What Does It Mean When Your Blood Flow Is Slow Beyond Needle Marks – How Substance Abuse Affects Skin

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Beyond Needle Marks – How Substance Abuse Affects Skin

The harm caused by substance abuse is becoming increasingly difficult to camouflage. You may see signs within yourself; you may see signs in someone you care about. The mirror rarely lies. Your reflection will eventually reveal the burden you are trying so hard to hide.

Substance abuse damages the skin

For those who are relatively healthy, skin changes are often the first recognizable indicator of substance use and abuse. This may explain why dermatologists are often the first medical professionals to recognize early signs of substance abuse disorders.

For better or worse, your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. The chemicals that fuel your addiction will reduce your skin’s ability to repair itself and heal itself. The effects are cumulative. Although chemical abuse will cause your skin to take on a dull, unhealthy tone, certain types of substances are known to cause specific skin problems. Some common skin problems include:

• Infections

• Ulcers

• Vascular damage

• Sores in the mouth

• Skin redness

• Hyperpigmentation

• Outbreaks

Acceleration of the aging process with stimulants

If you enjoy any type of stimulant, you are potentially accelerating the aging process. Your heart beats faster and your body has to work harder to keep up with the increased demands. Under the pressure of stimulants, your body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol breaks down the collagen and elastin in your skin.

Collagen is the support structure within your skin. Elastin keeps your skin supple. When the body is under the stress of chemical dependency, the loss of collagen and elastin will result in sagging jowls, drooping eyelids, sagging skin, wrinkles and deepened folds around the nose and mouth. In fact, stimulant abuse can make you look decades older. When you combine the effects of collagen loss with the potential weight loss and malnutrition associated with stimulant abuse, the acceleration of skin aging is even more pronounced.

Scars and scabs from methamphetamine use

The chemical imbalance and dehydration caused by drug use, especially methamphetamine, can result in uncomfortable and troubling sensations on your skin. You may feel like bugs are crawling on your skin and under the surface. The feelings can be maddening. You can respond by scratching or picking at your skin. Irritation leads to more scratching and picking. Repeated skin irritation and skin injury will result in wounds that heal slowly or not at all. This cycle will leave scars on your skin.

Slow-healing sores, blisters, scabs, and scarring are some of the more recognizable skin problems associated with methamphetamine use. Commonly called meth sores or meth mites, these sores most often appear on your face and hands.

Because methamphetamines also interfere with blood flow, methamphetamine sores can appear anywhere on the body. Methamphetamines destroy blood vessels, interfere with your body’s ability to repair cellular damage, and can also cause skin to look like leather.

Dilated, bulging or damaged veins caused by intravenous drug use

Many IV medications are vasodilators that can also cause vasospasm. This means that intravenous drugs will cause the blood vessels to dilate, but then quickly constrict. Vasospasms interfere with your circulation, resulting in pain, swelling, skin ulceration, skin infections, and blood clots.

Approximately 88 percent of intravenous drug users will also develop chronic venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency means that the valves inside your veins that keep blood flowing to your heart don’t close properly. Leaky valves allow blood to flow backwards into the veins. This results in varicose veins that can bulge and twist, varicose veins.

Severe venous insufficiency can also result in skin ulcers that are difficult to heal due to reduced circulation. This skin on your lower legs can change color and take on a rough, scaly appearance. This is more than a cosmetic issue. Damage to the veins increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) and increases the risk of developing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that travels to the lungs).

Cellulitis as a result of skin cracking

While most microorganisms that live on your skin are harmless, they can cause devastating effects when they enter your body through an injection site. When veins are damaged by drug use, some intravenous drug users resort to skin cracking, injecting the drug under the surface of the skin. Cracked skin is associated with an increased risk of cellulitis, a rash-like skin infection caused by staph or strep bacteria. Although this form of bacterial infection is not contagious, it creates a tender, hot, red, swollen rash that spreads quickly.

Cellulitis requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, this infection can enter your bloodstream and lymphatic system. Cellulitis can cause chronic swelling of the affected limb or worse. Although rare, cellulitis can destroy soft tissue, requiring surgery to remove the damage.

Staph and fungal infections due to damage to the immune system

Substance use disorders disrupt your immune system. They make it harder for your body to fight infections, which can result in an increase in infections that your once-healthy immune system could have eliminated before they could cause problems. You may be prone to staph and yeast infections, especially on the feet, where fungus thrives in a moist environment. If you’re prone to psoriasis or eczema, you may notice that your flare-ups are more frequent and harder to control.

Surface indications of alcohol abuse

Redness of the skin can be a sign of alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a dilator of blood vessels. Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde, which can cause the release of histamine, which is the same thing that can happen during an allergic event.

With long-term alcohol abuse, you may also notice an increase in spider veins, small, broken capillaries near the surface of your skin. Spider veins are often most noticeable on your face, neck, chest, arms, hands and stomach. Especially in those with liver damage.

Liver damage caused by alcohol addiction can also cause jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes. This discoloration is an indication that you have an excessive amount of bilirubin in your system. Your liver normally breaks down bilirubin, but its function is impaired by alcohol. When treated in the early stages, jaundice caused by alcohol-related liver disease can be alleviated.

Increased severity of acne and acne breakouts

Due to the increased amount of cortisol produced under stress; you may also find that your skin reflects an internal struggle by breaking out. Cortisol increases inflammation; Acne is your skin’s response to inflammation caused by cortisol. Acne can also be exacerbated by the skin picking habits associated with meth use and the simple fact that addiction can cause you to neglect your basic skin care needs.

Drug and alcohol abuse can cause inflammation, malnutrition and dehydration. It weakens your immune system and damages blood vessels. Addiction adversely affects your body’s ability to recover. Your skin reflects the damage, while your brain, bones and internal organs continue to pay the price.

Getting your looks back can be enough motivation to get you or keep you on track to a drug-free lifestyle. Maybe not. But as you overcome your addiction, you will see signs of your progress. You can be confident that the improved health of your skin is a visible indicator of inner healing.

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