Beyond Needle Marks – How Substance Abuse Affects Skin

The damage caused by substance abuse becomes increasingly challenging to camouflage. You may see the signs in yourself; you may see the signs in someone you care for. The mirror rarely lies. Your reflection will eventually reveal the burden you work so hard to conceal.

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 of the medical professionals to recognize the early signs of substance abuse disorder.

For better or worse, your skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body. The chemicals fueling your addiction will impair your skin’s ability to repair and heal. The effects are cumulative. While chemical abuse will cause your skin to take on a dull, unhealthy tone, certain types of substances are known to cause specific skin concerns. Some of the common skin concerns include:

• Infections

• Ulcers

• Vascular damage

• Mouth sores

• Skin flushing

• Hyperpigmentation

• Breakouts

Accelerating the Aging process with Stimulants

If you are indulging in any type of stimulant, you potentially expedite the aging process. Your heart beats faster, and your body needs to work harder to keep up with the increased demands. Under the strain 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 a body is under the stress of chemical dependency, the loss of collagen and elastin will result in saggy jowls, drooping eyelids, loose skin, wrinkles and deepened folds around your nose and mouth. In fact, stimulant abuse can cause you to 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

The Scars and Scabs of Methamphetamine Use

The chemical imbalances and dehydration caused by drug use, particularly methamphetamines, can result in uncomfortable and troubling sensations on your skin. You may feel like you have bugs crawling on your skin and below the surface. The sensations can be maddening. You may respond by scratching or picking at your skin. Irritation leads to more scratching and picking. Repeated skin irritation and skin injury will result in sores that heal slowly, or not at all. This cycle will scar your skin.

Sores that are slow to heal, blisters, scabs, and scars are some of the more recognizable skin problems associated with methamphetamine use. Commonly called meth sores or meth mites, these sores most commonly occur on your face and arms.

Since methamphetamines also interfere with blood flow, meth sores can appear anywhere on your body. Methamphetamines destroy blood vessels, interfere with your body’s ability to repair cellular damage and can also cause leathery looking skin.

The Enlarged, Protruding or Damaged Veins of Intravenous Drug Use

Many IV drugs are vasodilators that can also induce vasospasms. That means that IV drugs will cause your blood vessels to expand, but then quickly contract. Vasospasms disrupt your circulation, which results in pain, swelling, skin ulcerations, skin infections and blood clots.

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

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

Cellulitis as a Consequence of Skin Popping

While most microorganisms living on your skin are harmless, they can cause devastating consequences when entering your body through an injection site. When veins become damaged by drug use, some IV drug users resort to skin popping, injecting drugs under the surface of the skin. Skin popping is linked to an increased risk of cellulitis, a rash-like skin infection caused by staph or strep bacteria. While this form of bacterial infection is not contagious, it forms a tender, hot, red swollen rash that spreads rapidly.

Cellulitis requires prompt medical attention. Left untreated this infection can enter your bloodstream and lymphatic system. Cellulitis can cause chronic swelling of the infected limb, or worse. Although it’s rare, cellulitis can destroy soft tissues, requiring surgery to remove the damage.

Staph and Fungal Infections Due to Immune System Impairment

Substance abuse disorders disrupt your immune system. They make it difficult for your body to fight infections, this can result in an increase in infections that your once healthy immune system could have eliminated before it could cause any problems. You may find yourself prone to staph infections and fungal infections, particularly on your feet, where fungus thrives in the moist environment. If you are prone to psoriasis or eczema, you may find your flares more frequent and increasingly difficult to manage.

Surface Indications of Alcohol Abuse

Skin flushing can be an indication of alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a blood vessel dilator. Alcohol breaks down to acetaldehyde, which can cause a histamine release, 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 close to the surface of your skin. Spider veins are often the most noticeable on your face, neck, chest, arms, hands, and abdomen. Particularly in those with liver damage.

The damage to your liver caused by alcohol dependency can also cause jaundice, the yellowing of your 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 the function has been impaired by alcohol. When treated in its early stages, jaundice caused by the alcohol-related liver disease can be improved.

