How is Alcohol Addiction Affecting Your Skin?

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As a longtime drug and/or alcohol user, your body starts to sustain damage, the most affected organs being the liver, heart, and kidneys. It may be surprising to learn that the skin is also affected. Part of your addiction recovery at one of our rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge will focus on improving your physical health. This will include necessary skincare. 

The skin is the largest organ we have, and like any other organ in our body that can be damaged by drug and alcohol use, the skin is susceptible to infection, sores, and inflammation. Let’s explore how alcohol and some well-known drugs affect the skin.


When we think of skin problems, we automatically think of drugs; but alcohol addiction has also been known to cause some skin conditions as well. Common skin issues that many alcoholics develop include: 

  • Spider angioma – patches of red that appear in a lacy pattern on hands, face, neck, and torso
  • Caput medusae swollen and distended veins across the abdomen (usually means a liver problem)
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin (generally means a liver problem)
  • Psoriasis – thick red patches over hands, fingers, palms, and soles of feet

Eczema and rosacea have also been linked to alcohol use. Because alcohol dehydrates the body, this affects the skin. This makes it harder to get nutrients and oxygen to the skin, increasing dryness, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging. 


Marijuana is most known for causing cannabis induced arteritis. This is a blood vessel disease where the blood vessels swell in the skin. It mostly affects the lower extremities on the body and can cause the skin to turn red and even develop gangrene, which can lead to amputation. Other skin effects include premature aging and dark circles formed under the eyes from dehydration. 


Cocaine is one of the leading drugs that causes skin conditions due to how it is used. Due to its dehydrating effects, cocaine can cause premature aging. The drug can also cause:

  • Necrosis – dead cells in the skin due to lack of oxygen
  • Black palms – or “crack hands” due to extreme heat
  • Buerger’s disease – blood vessels swell and prevent blood flow to hands, legs, and feet causing gangrene
  • Skin ulcers – open sores or wounds, commonly found on the fingertips and nose

Many cutting agents used in cocaine have also been found to affect the skin, such as levamisole, which is a deworming agent for livestock, and phenacetin, which is a painkiller.


Meth causes skin sores due to the user wanting to pick at the skin in a condition called “meth mites.” This gives the user a feeling like bugs are crawling all over and underneath the skin. This is caused by a euphoria-induced hallucination. The euphoria is caused by a sudden surge in serotonin in the brain and the hallucination makes the individual believe there are bugs crawling all over them. 

This leads to the individual wanting to scratch and pick at their skin, or sores that are already there, in order to “get the bugs out” of the skin. Due to this picking, meth users can develop a mental disorder known as dermatillomania. This is a repetitive, compulsive behavior where the individual cannot stop picking at their skin causing further scarring and tissue damage to the skin.

Meth rash can occur due to the bacteria and toxins found in sweat. The sweat gets absorbed back into the skin and an acne-like rash forms on the face, underarms, back, and shoulders.

Another skin condition is aging. Meth impacts the blood flow and the blood vessels, so the skin can’t get the blood it needs to remain youthful, As a result, the skin ends up turning dull and wrinkly.

Other Reasons Drugs and Alcohol Cause Skin Problems

Most of the skin conditions prevalent in drug and alcohol abusers are due to internal problems that the drugs and alcohol cause in the body. However, there are also a few other factors that come into play.

  • Personal hygiene – Heavy users typically aren’t concerned with personal hygiene. They don’t shower often and that invites bacteria to grow on the skin, setting up the perfect conditions for skin infections to form.
  • Lack of water – Water flushes your system and even helps keep your skin well hydrated. Users typically don’t drink enough water and instead, allow pollutants to wreak havoc on the body.
  • Poor diet – The skin needs vitamins and nutrients to remain healthy along with water. Users aren’t typically eating a healthy and balanced diet.

The skin is a high priority for someone in addiction recovery because of how much society values physical appearance. Employers hire based on looks and searching for love is based on physical attraction, at least at first. Our physical appearance is the first thing a person sees and judges. Outward appearance also affects how we feel about ourselves, which leads to confidence and low self-esteem issues. 


How to Stop Skin Conditions from Worsening During Your Addiction Recovery

The first step in treating addiction-related skin conditions is to stop using drugs and alcohol. Continuing to abuse harmful substances will only make skin conditions worse. A rehab addiction center like Gratitude Lodge can help you with that. Our credentialed and experienced team focuses on recovery for the whole person, including physical health issues. We can help you get clean and start making changes in your life for better health. After addiction recovery, we may also recommend that you see a dermatologist to address any lingering problems or scars. 

If you are seeking a rehab addiction center near me, check out Gratitude Lodge in Orange County, California. We have multiple treatment programs available based on your needs and we are ready to help you get back to a healthy lifestyle. Contact us now, don’t wait until it’s too late.

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