As an addiction treatment center near Boston, we know that addiction and drug abuse can have many negative consequences, including those related to their health.

While it is common to hear warnings about lung problems, liver issues, or cardiovascular problems from long-term drug and alcohol abuse, the negative cosmetic effects of addiction are sometimes not discussed as readily. In reality, addiction can affect the addict from their head to their toes.

The Many Ways Drug Abuse Affects Your Hair

Along with problems inside the body, many people do not realize that addiction can have a negative impact on your appearance, including your hair.

Changes in the Physical Appearance of Hair from Drug Abuse

Because addicts are constantly pumping their bodies with harmful toxins, they may not be getting the necessary nutrients they need to look and feel their best. This same idea applies to the hair. Human hair requires specific nutrients to grow and remain healthy, but substance abuse may deprive your body of these nutrients and can lead to visible damage.

One of the biggest ways addiction affects hair is with increased hair loss. Drugs, especially illegal drugs, can interrupt the hair cycle by tricking the follicles into premature rest or stopping the mitotic activity of the cells altogether.1 The result is noticeable hair loss after frequent and long-term use. For many drug users, this can not only be visibly unappealing to them, but can also lead to mental issues like decreased confidence and self-esteem. In serious cases, this could also lead to depression that requires professional attention. A good outpatient addiction program will help the recovering addict with these secondary issues as well.

Chemical Changes in Hair from Addiction

Below the surface, there appear to be structural changes in the hair for addicts of some drugs as well. No matter how illicit drugs are administered in the body, the harmful chemicals can collect in the hair through various means of administration at different stages of the hair’s growth cycle.2 This collection can cause lasting damage to their hair over time.

One study found that the keratinized structure of the hair was damaged in 97.2% of cocaine abusers and the outer layer of the hair called the cuticle was also damaged in 95.8% of the cocaine abusers sampled.3 This research suggests that cocaine addiction affects hair in several negative ways. Cocaine is also not the only drug to cause structural damage to hair. 97.9% of LSD users had destroyed cuticle layers as well.3 With this damage to the hair’s structure, it is no wonder that drug users can see drastic physical changes in their hair’s appearance as well.

How to Combat the Negative Effects of Addiction on Hair

One of the best ways to prevent further hair damage and reverse some of the negative effects is to stop abusing these drugs. With time, the toxins will be flushed from the body, including the hair, and the hair will begin to regrow as normal. In serious cases, users may also want to see a hair loss specialist.

Although the solution may be as simple as stopping the drug or alcohol abuse, this is often easier said than done. Most addicts find it difficult to stop their addiction on their own, so this is where our Massachusetts rehab programs step in. We help patients overcome their addiction and improve the overall quality of their lives.

To get started or to get more details on Banyan Treatment Centers Massachusetts, call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. NCBI - Drug-induced hair loss and hair growth. Incidence, management and avoidance
  2. NCBI - Mechanism of drug incorporation into hair
  3. NCBI - Ultra-structural hair alterations of drug abusers: a scanning electron microscopic investigation

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.