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Correspondence |

Hair Graying in Substance Addiction

Albert S. Reece, MBBS, MD, FRCS(Ed),  FRCS(Glas), FRACGP
Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(1):115-126. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.1.116.
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While it is not unusual for popular broadsheet magazines to publish a series of photographs of patients addicted to various substances to demonstrate an obvious rapid aging of the face, the possibility that addiction itself may actually age patients either dermatologically or more generally has not been explored by the methods of modern science. The physical features of interest in such photographs have not been enumerated but might include weight loss; skin thinning, wrinkling, and ulceration; dyed or gray hair; advanced dental decay; and a generally aged and often depressed appearance. These features are all signs of age-related change.1

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Figure 1. Prematurely graying hair in addicts. A, Prematurely gray hair in a 34-year-old man: 44% temporal and 32% vertex grey (the inset shows a vertex view). B, Temporoparietal view of a prematurely gray 23-year-old man: 55% temporal gray and 42% vertex gray.

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Figure 2. Hair graying in subjects younger than 45 years. A, Percentage of subjects with more than 10% of their hairs gray at the temple and vertex. B, Percentage of gray temporal hairs (exponential curves of best fit) by age in addicts vs nonaddicts. C, Percentage of gray vertex hairs (exponential curves of best fit) by age in addicts vs nonaddicts. D, Percentage vertex graying by percentage temporal graying in addicts vs nonaddicts.

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