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Can You Ruin Your Eyes on Drugs?

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Substance abuse affects one’s entire life; mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Of the many physical symptoms of substance abuse [1], such as changes to one’s hair, skin, and teeth, did you know that users can drastically affect their eyes on drugs? Each drug has a slightly different effect on one’s eyes.

Avenues Recovery, leaders in addiction rehabilitation, have a closer look below at the changes to one's eyes when using drugs.

Long and Short-Term Effects on Eyes When on Drugs

From bloodshot eyes and heavy eyelids to changes in pupil size and involuntary movement, drugs can wreak a lot of havoc on their user's eyes. Let’s explore the eye trouble that can accompany many of the common drugs used by addicts.

Cocaine Eyes

The term cocaine eyes refers to how the eyes look after cocaine use. Cocaine is a stimulant that encourages the brain to release endorphins in large amounts. As a result, pupils when on cocaine will appear dilated and are a commonly noticed occurrence after using the substance. The enlarged pupils are known as cocaine eyes.

When the pupils are enlarged, they become sensitive to sunlight. This is why many cocaine users sometimes wear sunglasses, even when it’s not sunny outside. Cocaine users will often have bloodshot eyes due to sensitivity to cocaine vapors. There may also be irregular or unfocused eye movements until the cocaine wears off.

Some other effects of cocaine on the eyes include:

●     glaucoma [2] - pressure on the eyes that can lead to blindness

●     keratitis - inflammation of the cornea

●     nystagmus - rapid, uncontrollable eye movements

●     jaundice - yellow-colored skin and eyes due to liver damage

Meth Eyes

Meth eye is a term used to describe how a person’s eyes look after they use meth (also known as methamphetamine). Abusing meth and pupils changing size go hand in hand. Meth abusers will usually have yellowing of the eyes, enlarged pupils, and increased visibility of blood vessels. If you notice that your loved one’s eyes appear this way, and they also have other signs of meth use like euphoria, high energy, and paranoia, there may be a good chance they are using meth or a similar drug, like Cocaine.

These symptoms are most likely visible soon after a person uses meth, and they may go away once the meth wears off. However, regular users of meth may have these symptoms all the time.

If a person continues to use meth their eyes could deteriorate further, and they may develop the following issues:

●     Uncontrollable twitching of the eyes or eyelids

●     Deteriorated vision

●     Night blindness

●     Sensitivity to light

Another serious complication that can occur from using meth is retinal vein occlusion. This means that a blood clot could block blood flow to the veins in the eyes. It can result in partial or complete blindness if not treated in time.

Opiate Eyes

Opioids are a class of drugs that occur naturally in the poppy plant and they provide an effect of relief on the brain. They include some pain-relieving prescription medications like codeine, morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), and some illegal drugs such as heroin.

Opiate eyes and heroin eyes occur when the pupils get smaller, almost to a pinpoint. It’s common to see constricted pupils on drugs such as heroin. Also, a person’s eyelids may droop as a result of drowsiness.

The long-term use of opioids can cause more severe issues to the eyes, such as;

●     sensitivity to light

●     pain

●     vision loss

Alcohol Pupils

Drinking alcohol can cause enlarged pupils, but at a slower rate than usual, and can cause double or blurry vision. Alcohol also impairs a person’s contrast sensitivity, which means telling the difference between different shades and patterns. So if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol behind a gray car in the rain, they may have trouble seeing the gray car clearly.

Other effects of alcohol on the eyes include: 

●     Increased chance of getting cataracts

●     Increased risk of glaucoma and elevated eye pressure

●     Increased risk of age-related macular degeneration

We’ve Got Your Eyes Covered

There are so many varied and harmful effects on your eyes when on different drugs, and some can be long-lasting or permanent. If you or a loved one are suffering from drug abuse, Avenues Recovery is here to support you. With detox and treatment programs and multiple rehabilitation options, we can help you to stop ruining your eyes on drugs. Contact us to hear more information so you can confidently start on your journey toward sobriety.


What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is defined as overindulgence or dependence on alcohol or drugs.

How Long do Eyes Stay Dilated After Drug Use?

For meth users and cocaine users, it can take four to six hours for the meth and cocaine to wear off and for the pupils to return to their normal state. For alcohol users, it can take up to 24 hours for the alcohol to wear off and for the eyes to return to normal.

What Drugs Cause Pinpoint Pupils?

Narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and morphine are constricted pupil drugs. One of the signs of an overdose of these drugs is pinpoint pupils that don’t respond to the light.

Which Drugs Dilate Pupils?

Stimulants and psychotropic substances commonly cause pupil dilation. Pupil dilation can also occur from taking mescaline, alcohol, LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin, cannabis, narcotics, inhalants, amphetamines, hallucinogens, bath salts, SSRI antidepressants, and ketamine. These are ‘dilated pupil drugs’.

Can Smoking Cigarettes Affect My Eyes?

Most people think that only drug abuse can ruin a person’s eyes, but even cigarette smoking can have a damaging effect on a person’s eyes.

●     Smoking can cause eye changes that could lead to blindness over time.

●     Smokers are twice as likely to develop macular generation compared to non-smokers.

●     They are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.

What Steps Can I Take to Prevent Vision Loss Related to Smoking?

The first step to preventing vision loss related to smoking is to quit smoking.

Other steps to prevent vision loss can be:

●     Wear a rimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight

●     Eat a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and fish

●     Maintain normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure

●     Exercise regularly

What is the First Step to Avoiding Drug Addiction, Smoking, and Alcohol?

These are some of the steps to avoiding addiction so you can protect your eye and body health.

●     Communicate - If your friends begin taking drugs and you’re afraid that you will get swept up in their lifestyle, reach out to a friend or family member who can help you to stay strong and not begin drug use due to social pressures.

●     Seek therapy - If the stresses of life are too much for you, consider reaching out to a therapist to help you deal with your problems rather than turning to drugs to escape them.

●     Learn to deal with pressure - Some people start drugs because they can’t deal with the pressures of life. Try to learn how to deal with the pressures of life so you won’t numb your problems with drugs, alcohol, or smoking.




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