Why does abusing drugs make peoples faces (especially women's) look beat up & older

Just curious re the physical mechanism works that causes them to look so beat up, especially in the face. You see many stars, especially female stars like Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears who are known for ingesting massive amounts of drugs, and they look years older than other women their age, especially in the face. Is it the drugs or the fact they drink like fish and smoke like chimneys that does the most damage?

Although probably not the whole story, I’d imagine the increased likelihood of falling over to be at least a factor.

I think part of it is that the worst cases involve drugs like meth and cocaine, which are highly addictive and which prevent people from getting enough sleep before their bodies need another fix.

It all depends on the drugs, and how much you use them. Roughly (and possibly inaccurately): Smoking seems to make the skin grayer and rougher (“older looking”). Drinking make you fatter. Amphetamines seem to make you skinnier (possibly because amphetamines suppress hunger and sleep). I think losing or gaining weight is pretty noticeable on the face.

On the other hand, I don’t think weed has any noticeable effect (though I got fatter when I more or less quit).

Once you get to the level where people are more or less living on the street, all kinds of other effects have a large impact: bad hygiene, bad/minimal food, stress, violence and sleep deprivation can all have severe effects on your health and looks if you keep it up.

Almost any serious addict is going to be malnourished to some degree. Even if they are getting enough calories, they’re almost certainly not getting a balanced diet and enough vitamins, etc. Food becomes much less of a priority than the substance of choice, especially if money is an issue. Bad nutrition wreaks havoc on skin. This is even true of alcoholics, even middle-class ones so no, not all alcoholics are “fatter.” One thing you’ll find in any rehab facility is plentiful access to healthy food – bowls of fruit sitting around and the like – because so many people haven’t been eating right for months, if not years. And, even if they are eating reasonably well, a lot of substances can interfere with nutrition absorption, tissue oxygenation and replenishment, etc., contributing to looking unwell. As previously said, smoking is hell on skin as well.

Add to that bad, unrestful, or disruptive sleep, stress, screwed up body and brain chemistry, and on and on, and it’s gonna show.

As for women looking “worse” … well … the societal standards for how women look are a lot higher/more specific than for men. Robert Redford, a handsome man in his youth by any measure, now has the skin of a used leather couch, yet most women would still consider him good-looking. If a woman had skin 1/10th that rough looking, she’d be declared a hag. It’s OK for men to look a little ragged around the edges, it just adds character and mystique. A woman, esp a woman in the public eye, is expected to look like a dewey fresh 20-year-old regardless of her age.

Yeah, but Amy Winehouse didn’t get ugly because she got “character and mystique”, she got “crack whore”. I think a lot of it is sudden and sharp weight-loss, smoking more and its effects on your skin, and in the case of some people, the ugly effect of previous plastic surgery on a face or body that’s now a lot more sunken and undernourished.

What they all said.

Combination. It can’t be good to suck down so many varieties of poisons at the same time. Heck, find a picture of the fat Elvis Presley from his last couple of years of life… the man was barely 42 when he died!

Everything in the blood is filtered by the liver. Abuse your liver and it can’t properly function, sending all kinds of crap back into your system.

For all his much-publicized drug abuse, Robert Downey Jr. looks surprisingly good.

Pretty much everyone in this thread thus far has a piece of the puzzle to answer your question.
All drugs for the most part suck vitamins from the body and all things consumed especially drugs that have been aforementioned herein this thread go through the liver which is the bodies filter along with the lymph nodes thus having adverse effects and discombobulating the entire genetics makeup and aging process.
You will see in many who are drug addicts or alcoholics or both for that matter look 60 when they are only 30.

That is everything in a nutshell as it were.
I am in the medical field and also in the midst of becoming a CASAC which stands for Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.


Took him quite some time to regain that surprisingly good look but then we men age well:p.
Seriously, if you and you may have, saw him in the midst of his abuse, he looked like &^%* .


Not mentioned yet damage to the circulatory system.

Meth is particularly bad in that regard. Here’s a link to some of the causes of “meth mouth”.

These photos are to illustrate Claire’s point about how women don’t really show the effects more – we just have higher standards to meet from society. (I hope that I am not misrepresenting your meaning, Claire.)

Here are links to photos of Robert Redford and Katharine Hepburn at approximately the same ages – 71 or 72. Both of them aged naturally and spent time outdoors so I thought that they made good parallels. Neither were known for living hard.

(I love every wrinkle in both faces.)

I think that if you imagined Robert Redford’s skin as belonging to a woman, you would conclude that she had been terribly damaged in life. Yet he is still a fine looking male.

Maybe-NSFW warning: there’s a closeup photo of someone’s very nasty teeth.

A not-so-freshed faced young’un weighing in: I’m a recovering alcoholic/addict. Towards the end of my drinking, the capillaries in my face started breaking. So on both sides of my face, on my cheeks, I have noticable (even from across the room) marks that look like mini spider veins. I don’t think it makes me look much older, at least now. I’m 24 and I have a wicked baby face anyways though.

I’m resurrecting this thread because I was curious why so many prostitutes seem to look older than they are, and if after getting a healthy lifestyle if people can reverse the superficial effects.

The reasons listed for accelerated aging are a mix of:

The liver being overwhelmed, and as a result toxins not being properly processed and instead getting put back into the body rather than broken down and removed
Sun exposure (if homeless)
Lack of hygiene
Poor sleep

So if a person is a 35 year old addicted prostitute who looks 55 and they clean up their lifestyle, will they go back to looking like someone in their 30s?

I don’t know the answer, but I think the resources she has available would make a difference. Someone above mentioned that Robert Downey Jr. looks good now despite his heavy drug use. Another poster mentioned that it took him a while to get his looks back. True. But he also probably has had a certain amount of cosmetic surgery and/or treatments. For example, he may get “filler” injections that help smooth out deep facial lines or a little Botox here and there. That’s probably true of everyone in Hollywood, of course, but it probably is helping him extra-much. Also, he would have access to top-notch dentistry.

RDJ has allegedly been clean for awhile and thus there’s less crap/“poison” in his system, and also presumably has been eating properly now that he’s off the crap he used to take. This can do wonders for a former addict’s appearance. He also has access to the best dermatologists/doctors/personal trainers/etc. which can also help one’s appearance a great deal.

Get a copy of his mug shot from his drugging days and he does look a bit rough around the edges. He looks older than he is now, even though he was younger back then.

And maybe people look older because they are five years older.