For each of the six images below, 100 mugshots were averaged together to reveal
the average faces of drug abuse. While it is unlikely that a user's basic facial structure
depends on the substance they were arrested for, the goal of this project is to
expose the effects certain substances might have on a user's appearance.
The numbers alone are staggering: In the span of just one year, over 2.8 million people in the United States were arrested for drug possession and other charges, or alcohol offenses like driving while intoxicated.
A majority of these offenders will face substantial fines and even months or years in state or federal prisons. But the statistics only tell part of the story. We’ve collected the mugshots of 600 alcohol and drug offenders from across the country, and merged their facial features together with software – putting a modern face on substance abuse. And what you see might surprise you.
Over 1.5 million people are arrested on drug charges each year, and 48.3% of them – nearly 750,000 – were arrested for marijuana. Pot is one of the most widely used drugs, but even simple possession can still carry a sentence of up to a year in federal prison. In fact, marijuana is the most common drug for which people are sentenced to federal prison. And in state courts, 69% of convicted drug offenders face jail time, with an average sentence of 10 months. Marijuana use may be common – but so is getting busted for it.
Driving while intoxicated is a reckless act that endangers countless other people – and it’s frighteningly common. In 2012, there were over 1.2 million arrests for drunk driving in the United States. If each of these drivers had four drinks (the average for DUI arrests), this would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool two-thirds full with beer. Only property crimes and drug offenses were more common.
You may very well know someone who drinks and drives – these are everyday people. But make no mistake: the average penalty for drunk driving is severe.
The addictive potential of methamphetamine has fueled a surge in meth possession, production, and sale, destroying lives and communities throughout the nation. In 2012 alone, 133,000 people tried meth for the first time, beginning at an average age of 19. These young adults could fill 188 high schools.
Altogether, about 440,000 people in the United States are current meth users, and the methamphetamine market is worth around $5 billion. In response to this epidemic, the crackdown on meth offenders has been harsh.
The health impact of substance abuse can leave visible marks on a person’s body, but that isn’t the only consequence. The penalties for DUI and illicit drug use can be as painful and long-lasting as any change in appearance. A DUI charge is almost certain to result in conviction, with jail time of up to 6 months for the first offense, and a year or more for subsequent offenses – and even seizure of an offender’s vehicle. Those charged with felony possession of marijuana can face an average sentence of 31 months in prison, and over 3 years of probation. Meth possessors face some of the harshest sentences: over 6 months for possession of less than a gram, and 2 or more years for possession with intent to distribute.
An averaging of faces is known to converge on an attractive symmetry. In addition, research suggests that the more average a face is, the more attractive it is perceived to be. Alcohol, marijuana, and meth abuse can all cause accelerated aging due to the formation of wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity. If someone you love has had a noticeable change in their appearance and is struggling with substance use, Recovery.org is here to help.
For each of the six average faces, 100 mugshots were averaged together using the software PsychoMorph (depicted below). To achieve the clarity in the average images here, 27 points were placed on each image by hand rather than using PsychoMorph's feature detection capability as it was not accurate enough to achieve a clear result. To learn more about how this software operates, please see the software's wiki.
Each sample of 100 mugshots was assembled by randomly selecting images that matched the criteria for gender and type of arrest. Mugshots were restricted to caucasian arrestees between the ages of 18 and 35 to mitigate the influence of race and age on the merged images, and helped ensure that the averages provided a clearer insight on the physical effects that different substances might have. In addition, images with a low resolution were not included in the samples.
Information on Average Sentences:
Feel free to use any of the images found in this project. When doing so, please attribute the creators by linking to this project so your audience may learn about the methodology and access all assets that are available.