A lesion refers to an abnormal change on a body tissue organ caused by an injury or disease. Lesions could be a result of using recreational drugs or some specific FDA-approved drugs.

Drug abuse affects most body organs, and unfortunately, the damage done may remain hidden for several years. For example, alcohol strains the liver, heroin damages the kidneys, and cocaine stresses the heart.

The skin is the largest body organ. Abusing alcohol or drugs for a long period can cause skin lesions. Skin lesions can either be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), basically skin cancer. They can manifest as sores, a variety of infections, and even rotting of the skin.

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Four factors contribute to lesions. They include:

Here is how different addictive substances affect the skin.

Heroin

The effect of heroin on the skin is more noticeable in users who prefer injecting the drug with needles, instead of snorting or smoking. Heroin users repeatedly penetrate their skin while seeking veins. This may lead to venous sclerosis, which refers to scarring of the veins. Venous sclerosis can result in skin infections, cellulitis, and abscesses.

Users who inject themselves with heroin through skin risk contracting necrotizing skin lesions due to skin popping. Skin popping allows bacteria to penetrate the skin and also leads to tissue trauma.

Most heroin users also complain about dry, itchy skin. Additionally, some users end up having an itchy hives-like rash.

Cocaine

Cocaine can directly affect the skin, and it can also affect internal organs, which in turn cause skin damage.

Here are some effects that cocaine has on the skin:

You should also know that a variety of substances are used to cut cocaine. Some of the substances can cause rotting of the skin and ulcerating skin lesions. Additionally, cocaine could cause a heart attack since its users have an increased heart rate.

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Alcohol

Most people are unaware of the fact that alcohol abuse can have noticeable effects on their skin. The most common effect of alcohol on the skin is spider angioma. Spider angioma manifests as red lacy patches on the neck, torso, hands, and face.

Alcohol abuse also causes Caput medusa, a skin condition that causes the addict’s veins to swell and distend. The veins usually appear across the abdomen. Alcohol abuse also causes Porphyria Cutanea Tarda (PCT), a condition that causes scars on areas of the skin one exposes to the sun. Most people battling alcohol addiction have scars on their faces, hands, and feet.

Dermatologists also associate several dermatological conditions with alcohol abuse, including seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and eczema.

Methamphetamine

Most people who abuse methamphetamine (meth) end up having skin sores because they constantly pick their skin. Meth users pick at their skin because they, on several occasions, get the sensation of insects crawling even when they are not there. As a result, they easily develop sores. Some meth users also end up having dry skin.

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Meth users who inject themselves with the drug are also at risk of contracting skin infections.  Research has shown that 11% of drug users that use injections report skin infections every few months.

Marijuana

Research has shown that marijuana can negatively affect your skin. The smoke from marijuana contains hydrocarbons. When the hydrocarbons come into contact with your skin, they interfere with your skin’s collagen production.

Note that collagen protects your skin against inflammation and air pollution. If your skin does not produce enough collagen, your skin will age prematurely and become wrinkled since it loses its elasticity. Cannabis-induced arteritis, which is a direct result of marijuana use, also has effects on the skin.

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Desomorphine

The street name of desomorphine is "krokodil" because it turns the skin green and scaly. Eventually, the skin sloughs off.

Krokodil is a cheap form of heroin. It has been dubbed the deadliest drug globally because it rots the skin from the inside out. Consequently, it causes abscesses and gangrene.

How to deal with side effects of drugs and skin lesions

If you want to minimize the impact of drug abuse on your skin, the first thing you need to do is stop abusing drugs. Note that the more you abuse drugs, the more adverse effects they will have on your skin. Most people with addictions end up having very unhealthy skin.

If you are struggling with an addiction or substance use disorder, you should consider seeking medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment to beat the addiction. There are several treatment approaches to consider, so you should choose one that suits you best. If you have a supportive family, your family members will support you throughout your recovery journey, especially when dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

You may also have to undergo behavioral therapies to deal with unhealthy behaviors that destruct your skin or body organs in general.

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Various drugs affect the skin differently. However, once you deal with your drug use and addiction, some effects will fade naturally. If you want to speed up the process, you can consult a dermatologist. The dermatologist will prescribe medications and, in some cases, ask you to follow a consistent skincare regimen.

If you are in the United States and need drug information, especially when it comes to drug addiction, you can contact the American Society of Addiction Medicine or the National Institute on Drug Abuse for more information.

Conclusion

If you want to maintain healthy skin, do not abuse drugs. You should specifically stay away from drugs that contain fillers or compounds as they tend to have adverse effects on the skin. In addition, moisturize, wear sunscreen, and maintain good hygiene to keep your skin healthy.

 

Nothing scares a parent more than the thought of their child abusing drugs. But unfortunately, that’s a reality that most parents may have to deal with at some point in time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 2012 Monitoring the Future survey, 40% of 12th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 13% of 8th graders had used a drug at least once in the past year. If you suspect that your child is smoking drugs, it’s best to uncover the truth, and get them immediate help.

