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Before & After: Physical Effects of Drugs

Drug abuse is a national issue continuing to plague Americans of all walks of life. An estimated 19.7 million Americans age 12 and older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2017. Research also shows that many people who suffer from untreated substance abuse disorders and addiction go untreated. The risk of relapse increases without treatment. Driven by their addictions, many drug users engage in risky behaviors that can result in jail time. In fact, almost half of the prison population in the United States is jailed for drug-related offenses.

Along with the emotional toll an addiction can take on a person’s life, drug abuse can also cause physical effects to addicts. For example, continued abuse of crystal meth can cause what’s referred to as “meth mouth,” when a drug user’s teeth begin to crack and decay. Additionally, meth abusers may experience sores on both their faces and bodies as a result of picking at their skin. Having a sense and understanding of the physical effects caused by the ongoing use of various substances—like those of meth—can help loved ones identify signs of possible drug abuse in users.

Before and After Using Drugs

The consequences of substance abuse differ based on the types of drugs used and the frequency with which they are abused. Physical signs of drug abuse vary, including changes in the user’s appetite, dental cavities and tooth loss, dramatic weight loss, changes in skin tone and color, hair loss and more. However, the impact drugs can cause on a person are undeniable and there is nowhere these physical impacts are more evident than on users’ faces.

The potentially health effects of drug abuse are revealed below in gifs which showcase the physical impact of drug abuse on individuals charged with drug-related offenses throughout the years. We created these before and after images as gifs to show the transformations before and after substance abuse.

The Faces of Addicts Before and After Substance Abuse

The evidence of physical decline as a consequence of drug use is easily identifiable with a few telltale signs. Among the most common physical signs of drug abuse are bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, changes in skin tone, appearing tired and lethargic, weight loss and marks on the face such as sores or scabs.

The morphing gifs below show that the physical changes of drug use and abuse can happen rapidly or they can occur gradually with the passing of time between a user’s first drug-related offense and their most recent charge.


Drug abuse is a national issue; people from all walks of life experience substance use and abuse. Awareness about the substances around you and their danger is important, especially if you or a loved one has experienced addiction or is in recovery. Just like other types of chronic diseases, all types of drug addictions can be treated  but it’s important to find an individualized recovery plan that’s personalized for the situation. If you know anyone in your life suffering from drug addiction or exhibiting the signs of drug abuse, find out more about how you can help.

How to Find Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Misuse

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available and recovery is possible. For more information on addiction and rehab options, contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . You can also check your insurance coverage online now to determine whether your health insurance provider will cover rehabilitation.

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Can I use this information?

The information and graphics in this blog post can be used and displayed by all commercial and non-commercial websites without charge. However, use is only permitted with proper attribution to When using this information or any of these graphics, please include a backlink to this page.


The individuals in these photos were arrested on drug charges or related charges. There may be errors in arrest record reporting. All persons are considered innocent of these charges until proven guilty. These photos do not necessarily show the direct result of drug abuse or addiction. Rather, this depicts the physical deterioration of individuals who have been involved in repeated arrests, indicative of a life of crime and/or substance abuse. encourages anyone featured here to discuss treatment options with us by emailing,

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Q: These are extreme cases right? Most substance users will never look like this.

A: These are extreme cases, and while it is true that most occasional users would not display these symptoms of deterioration, it is worth considering that any individuals who do show this level of deterioration likely never thought their casual use would ultimately result in addiction. That is how powerful the disease of addiction is, and how devastating it can be to those who fall victim to its effects.


The information and graphics in this blog post can be used and displayed by all commercial and non-commercial websites without charge. However, use is only permitted with proper attribution to When using this information or any of these graphics, please include a backlink to this page.

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