Can Drug Use Speed Up Aging?

One of the earliest signs of drug abuse is a drastic change in someone’s physical appearance. From dry skin and wrinkles to rapid weight loss and glassy eyes, many illicit drugs make themselves known through your appearance. 

Drugs and alcohol can alter your appearance in different ways. While the alterations may vary depending on the type of drug, method of use, length of abuse, medical history, and other individual factors, one thing remains the same. 

Individuals who abuse drugs almost always look older than others at the same age. There are a few different reasons and many different ways that drug use speeds up aging.  

Why Do Addicts Age Faster?

Why Do Addicts Age Faster

The three primary reasons that addicts age faster than others include: 

  • Health conditions and diseases induced by drug-related toxicity. 
  • Neglecting your physical and mental health and hygiene due to drug use. 
  • Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies caused by a poor diet and lack of hydration. 

While these are three of the most common ways that drugs can accelerate aging, there are many different causes. Drug and alcohol abuse can cause you to become dehydrated, inflamed, and malnourished. 

They can weaken your immune system, leading to damage on the cellular level, cognitive decline, and other concerning health impairments. Your organs, including your skin, take a hard hit in both short and long-term drug or alcohol abuse. 

This can leave you feeling and looking far older than you are. 

Drug Abuse and the Skin

How does drug use speed up aging? Drug abuse can cause dehydrated, dry, patchy, flaky, or scabbed skin. Sores are also common in certain types of drug abuse. This is due, in part, to the tendency of drug-addicted individuals to pick or scratch at their skin. 

Skin picking is a side effect of several different illicit drugs. The feeling that something is crawling all over you can lead you to scratch away at your body’s outer defensive layers. Other effects of drug abuse on the skin include: 

  • Rashes and other irritations.
  • Color changes. 
  • Dry, swollen, inflamed, or cracked lips. 
  • Gum and tooth decay. 
  • Dry, red, itchy, and inflamed skin patches. 
  • Extreme acne breakouts. 
  • Open sores. 
  • Scarring after picking at the skin or sores. 
  • Skin infections. 

No one wants to age faster than we already are. We worry about skin damage and fret over our appearances, but we forget that what we put into our bodies is often more important than anything else in the aging process. Here are the facts about how drug use speed up aging.  

Drugs and alcohol can age you far faster than normal and cause far more extensive damage than everyday wrinkles. These side effects may start as mild irritations or causes of lost confidence, but they can escalate into health concerns that are far more troubling. 

Over time, open sores and skin infections can take a toll on your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off common illnesses and diseases with long-term impacts. 

Nutritional and Vitamin Deficiencies in Addicts

When it comes to the impacts of drug and alcohol abuse, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies are common concerns. Prolonged abuse can deplete your body of the essential vitamins and nutrients that it needs to function properly. 

Without these essential vitamins and nutrients, your body has trouble with certain functions. Cellular growth, rejuvenation, and repair are three functions that suffer and will worsen the aging effects on the skin. 

But these deficiencies do not only impact your skin. These effects can also damage your bones, organs, and brain. With a weakened immune system, it is harder for your body to heal and renew itself. You become more prone to get sick and to stay sick for longer. 

Drug Abuse and Your Teeth

Speaking of bones, let’s talk about the toll that drug abuse can take on your teeth. Among drug users, decaying, broken, or missing teeth are common. Drug abuse can also cause dry and cracked lips and damaged gums. 

Oral health issues are particularly common among meth users. That is where the term meth mouth comes from. One study of nearly 600 meth users revealed that the majority had oral health issues. More specifically, 96% had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth. 

The risk of dental and periodontal diseases is higher among drug-addicted individuals because drugs are linked to dry mouth and poor oral hygiene. Others are acidic, which wears away at the tooth’s enamel, while others make you crave sugar, grind your teeth, or clench your jaw.

Drugs like meth also cause bouts of unconsciousness, which makes it easier to lose track of time. After waking up, it is more likely for a user to go back for more than to get up and brush their teeth. Each of these effects can wreak havoc in and around the mouth.  

Drug Abuse and the Brain

If you think drug use speed up aging only, then you are wrong. The impacts of drug abuse aren’t limited to the skin, bones, body, or mind. Drug and alcohol abuse can affect a person from head to toe. But some of the most concerning side effects are the ones that affect the brain. After all, our brains are what keeps us functioning every day. 

Drug and alcohol abuse can age our brains, causing memory impairments or loss, inability to concentrate, overall cognitive decline, and permanent brain damage. Confusion is also common. These impairments can range from mildly distracting to crippling. 

Drug and alcohol abuse can also impact our brains in another way. Common mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are intrinsically linked to these types of abuse. And they can occur in either order. 

Some people develop mental health disorders after abusing drugs or alcohol. Other people abuse and end up addicted to drugs or alcohol to cope with the overwhelming symptoms of an untreated mental health disorder. 

Whichever condition comes first, this combination can create a vicious and crippling cycle. We can help you break it. 

Drug Abuse and Your Physical Health

Depending on the drug, method of use, frequency, medical history, and other individual factors related to the user, drug abuse can cause a wide variety of physical health impairments. One of the most common is the heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Many different types of cancer, strokes, and heart attacks all occur at higher rates among drug and alcohol addicts, as well. People who regularly abuse drugs or alcohol often show and feel pronounced signs of physical decline. 

From memory loss and wrinkles to heart attacks and overdoses, there are many different reasons to quit using drugs. There are no positives to long-term drug abuse. When you are in it, it may seem like there is no way out. But we are here to show you the light. 

Pathfinders Recovery Center

Pathfinders Recovery Center

Getting help for drug addiction is easier than it has ever been. With proven and personalized programs in our safe and convenient facilities in Arizona and Colorado, we make it easy to get the help you need when and where you need it. 

We offer a wide range of inpatient and outpatient programs, proven and holistic treatments, and personalized guidance to ensure that you have access to everything you need on your recovery journey. Why wait another day to see the difference a Pathfinders approach can make? 

Call our addiction counselors today at 877-224-0761.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7
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