The individuals in these photos were arrested on drug charges or related charges. There may be errors in arrest record reporting. All persons are considered innocent of these charges until proven guilty. These photos do not necessarily show the direct result of drug abuse or addiction. Rather, they depict the physical deterioration of individuals who have been involved in repeated arrests, and serve as a startling visual timeline – with appearances profoundly altered as a consequence of life impacted by drugs or drug-related crime.

Millions of Americans are trapped in a cycle of drug abuse and addiction: In 2013, over 24 million reported that they had abused illicit drugs or prescription medication in just the past month.1 More than 1.7 million were admitted to treatment programs for substance abuse in 2012.2 The pursuit of a drug habit can cost these people everything – their friends and family, their home and livelihood. And nowhere is that impact more evident than in the faces of addicts themselves.

Here, the potentially catastrophic health effects of drug abuse are plain to see, ranging from skin lesions to decayed and missing teeth.3 While meth is often seen as one of the more visibly destructive drugs, leading to facial wasting and open sores,4 various other illicit drugs, and even prescription medications can cause similarly severe symptoms when chronically abused. The use of opioids like OxyContin or heroin can cause flushing and a widespread rash of red bumps on the skin,5 while cocaine abuse can result in significantly decreased appetite, dangerous malnutrition and weight loss.6 Ecstasy may cause grinding of teeth and dental erosion,7 and smoking cannabis releases carcinogens and other chemicals that can, over time, diminish skin collagen and produce an appearance of premature aging.8 While alcohol is legal, its effects on long-term alcoholics' appearance are among the most severe. To see what you would look like as a long-term alcoholic, try out our interactive simulation titled Your Face as a Long-term Alcoholic.


Beyond the direct effects of substance abuse, perhaps its most damaging result is the development of addiction itself. The relentless compulsion to get high makes drug use the driving force in an addict’s life; they will seek out their drugs at any cost, with all else becoming secondary in importance. Self-neglect becomes normal – an accepted cost of continuing to use drugs; the consequences of addiction can remain etched in their very skin for years.

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If any individuals depicted are seeking treatment for addiction, please contact us. Rehabs.com will work with you and we are willing to provide financial assistance.

Q: These are extreme cases right? Most alcohol users or drug users will never look like this.
A: These are extreme cases, and while it is true that most occasional users would not display these overt physical symptoms, it is worth considering that any individuals who do show this level of deterioration likely never thought their casual use would ultimately result in hardcore addiction. That is how powerful the disease of addiction is, and how devastating it can be to those who fall victim to its effects.

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1. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabsPDFWHTML2013/Web/HTML/NSDUH-DetTabsSect1peTabs1to46-2013.htm#tab1.1a

2. http://wwwdasis.samhsa.gov/webt/quicklink/US12.htm

3. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/

4. http://www.methproject.org/answers/why-do-meth-users-have-open-sores.html#Deconstruction

5. http://www.news-medical.net/health/Opioid-Side-Effects.aspx

6. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

7. http://www.dentalhealthweek.com.au/Adults/Lifestyle-Risks/drugs.html

8. http://www.leafscience.com/2013/11/17/dermatologists-marijuana-can-improve-skin-smoke/


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