Many teens (and even adults) who smoke are new to drug use and are scared of injecting. They assume that smoking is safer and less addictive. But drugs are dangerous irrespective of how they’re used. All ways of using drugs can lead to drug addiction – though smoking gets drugs to the brain more than other modes of administration, so it actually tends to increase the chances of one becoming addicted.

Catching drug use problems early can help prevent addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and other drug-related issues.

Common drugs that are smoked include:

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The dangers of smoking these drugs can be severe and include addiction, heart attack, lung problems, painful withdrawal, and deadly overdose. One may also run into problems with the authorities, including the drug enforcement administration. Fortunately, with suitable treatment options, freedom from substance abuse is possible.

 

Devices used to spot drug users

Drug abuse is a serious health care concern that needs immediate care. According to the American Addiction Centers, drugs can have permanent effects on the body. If you suspect that someone you love is smoking drugs, identifying these common and usually overlooked paraphernalia should serve as a warning to take action.

Aluminum foil

Recreational drug abusers use aluminum foil (or tin foil) to smoke various substances, including illicit drugs and diverted prescription pills. They put the drug on a flat piece of foil or shape the foil into a pipe before heating it with a lighter, a process called freebasing. Drugs in black tar or powder form are easy to use this way.

Examples of drugs that are often smoked with aluminum foil are:

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Look out for the presence of burned or discolored tin foil, as these are the most apparent signs of use. You may also want to check out fake-looking soda cans, beer cans, and aerosol containers. Some people use them to try to conceal scent. Using tin foil to smoke drugs may cause a series of risks and health problems, like:

 

Glass pipes and bowls

Glass pipes are designed for drug use. Many people smoke drugs out of glass pipes because they’re easy to use, convenient, and comfortable compared to snorting or using foil. Different types of pipes exist for different illicit drugs. Knowing how to distinguish these pipes can help you identify the drugs which your loved one is abusing.

 

Crack cocaine pipe

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Glass pipes used to smoke crack cocaine have a unique shape. They’re typically straight, long tubes of glass that are often sold as oil burners. If your loved one is smoking cocaine, you may catch a pungent smell that seems like a mixture of burning plastic and urine.

Crystal Meth pipe

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Glass pipes for meth have a bulb shape on one end of the pipe. If your loved one is smoking crystal meth, you’ll notice a yellow or burnt residue on the glass. You may also smell a stale chemical odor – though it tends to disappear after a short while.

Marijuana pipe

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Glass pipes for marijuana resemble those for meth. However, instead of a bulb shape, marijuana pipes have a colorful open bowl with an elongated mouthpiece. If your loved one is smoking marijuana, you’ll catch a lingering smell in the room and surrounding spaces. Marijuana can also be smoked out of a metal pipe or bong.

Heroin pipe

Heroin pipes look like a combination of meth and marijuana pipes – a glass cylinder with a sphere or enclosed bowl at the end. Heroin has a lighter, more subtle, and almost sweet smell, like some types of incense. It can also smell like vinegar, depending on how the heroin was made.

Cigarette rolling papers

In addition to a bong or pipe, drug users use tobacco rolling papers to smoke marijuana. They either roll the marijuana into a cigarette (or joint) or hollow out a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana. Cigarette rolling papers are also used to smoke heroin.

Users sprinkle the powder heroin on tobacco and roll a cigarette. Often, they can cook it (using heat and acid to liquefy) and spreading the mixture on a cigarette. Sometimes, marijuana is combined with heroin into a cigarette in a process called lacing.

Straw

Straw is used to inhale steam and smoke as it wafts off the heroin, cocaine, meth, prescription drugs, etc., on the aluminum foil, can, or container.

Side effects of smoking illicit and prescription drugs

Smoking is one of the most common forms of drug administration. It’s also the fastest way to get the drug to the brain. However, smoking can lead to substance abuse and addiction. That’s because tolerance to hard drugs builds quickly.

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Addiction isn’t the only problem. Smoking crack, heroin, meth, and amphetamine can damage the lungs, worsen asthma, and lead to a deadly overdose. It also increases the risk for pneumonia, bronchitis, and coughing. Smoking marijuana cigarettes laced with embalming fluid and PCP can cause body tissue, lung, and brain damage as well as inflammation and sores.

Besides, most street drugs aren’t pure. Dealers cut them with other substances, which can cause other negative health effects.

Help your loved one find treatment

It can be disheartening to discover that your loved one is abusing drugs. But the good news is that it’s never too late to get help. Various treatment facilities offer short and long-term rehabilitation programs to help patients get off of alcohol or  drugs.

Some even offer counseling for patients and their loved ones and can be beneficial to you. Texas, is one of the states in the forefront of treatment options for patients including rehab centers.

So, go ahead and reach out to an addiction treatment center. As an option to learn more about how to spot the signs of smoking drugs, you can contact the editorial staff of the many public health periodicals and websites. 

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