Addiction is a dangerous and insidious disease. It takes over a person’s life, forcing their whole world to revolve around a drug or a habit. It also takes a terrible toll on a person’s body, in both their health and their appearance. In the case of drug and alcohol addictions, permanent damage and even death are possible. And while it’s no fun to talk about the horrors of addiction, it’s important to remember just how high the stakes are when we risk becoming hooked on alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, and other substances.

Not a pretty picture

Even if drugs and alcohol were perfectly healthy – which they aren’t – addiction would still not be an appealing prospect for your body. That’s because drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes can destroy your good looks permanently. If you’re an addict, no spa or cosmetics product can hide the truth that’s written on your face and all over your sin.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen one of those posters showing drug addicts’ mug shots over time. Illegal drugs can have a wide range of effects on a person’s appearance, but none of them are good. Cocaine can destroy a person’s septum – the barrier between the nostrils. In some cases, the bridge of a person’s nose can even collapse. Heroin addicts leave track marks in their arms and legs. Other drugs cause addicts to damage their own faces.

Cigarettes aren’t much better for your looks. Over time, habitual smokers develop yellowed fingers and teeth. And smokers can get “smoker’s face” – a term that refers to the gaunt and wrinkled look that long-term smokers earn over the years.

Alcohol is among the most common drugs (and the most common addictions) in our country, and it’s often associated with glamor and beauty. But in reality, alcohol will add pounds to your waistline and will dry out your skin. It may also deny your skin vital nutrients, leading to an uglier and less healthy look.

Your body under siege

It’s no fun to look ugly, but the physical side-effects of addiction are nothing compared to the very real and very dangerous health problems that most addictive substances can cause.

Illegal drugs are among the most dangerous addictions, because so many of them can kill you outright via an overdose. But even if you never reach the point of an overdose, illegal drugs can permanently damage your body. Drugs make you feel the way you do by altering your brain chemistry. You brain will respond – for instance, it may make less of whatever type of receptor your drug is mimicking. Drugs can also dangerously raise your heart rate and expand or contract your blood vessels, among other things. And that’s not to mention the dangers that come with the process of taking the drug – infected needles, misidentified pills, and other risks.

Cigarettes, of course, and famously unhealthy: they’ll blacken your lungs and leave you short of breath, and they dramatically increase your risk of cancer. Alcohol, despite being extremely common, is among the most dangerous drugs of all: overdoses are common and can be deadly, and alcohol destroys your liver over time. Though small amounts of alcohol can be healthy, binge-drinking and constant drinking are incredibly dangerous habits.

Make the right choice for your health

If you care about your body, the choice is clear: be vigilant and steer clear of addiction. If you or a loved one is already addicted to one of these dangerous substances, it’s not too late! Turn to professionals and peer groups for help. Doctors and rehab centers can help you kick the habit, as can support groups and twelve step programs like the famous Alcoholics Anonymous. Look up AA meetings in your area (or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, or meetings of a similar group) and begin reclaiming your life.