Often when in recovery from addiction, focus tends to be rightly put upon the physical effects of continued use of drugs and what they can do to the major organs of the body like the heart and liver. But how does recovery from drug abuse affect the largest organ of the body – the skin? It’s perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects of returning to good health again.
Our skin is often seen as the window to our health. When we feel under the weather, we can sometimes look pale, have dark circles round our eyes and generally have no flush of color. Skin health concerns such as acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis can all affect the appearance and condition of our epidermis as a result of reactions to common beauty products we might use and have had a reaction to, or conversely problems with addition and drug withdrawal.
If you have ever read stories online, or in newspapers about sufferers of addictions to drugs such as meth or heroin, you might notice that the skin of the user can often be scarred, pitted or reactive and spotty, often a result of long term addiction and the body desperately trying to detox itself. Here we’ll examine some of these skin conditions and what can be done to treat them safely and effectively, particularly in cases of drug addiction.
ADDICTION AND YOUR SKIN
Initially, drug addiction may not cause many changes to your physical appearance. But over time, it might start to become more apparent that your overall health is suffering. It’s a generally accepted wisdom that how healthy your skin looks is often a reflection of any internal health problems you may have.
The skin and hair are the last organs of the body to receive any nutrients from the foods we eat or the healthy juices we might drink. Thus, when we’re generally under the weather or suffering with more serious illnesses, the first things that will start to become apparent are changes to our skin and hair.
Issues you may notice on your skin in recovery from addiction:
Dry/flaky/eczema patches – Drug use of any kind may potentially excessively dry and irritate your skin. This can cause flaky patches and conditions like eczema to flare up. Dryness can often be caused by dehydration, as the body struggles to remove toxins from the liver and kidneys. Simple changes like drinking more water can help, as can using good quality and highly emollient moisturizers two or three times daily. Introducing a regimen of oils into the diet and into skincare can also be highly beneficial. Supplements that contain flaxseed oil, or omega 3,6 and 9 will not only help with the health and strength of your internal organs as you recover but will hugely benefit the elasticity and moisture content of your skin and hair when taken long term.
Wrinkles – Over time, dehydration can start to cause premature ageing and wrinkles on the skin. Tips for dealing with wrinkled skin include eating plenty of Omega 3 rich foods such as oily fish and using high quality natural skin care products like Virgin Coconut Oil as a mask or deep conditioning massage treatment. Vitamin E capsules taken orally as a supplement or used as a skincare aid, by simply breaking them open and massaging the contents into the skin can be a real moisturizing boost to prematurely aged skin.
Acne – In cases of addiction, the body can react by making the skin break out in raised red spots, which can appear anywhere from the forehead down to the chin. Acne in cases of addiction is caused by the body’s attempt to try and detox itself. Acne is relatively easy to treat, but it’s important to make sure the skin is kept very clean using mild soap and fragrance-free moisturizers, and that acne spots are not touched or rubbed at all. It can be a painful condition and very often sufferers can require specialist treatment from a physician in the form of topical hydrocortisone creams or other medication. If the acne is only mild, over the counter preparations such as skin washes and creams and serums that contain Retinol (a form of Vitamin A) can be of great benefit. If you’re going to use these, then you must always apply a sunscreen before going outside – in all weather conditions. Retinol works to gently resurface the skin and so lower layers of the epidermis become more susceptible to damage from UVA and UVB rays.
Cracked or chapped lips – Drug abuse can lead to delicate areas of the skin like the eyes and lips becoming chapped or excessively dry. Using good quality, petroleum-free lip salves and balms that can be applied regularly through the day are a good way to treat the problem. The reason that avoiding petroleum based products in advised is that they tend to simply ‘sit’ on the surface of the skin, acting as a very efficient barrier to stopping moisture getting in or out of the skin. Balms with gentler bases such as coconut, shea butter or cocoa butter are emollient and soften the skin whilst keeping it supple. They are also more economical and need to be used less. It can sometimes help to remove any dead skin before you apply a lip balm. To do this very gentle exfoliation, use an old, soft toothbrush on moistened lips is an effective way of removing the dead skin before you apply any emollients.
Recovery from drug addiction is a long process, but it can be done well and effectively with the right treatment plans in place and good emotional support from friends and loved ones. Sometimes, spending time creating fun, relaxing beauty routines and trying new products can not only help to calm and destress when things feel like they’re too much, but can also give the person in recovery a new sense of self and a much more positive self-image, once they see the results of a little kindness and pampering.
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