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Effects Of Drug Abuse On The Eyes

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Your Vision Can Suffer From Addiction; Get Help Today!

Addiction and drug abuse have a negative impact on nearly every part of the body – and the eyes are no exception. Changes in the eyes, from pupil dilation to redness, can indicate intoxication. When these side effects are experienced consistently, and when they develop into long-term health issues, it is normally a good indication that substance abuse is taking place.

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Your Eyes on Drugs: How Addiction Causes Eye Changes


Amphetamines, such as Adderall and Dexedrine, are taken most often as performance enhancement drugs. These strong stimulants typically causes physical changes such as the dilation of the eyes. Normally used to make a person feel alert and powerful, feelings of fatigue are erased, causing temporary redness of the eyes when the user lacks rest.

Any amount of amphetamine will normally dilate the pupils and increase dryness of the eyes in the short-term. With higher doses and prolonged use, blurred vision and hallucinations often occur. Loss of coordination and trouble with depth perception is also common.

Chemically, continued abuse of amphetamines can lead to blurred vision and an inability to focus. Dilation associated with long-term use can increase the risk for acute angle-closure glaucoma, a condition that can result in loss of vision.


Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for a variety of medical and mental health conditions. The most common of the Benzodiazepine drugs is Xanax, which is commonly prescribed to provide anxiety relief. Extended use can lead to dependence issues and abuse, especially when combined with alcohol or other substances.

Short-term effects on the eyes can include blurred vision and double vision as well as a glazed appearance of the pupils. Long-term use of Benzodiazepine drugs has been linked to nearsightedness and eye strain.


Smoking is the most preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. Short-term and prolonged use causes harm to every part of the body – and the eyes are no exception. While eye problems due to cigarette use are less studied, there are multiple sight-threatening side effects of long-term smoking that can put vision at risk.

Cataracts, or the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, is the number one cause of blindness in the United States. Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing a cataract, and your risk continues to rise the more you smoke.

Macular degeneration, which causes blind spots and impairs central vision in the eye, is also common in long-term smokers. In fact, it has been studied that smokers have a three-fold increase of developing Macular degeneration compared to people who have never smoked.

Smoking is also directly linked to the development of uveitis – the inflammation of the eye’s middle layer. This eye disease harms vital areas of the eye such as the iris and retina and can result in total vision loss. One study determined that smoking is associated with 2.2 times greater than average risk of developing this condition.


Cocaine use is most often associated with an increased heart rate, loss of appetite, and dilated pupils – but can it cause real harm to the eyes?

Cocaine is an eye anesthetic, meaning that when you take cocaine you may be unable to feel the damage that occurs to your eyes. Tearing, scratching, and even corneal ulcers can occur, causing scarring that can lead to total vision loss.


Dextromethorphan, the drug commonly found in cough medicine and other over-the-counter medications, is most commonly abused by young people as it is legal in every state other than California. Short-term drug use can cause pupil dilation, blurred vision, and an inability to focus, while prolonged use often leads to hallucinations.


Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, is a central nervous system depressant that is commonly referred to as the date rape drug. Short-term effects of the drug on eyes includes blurred vision and loss of vision. Long-term abuse has been linked to issues with vision such as nearsightedness and hallucinations.


Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception. Their most common effects are visual including hallucinations and blurred vision.

Long-term hallucinogen use can include visual disturbances, flashbacks, and loss of depth perception.


Heroin is a modified version of morphine that is an extremely addictive opioid drug. It is common for users to experience blurred vision during use and loss of vision as they nod in and out of consciousness. With extended use, blurred vision and double vision can occur even when you are not currently on the drug.


Inhalants, with an emphasis on the popular recreational inhalant called “poppers,” can cause significant damage to a repetitive user’s vision.

The reaction in the metabolism of your photo receptors and the cells in your eyes that perceive light are destroyed by the use of poppers. This can range from slight trouble with vision to complete blindness with prolonged use.


Even if prescribed to you, ketamine can affect the eyes after short-term use. Common side effects include hallucinations, altered perception, blurred vision, double vision, involuntary eye movement, and illusions.


Marijuana has a few key effects on the eyes. The most common side effect is redness of the eyes, which occurs shortly after smoking. THC in marijuana causes the blood vessels in the eye to expand causing bloodshot eyes with prolonged use. This also increases dilation of the pupils, and can have a significant impact on peripheral vision. Extensive marijuana use can damage users’ eyesight by triggering an abnormality in the retina. Although not common, this may account for altered vision in regular cannabis users’ eyesight.


Abusing methamphetamine can quickly lead to dependency and addiction. Both short-term and long-term use can lead to blurred and double vision, on top of a multitude of other health concerns. Meth users will also commonly display dilated pupils, and can experience hallucinations on and off the drug.


Phencyclidine, or PCP, has many similar effects to that of a person being under the influence of alcohol. The user will experience red, puffy eyes, blurred vision, double vision, and up and down movement of the eyes. Delusions and hallucinations are also common while high on the drug.

Long-Term Effects of Drug Abuse on
the Eyes and Vision


Prolonged Use of Illegal Substances on Eyes

While long-term effects of drug abuse on the eyes and vision vary depending on the drug and person abusing the drug, it is common for eyesight to become worse with prolonged use of most illegal substances.

If you or someone close to you are abusing a substance and experiencing new or worsened symptoms with their vision, professional help is necessary to determine a diagnosis and cause.

You Can Prevent Eye Damage through Recovery

It is never too late to seek out help in order to lessen or prevent further eye damage caused by drug abuse. At Destination Hope, we offer the opportunity to overcome addiction and start healing in a comfortable and safe environment. Call our counselor’s for more information at 877-785-3199.

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