New anti-drug campaign shows rapid aging from meth via mugshots

As abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin continues to rise, a provocative new anti-drug campaign seeks to scare potential drug users away from starting by showing them how rapidly drugs age the face and destroy an addict’s looks.

Called “More Than Meth: Faces of Drug Arrests,’’ the video flips through mugshots of addicts over a few years to a decade — many addicts get arrested repeatedly — to illustrate the shocking transformation that occurs from using methamphetamine. Skin lesions, wrinkles, droopy eyes, and yellow skin are all common in chronic meth users, as well as looking 20 or 30 years older than their chronological age.


(None of these have been photo-shopped.)

“It’s a very powerful campaign,’’ said Dr. Steven Kassels, medical director of Community Substance Abuse Centers, in Westfield, and author of the book Addiction on Trial. “It certainly fits with my experience as a physician who sees addicts looking much older than they are.’’

Any kind of drug abuse can shatter a person’s looks, he added, often due to the unhealthy lifestyle that comes with it like poor diet, chronic insomnia, and lack of exercise.

While the campaign likely won’t help anyone who is already addicted to meth, cocaine, or heroin, Kassels said, it can be an effective way to reach young adults before they start. “I’d like to see state health agencies doing similar anti-drug campaigns,’’ he said.

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