In addition to all of the other mental and physical tolls substance abuse can take on a person, it can significantly change your outward appearance. Different drugs have different effects, but generally speaking, weight changes, skin conditions, dark circles under the eyes, and bad teeth are good indicators. Drugs can also cause nutritional deficiencies, which leads to gum disease, cavities, and rotted teeth. This, in turn, leads to an inability to eat properly, which causes yet more deficiencies.

One of the reasons someone’s physical appearance might diminish is because drug or alcohol use consumes all of their time and energy. Addicts might stop bathing or washing clothes and will walk around with tangled hair and stained clothing. A woman who used to be perfectly made up at all times will suddenly stop making an effort, or men will stop shaving.

The following are some drug-specific effects:

Marijuana typically doesn’t have any outward signs, but users are likely to have bloodshot eyes, and their bodies may emit the smell of marijuana. Weight gain is also possible because of the tendency of the drug to cause food cravings.

Tobacco use can lead to bad breath, gum disease, brown and yellow teeth, and tooth loss. Smoking causes wrinkles because nicotine cause blood vessels just under the skin to narrow, depriving the skin of oxygen and nutrients. It also leads to sagging skin, because the chemicals in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin.

 Methamphetamine users can develop acne, and they frequently will have self-inflicted wounds caused by picking at their faces and bodies to relieve the common sensation of insects crawling under their skin. Because methamphetamine use also damages teeth and decreases appetite, users tend to be severely underweight. “Meth mouth,” or rotting teeth and infected gums, is common.


Cocaine causes weight loss and can also seriously damage the nose. When you snort cocaine, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane or lining of the nose. After long-term use, this lining will develop sores. Cocaine use also narrows the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the tissues of the nose, and the septum (the divider between the two nostrils) will develop a perforation or even collapse completely.

Heroin users typically have signs of multiple injections on their arms, called track marks, and contracted pupils. They are also likely to be so focused on their drug use that they neglect personal hygiene.

Inhalants like glue and aerosols can cause watery eyes, runny nose, and rashes around the nose and mouth.

The use of both depressants (such as Xanax, Valium) and stimulants (amphetamines, meth, cocaine) can cause narrowed pupils. Depressants can sometimes cause jaundice, or yellowed eyes and skin.

Steroid abuse causes rapid muscle gain, severe acne, hair loss in men and women, and facial hair growth in women. If injected, it also leaves track marks.

If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.