The price you pay for doing drugs is beyond just bad health


  • Living
  • Sunday, 02 Aug 2015

Marijuana users often end up with premature skin ageing and prominent wrinkles. – Filepic

By DR CHEN TAI HO

I first met Khalid (not his real name) 14 years ago when I was working in Penang. At the time, he was a government servant. I happened to meet him through a mutual friend when all three of us had dinner together.

Since then, we became good friends and often lepak together.

As I got to know him better over time, I found out that he was using illegal substances for recreation. He had been smoking ganja or marijuana for years.

I heard from a friend that he was even caught by the police for doing so. Due to his previous drug record, he had difficulty getting confirmed for his job.

As a concerned friend, I advised Khalid to stop, or at least reduce his drug habit. Alas, my words fell on deaf ears.

Eventually, Khalid got married. Sadly for him, his wife developed multiple serious medical illnesses, including autoimmune disease, eye problems and kidney failure requiring haemodialysis. She was also diagnosed with uterus problems, and after giving birth to her only son, she could no longer bear any more children.

The severe health problems suffered by my buddy’s beloved wife stressed him tremendously.

To add to his woes, Khalid also had to travel an hour each way by motorcycle everyday to get to work in Penang. This was because he was unable to get confirmed at work and therefore not entertained when he requested for a transfer to a workplace nearer to his house in a different state.

He was also saddled with credit card debts as smoking ganja is an expensive habit, besides having a wife and kid to support.

I guess these stress factors finally led Khalid to turn to the hardest of drugs, heroin.

Not only did drugs affect Khalid’s life, it also affected our friendship.

I remember an awful experience we had during a holiday in Koh Samui. Soon after being on the pristine island, Khalid started showing signs of drug withdrawal as he did not have access to his usual drug supply there.

He became restless, tired and had no appetite. In the end, he bought sleeping pills from a local pharmacy to try to suppress the effects of drug withdrawal. I had an argument with him then as I was fed up with how drugs had taken control of his life.

Over the years, I witnessed first hand how dadah has changed not only my very close friend’s personality, but also his physical appearance.

Khalid was once a good looking chap and was quite popular with the ladies. Over time, he developed a sunken look. His lips appeared dark due to smoking too much cigarettes and ganja. His skin no longer looked youthful.

Instead, they appear sallow and lifeless. The whites of his eyes look rather dirty nowadays, it’s shine no longer present.

Drug abuse is not only a big problem in Malaysia, but also the entire world. The United Nations says that 5% of people in the world between 15 and 64 years of age abuse illicit drugs at least once a year.

Half of these folks use drugs regularly – at least once a month.

Many awful effects of drug abuse appear on the skin and affects one’s physical looks.

Cocaine users may find themselves ridden with scratch marks due to persistent scratching to ease the tingling sensation caused by drug use.

Blackish skin lesions may be present on the dominant hand, especially on the palms and fingers due to burns from the pipe used to hold the cocaine.

The burns occur because the cocaine users get intoxicated and become less aware of the thermal injury caused by the hot pipe. The vapours produced during cocaine smoking are high in temperature and causes thinning of the eyebrows.

In the 1980s, doctors in Holland started noticing a number of people developing pigmentation on the tongue. This was when smoking heroin first started becoming more popular in the market.

Injection of heroin causes skin infections due to introduction of bacteria and filler substances. Heroin and many other drugs are adulterated with fillers such as talcum powder, starch, flour and sugar to increase profits for the drug producer.

These substances are not compatible for injection or inhalation into the human body as they can cause tissue infection.

Multiple scars form due to injection of heroin into the subcutaneous tissue. They are 0.5 to 3cm in diameter and are hyperpigmented. They can be present on the arms and hands, abdomen and thighs.

Trauma to the veins due to frequent injections causes the veins to develop linear scars resembling railway tracks. You wouldn’t want your friends to think of Keretapi Tanah Melayu everytime they see your hands, do you?

Marijuana users often end up with premature skin ageing and prominent wrinkles. Unless you want to look like your grandmother when you’re still in your 30s, I would highly recommend you stay away from this nasty drug.

3,4-methylene-dioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as Ecstasy, is consumed in nightclubs because of its euphoric and disinhibition effects.

Users may rapidly develop a comedone-free type of acne on the face. This is theorised to be due to sexual steroid metabolism caused by Ecstasy’s toxicity to the liver, which causes stimulation of the sebaceous glands.

You can deduce from the information provided here that illicit drugs causes severe, unflattering changes to one’s physical appearance. The message is clear – stay away from drugs!


Dr Chen Tai Ho is an experienced aesthetic doctor who chills by the pool sipping espresso latte when he’s not attending to his patients. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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