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Drug Addiction Prevention Among Women: An Appeal to Vanity

Authorities and drug enforcement officials are always looking for new ways to prevent the development of drug and alcohol addiction in different populations. Depending upon the group in focus – teens, women, men, et cetera – the marketing and ads may be a bit different. One of the latest campaigns, however, is grabbing everyone’s attention: it’s a collection of before-and-after photos that depict the drastic effects that drugs and alcohol have on the appearance of those who use them chronically. If dangerous health effects and the potential of death or overdose doesn’t seem to work, why not try an appeal to vanity?

In Multnomah County, Oregon, the sheriff’s office pulled mug shots of individuals arrested closer to the beginning of their drug and alcohol using career and then pulled later ones as they continued on both their addiction – and their criminal – paths. They created a 48-minute documentary entitled “From Drugs to Mugs” and made it available on DVD; they also made the mug shots available on CD. The documentary clearly shows how those who looked their age and even attractive at the beginning of their drug abuse and addiction quickly lost their teeth, lost their hair, gained scars and pock marks, going from normal to scary in as little as a few months in some cases.

Deputy Bret King created the documentary. He told MSNBC: “The thinking is that this will give kids a tangible image of what can happen if they get involved in using hard drugs. We did want to appeal to their sense of vanity.”

Though the speed with which drugs and alcohol damage the appearance of users is the most shocking part of the documentary, it is not at all uncommon. Different drugs have different effects on the appearance. Crystal meth is known for being one of the most rapidly destructive drugs, causing small blood vessels around the face which, in turn, causes the gums to shrink and the user to lose teeth, changing the entire structure of the face. Remaining teeth often become black or discolored, rotting quickly – the slang term for this: ‘meth mouth.’

What are some of the other appearance issues that can be of concern for those who use drugs? Here are just a few:

  • Acne. Heroin and crystal meth are often cut with sugar, and acne forms in part due to the ingestion of oily or sweet things. When injected, the effect is even more apparent.
  • Cysts. Drugs are cut with a host of different substances and the foreign toxins often build up to form cysts in the face or groin area as well as other parts of the body.
  • Malnutrition. Few who take drugs and alcohol addictively get the nutrition they need through food or any other source. The result is saggy skin, a gaunt appearance, straggly hair, an unhealthy loss of weight and a lower immune system.
  • Pock marks. Many meth addicts imagine that there are bugs under their skin or things itching them. They often dig at their faces and arms until they create open sores that eventually heal as pock marks.

How effective will the campaign be? Time will tell, but if the initial response is any indication, the “From Drugs to Mugs” project may save more than a few people from the devastating effects of drug addiction thanks to a healthy dose of vanity.

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