Increased Severity of Breakouts and Acne

Because of the increased amount of cortisol produced under stress; you may also find that your skin reflects the internal struggle by breaking out. Cortisol increases inflammation; acne is your skin’s response to the inflammation cortisol causes. Acne can also be aggravated by the skin picking habits associated with meth use and the simple fact that addiction may cause you to overlook 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 heal. Your skin reflects the damage, while your brain, bones and internal organs continue to pay the price.

Restoring your appearance may be enough motivation to get you, or keep you, on the right path to a drug-free lifestyle. It may not. But as you conquer your addiction, you will see the signs of your progress. You can be assured that the improved health of your skin is a visible indication of the healing within.

Drug and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation for Teenagers – Parenting Tips

While many of them simply indulge for mere experimentation, they tend to stop almost immediately after they do. However, for some variant reasons, others get immersed to the point they can no longer control their urges where now that becomes drug or substance abuse.

Who is to blame?

No doubt there are many reasons why our teenagers fall victim of drug and substance abuse and with the high rise of the same, it remains quite a challenge for parents especially to solely keep their kids on the right track. Nevertheless, without knowing the first step towards helping your teenager who has fallen victim of drug abuse, it can get quite devastating.

Sure we all want the best for our children, when and how they stray and end up succumbing to drug abuse is never certain. While there will be so many people out there blaming our kids’ wrong choices on our poor parenting, we can either get over their mediocre opinions and find solace for our kids or simply join the league and doom our kids to misery.

Signs of Drug abuse

While in the past you may have overlooked certain details and prompted your teen to claim too much freedom that ended up in tragedy, you should know you still stand a chance to reverse the odds. You may still not be sure whether your teen has succumbed to drug abuse and here are signs to look out for:-

· Red eyes and tiredness which could possibly be as a result of smoking marijuana.

· Less interest shown in school and poor performance in class.

· Rebellion.

· New friend’s circles who shows less interest in your teen’s school activities or their family.

What to do if your teen is abusing drugs

The good news is that, not all is lost. Today with the high escalation of drug and substance abuse, rehabilitation centers have risen at the very same pace. If you know someone who has succumbed to drug abuse, it would be wise to intervene now.

Again, as a parent, the sooner your teen learns about the detrimental effects of drug abuse, the better. The first step would be taking the time to find out as much information there is regarding rehabilitating your teen.

Benefits of teen rehabilitation

Mentally – Drugs intoxicate not just the body but the mind too. Undergoing a rehabilitation process helps the victim becomes mentally fit. The teenage after rehabilitation is able to make rational decisions and also get over anxiety and paranoia brought upon by drug abuse.

Physically- Drug abuse renders the body weak by causing damage to the skin, liver, heart and other parts of the body. Rehabilitation means staying in an environment where you shun the drugs and substances which made you weak in the first place. This move in the long-run accords the victim not just a clear healthy skin but also strong disposition and strong overall body functionality.

Emotionally- While most teen’s possible abuse for drugs evolves from a rather disturbed past, rehabilitation helps them emotionally deal with any disturbing issues. Here they are taught how to confront and deal with negative emotions rather than acting up on them.

Career wise- In essence, teenage drug abuse ravages career vision and future objectives. Rehabilitation helps them counter the evil menace of drug abuse and accords them an alert mind and better reasoning power. Someone who from drug abuse had lost their vision in life is able to reverse the odds and trend high. So yes, your dreams for your teen are still valid!

Teenage Drug Abuse: The Cough Syrup High Called Robotripping

Teenage drug abuse and teenage alcoholism ruin a teen’s life and tears their family apart. The teenage years are characterized by risk-taking behavior and impulsivity. An example of a teen experimenting with a different way to get high is chugging cough syrup in excessive amounts. This method of getting high is called “robotripping”.

The active ingredient in cough syrup is called dextromethorphan, also known as tussin. Dextromethorrphan acts as a cough suppressant at recommended doses. It is sold over the counter and Is therefore legal and readily available. Just like teenage binge drinking is typical of teens (to drink large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time), taking 25- 50 times the recommended dose of cough syrup (chugging or binge drinking medication) is a form of teenage drug abuse.

As a psychiatrist that specializes in addiction, I have found that parent’s lack education about teenage alcoholism and teenage drug abuse in today’s world. The world is a different place compared to how we grew up. The ease of sharing information through electronics makes it easy to start trends. Parental denial about their teen experimenting with drugs and alcohol is strong.

