online said that he stopped going to the optometrist even though he has poor eyesight, and stopped caring whether or not he could see clearly. Other drugs, such as alkyl nitrates or poppers, an inhalant drug typically used as an adjunct to designer club drugs such as ecstasy, can cause internal damage to the eyes, which can be permanent. One user experienced impaired vision after using poppers only one time and only regained most of his vision after more than three months in recovery.
As you can see, drug addiction affects not just the mind, but also the body in many ways. While some of these effects are merely cosmetic, some can lead to malnutrition and other serious health complications. The risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV is also greatly increased for abusers. If you notice that a loved one has stopped showering or taking proper care of themselves, please seek help immediately.
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