What Are the Effects on the Skin for Heroin Users?

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Heroin is a highly dangerous and addictive drug that is derived from the narcotic morphine. Heroin is the most commonly used narcotic and is usually injected or inhaled, but it can also be smoked. Heroin causes a rush of extreme euphoria; however, it has a detrimental effect on the body, including various skin problems.

Itchy Skin

A common short-term effect of heroin is the feeling of "crawling," or an itchy sensation on the skin. Opiates such as heroin cause the body to release histamines, which cause inflammation and itchiness. Cuts and scabs on the skin are common for heroin users due to constant scratching and picking at their skin. Heroin decreases the appetite, often causing chronic heroin users to lack adequate nutrition. This can cause dehydration, which can cause dry, itchy skin.

Bruises

Due to a decrease in appetite, heroin users often lack essential vitamins such as vitamins A and C, which are needed for healthy skin. The lack of adequate nutrition can also make heroin users bruise more easily. Intravenous drug users often have bruising around the area of the skin that they inject the drug into. This can be caused by using dull needles or by the pressing the needle too hard and too quickly into the skin.

Infections

Excessive heroin use can cause skin infections such as cellulitis, which is caused by bacteria. Repeatedly injecting heroin can cause pain and inflammation of the skin. Injecting heroin, particularly with dirty needles, can also cause boils, or abscesses, which are deep, pimple-like bumps. The boils swell and fill with puss and blood and can be very painful. These types of infections can also be deadly if they are not treated properly.

Scars

When a heroin user injects the drug into his skin, it can cause scars, often called "tracks." Chronic addicts use heroin over an extended period and as their tolerance for heroin increases, they need to inject the drug more frequently to get the same high as before. Over time, the chronic use causes toxins to build up under the skin. Excessive puncturing of the skin can eventually cause collapsed veins, which results in permanent, dark scars.

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