R.T. Is a 16 year-old I treat for teenage alcoholism and cough syrup abuse. He said he drank the cough syrup often because he enjoyed hallucinating and feeling like he was “outside” his own body. He reported to me feeling “really high” on cough syrup. However, one day he drank so much cough syrup, he had a seizure and ended up in the emergency room. He could have easily died. At that point, his parents were confronted with the reality that their son had a serious drug and alcohol problem. He was admitted to a rehabilitation facility.

Here are 7 facts parents need to know about robotripping; the cough syrup high:

1. 1 out of 10 teens has tried robotripping.

2. Teens are very naive and think a mediation is safe if it is over the counter. They do not understand that taking anything above recommended doses can cause serious damage to your health.

3. Chugging cough syrup causes hallucinations, an out of body experience, and perceptual distortions. It is thought of as a cheap form of ecstasy or LSD and is similar to the high caused by the animal tranquilizer, Ketamine.

4. The cough syrup high is called robotripping. Other terms for the cough syrup high or the active ingredient, dextromethorphan, are DXM, skittles, Syrup, Tussin, Triple-C, Special K.

5. Dangerous effects of robo-tripping include slowed breathing, cardiac arrhythmias, bleeding in the brain, seizures, loss of feeling in one’s fingers and toes, coma, and death.

6. Fatal overdoses occur when mixed with alcohol, sleep or anti-anxiety mediation, and pain medications. Nyquil and other mixed cold/cough preparations can be very dangerous when taken in high doses.

7. Tussin is addictive if it has been taken for a long period of time.

Parents need to wake up to the world of teenage drug abuse. Teens takes risks, are susceptible to peer pressure, are trying to fit it, and are trying to deal with confusing feelings and often tough family situations (divorce, an alcoholic parent). Teens tend to self-medicate feelings of depression and anxiety with drugs and alcohol. The teens at greatest risk for teenage drug abuse and teenage alcoholism are those with low self-esteem, those that complain of being lonely, and those that have an addicted parent.

Part of our responsibility as parents is to educate our teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol including cough syrup and prescription pills such as pain medications. It is important to explain that “over the counter” medicine does not equal “safe”. We must be careful what medications are available at home and lock them up like we would lock up a liquor cabinet.

Insights About Drug Addiction

Drugs are used for medication of different ailments. It is sometimes prescribed alone for home treatment or it is advice with equipment like Elisa kits. The problem with home meds is that, they can make the patient take the medicines in high dosage or even if it is not necessary. Unlike in the hospitals, the attending nurse or physician supervises medicine intakes. With this kind of situation, patients tend to drink medicines even after the treatment. They became addicts to the medicines.

Drug addiction is not only about the use of prohibited drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and such. As long as there is an excessive use of drugs, there is always an abuse.

Why people engage in this kind of situations? Most of us may think it is because of society or maybe it is because of the influence by others. As an observation, here is the most common factor why teenagers and adults result in drug addiction.

o Peer pressure- this depends on the society we live in. Now for some, the people around them is the main factor why they become drug addicts. At first, it will be just for fun, a one-time event. Then after, it will become a hobby.

o Influence – in our modern times, everything is accessible- web, televisions and other stuff. Some young men and women adopt the things they watch. For example, they are watching this TV series, and one of the characters uses drugs. He or she also will use drugs TVs claim it is okay.

o Problems- now, it can be family problems or any kind of problem. When you are in the influence of drugs, somehow, you are able to neither relax and think nor feel anything. For some, it is an outlet of their emotions.

o For fun – during parties, teenagers use different kinds of drug for a different kind of pleasure. They are not contented with the intoxication of alcohol; rather, they use drugs for fun.

Having a drug addict in the family, does not only affect the person, but the entire family. Of course, parents usually blame themselves for not raising their children well. In fact, it is the fault of their child.

Parents help their child by taking them to a physician to run some drug test using Elisa kits. After which, if the child is positive to certain drugs, it is the discretion of the parents to take their child to a rehabilitation center or not. Most important is that drug addicts need the support, attention and love of their family. Remember that they are in a state where they cannot even help themselves, so give them the support they need.