Methamphetamine (meth) is found primarily as an illicit drug that is produced using a combination of cough and cold medicine ingredients and toxic chemicals. Meth is a rather inexpensive, addictive drug that delivers a powerful high, and tends to adversely impact nearly every aspect of a user’s health and life.
Regular meth use can cause significant damage to every organ, including the brain, and many of the effects may not be reversible. It also degrades the mental well-being of the user, as well as their physical appearance.
How Does Meth Work?
Meth increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, a chemical involved in body movement, motivation, and the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to swiftly release a flood of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, compelling the user to repeat the experience. This effect is what creates the euphoric high and is also the catalyst for addiction.
Along with feeling euphoric, meth use also increases energy levels, alertness, wakefulness, and often causes the user to be more talkative and hyperactive.
What Does Meth Do To Your Body In the Short-Term?
Short-term effects of meth on the body may include increased body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and decreased appetite.
There’s also a potential for arrhythmia (irregular heart rate) brain hemorrhage, hyperthermia lung collapse, and convulsions upon overdose.
What Does Meth Do To Your Body in the Long-Term?
Long-term effects of meth on the body include the following:
- Extreme weight loss
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Damage to organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs
- Damage to nasal passages if snorted
- Sores, abscesses, and infections if injected
- Tooth decay
The Effects of Meth on the Heart
Because meth is a stimulant, it can have a profound impact on the cardiovascular system. Meth constricts the veins and blood vessels of the user, which can cause blood clots to form. Meth use can result in chronic arrhythmia and high blood pressure, which can also damage and harden arteries, blocking blood flow to organs.
It puts a strain on the heart due to elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and disruption of normal rhythms, thereby possibly contributing to cardiac arrest.
The Effects of Meth on the Brain
Meth’s effects on the brain tend to be widespread and severe. Among the most dangerous risks meth users incur is an increased chance of stroke, which can result in permanent brain damage, including memory loss, paralysis, loss of speech, and cognitive impairment. Indeed, stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S., and in 2015, strokes accounted for nearly 12% of total deaths worldwide.
In the long term, overstimulation of dopamine and serotonin-releasing cells can result in their destruction and an accompanying decline in dopamine levels. This condition leads to greater difficulty experiencing pleasure, which can cause severe depression and anhedonia.
Meth effects on the brain can also contribute to the development of psychosis, with symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoia that are nearly identical to those of schizophrenia. Although these symptoms may resolve within a few months after discontinuing meth use, some users find that they persist longer and recurrence of these symptoms can occur even after a long period of sobriety.
The Effects of Meth on the Respiratory System
Meth use can affect the lungs and respiratory system in a variety of ways. The stimulant properties of meth produce rapid breathing, and possibly lightheadedness and fainting. Smoking meth can also cause the user to cough up blood due to bleeding in the lungs.
Snorting meth can lead to intense coughing and respiratory trauma, such as a collapsed lung and the release of air into the body outside of the lungs. When meth is inhaled, its impurities can accumulate in the lungs, form granulomas, and lead to lung disease.
The Effects of Meth on the Liver and Gastrointestinal System
Meth users sometimes employ needles to inject the drug, and they may also share needles with others. This practice can easily transmit blood-borne diseases from one user to another, such as hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, can cause progressive damage and over time, may lead to jaundice, cirrhosis, bleeding, and damage to the central nervous system.
Blood vessel constriction produced by meth use can hinder blood flow to the bowels, potentially resulting in the death of bowel tissue. This condition can lead to perforation of the intestinal wall and peritonitis, a life-threatening infection of the abdominal cavity that can advance into septic shock.
The Effects of Meth on the Immune System
Using meth has the potential to stifle the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to combat disease-causing bacteria and viruses, which can leave meth users vulnerable to various infections.
Worse yet, needle sharing can also transmit HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV damages the cells of the immune system, and eventually, this can further compromise the body’s ability to protect against harmful diseases.
The Effects of Meth on Muscles
Chronic meth use can wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system of the body – among the most troublesome are involuntary myoclonus (muscle twitching and tremors) and repetitive or “stereotypic” movements.
Also linked to meth use is a serious and painful condition called rhabdomyolysis, which is characterized by the rapid destruction of muscle tissue and a potentially toxic release of the contents of the compromised cells into the bloodstream. Meth-induced rhabdomyolysis can lead to widespread muscle pain, extreme fluctuations of serum electrolytes, and if not caught and treated early enough, irreversible kidney failure.
The Effects of Meth on Teeth (Meth Mouth)
Meth is infamous for its visibly destructive effects on oral health, as several factors work together to produce this damage. The destruction meth use can invoke on the teeth is so far-reaching that “meth mouth” has become a common term for meth-induced decay.
More specifically, meth use can cause dry mouth, and a lack of saliva can lessen the body’s ability to fight off cavity-causing bacteria. It can also lead to a compulsive grinding of the teeth, which over time, can wear them down. When combined with nutritional neglect and poor oral hygiene due to being high, meth users can often suffer from severe tooth decay, cracked teeth, and tooth loss.
This damage isn’t just limited to the teeth, either – the gums can incur extensive erosion and recession as well.
The Effects of Meth on the Skin
Meth use can compel people to pick at their skin compulsively due to psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and the feeling that bugs are crawling under their skin. Recurrent scratching of the arms and face can cause open sores to develop, which can then become infected.
An appearance of premature aging can also occur as a result of severe acne, loss of skin elasticity, and the development of leather-like skin texture. Severe weight loss due to appetite suppression can also cause the user to look emaciated and malnourished.
All of these factors can result in meth users exhibiting the characteristic “faces of meth” appearance – a complexion that appears unhealthy and deteriorative.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Meth addiction is an incredibly destructive disease that can cause extensive damage to the human body, resulting in significant health problems, mental illness, and even death.
Those addicted to meth are encouraged to participate in a long-term addiction treatment program on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based services that include psychotherapy, psychoeducation, counseling, group support, and more.
We employ caring medical professionals with expertise in addiction who provide clients with the support, knowledge, and tools they need to succeed at recovery and enjoy long standing wellness and sobriety.
We can help you restore yourself to sanity and regain the life you deserve! Contact us now to find out how!