The depiction of drug abuse in films like American Gangster, and television series like Breaking Bad, often show the mental processes that occur as drug dealers and clients become addicted. However, fictional accounts of drug addiction seldom capture the physical toll it takes on a drug addict’s body., an educational organization dedicated to raising awareness of substance abuse, has put together a project titled “Faces of Addiction” to capture the potentially catastrophic health effects of drug abuse from skin lesions to decay and missing teeth.

In the U.S., 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's latest statistics. This coincides with the increase in illicit drug use in America with almost 24 million Americans having used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication such as a pain reliever, stimulation, or tranquillizer in the past month. Marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens are some of the most commonly abused drugs.

“The consequences of addiction can remain etched in their very skin for years,” the Faces of Addiction project says. For example, use of opioids like OxyContin or heroin can cause flushing and a widespread rash of red bumps on the skin, while cocaine abuse can result in significantly decreased appetite, dangerous malnutrition, and weight loss. The hallucinogen and stimulant ecstasy, according to, may cause grinding of the teeth and thus dental erosion. Meanwhile, marijuana can release carcinogens and other chemicals, which can reduce skin collagen and lead to premature aging over time.

Among one of the most startling accounts from’s project was of a woman arrested for possession of methamphetamine in 1997. She was photographed for another mug shot in 2013, and looked much older than normal for a 59-year-old, instead resembling a woman in her 70s. Aside from the physical changes, meth can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure to liver, kidney, and lung damage, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. notes that the photos shown on the slideshow below do not necessarily depict the direct result of drug abuse or addiction. “Rather, they depict the physical deterioration of individuals who have been involved in repeated arrests, and serve as a startling visual timeline, with appearances profoundly altered as a consequence of life impacted by drugs or drug-related crime.” The organization is committed to helping people deal with substance abuse and seek treatment programs around the country.

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