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Effects on the Body from Meth (Mites, Sores & More)

Meth abuse has extreme physical effects. With chronic use, people develop sores, decayed and broken teeth, and acne. Coupled with extreme weight loss and overall physical decline, it can be evident that someone is abusing meth.

 

What Is Meth?

Known by users as crystal meth, ice, or shabu, meth can be injected, snorted, swallowed, or smoked.

Though methamphetamine is closely related to speed, it is much stronger, and its effects are much more harmful.

Meth is sold as crystals that look like ice, or it may be sold as a powder with crystal-like formations that is very bitter to the taste.  

How Meth Use Affects the Body

No amount of meth is considered safe. Each person is different, and a variety of reactions have been reported for people using it.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns about these common short-term effects.

  • A very fast cycle of intense high and crash, which increases the likelihood of addiction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden alertness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Accelerated or irregular heartbeat
  • Desire for physical activity

Meth affects people differently depending on how they use it. A February 2017 report from the Australian Broadcast Corporation relays how people can expect certain effects within the first hour.

  • Smoking has an immediate effect, as a person can become high on the drug in just a few minutes.
  • Snorting meth affects the body within 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Intravenous injection can affect a person in as little as 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Swallowing or drinking meth causes effects in 15 to 20 minutes.

Taking crystal meth results in a release of dopamine, a hormone that allows you to feel pleasure. Meth users have reported feeling clearer and alert. Others report feeling more energy.

The effects of meth can last for up to 12 hours, and it could take up to 24 hours for the associated high to completely wear off.

The “comedown” causes a person to feel negative and is similar to a hangover caused by excessive alcohol consumption. There are certain visible symptoms of a comedown.

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Increased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Desire to sleep
  • Difficulty sleeping

Severe aftereffects include visual or auditory hallucinations and paranoia.

Long-Term Effects of Meth

Using meth for a long time frequently leads to more severe side effects. Crystal meth leads to dependency incredibly fast. The desire to chase the pleasurable feelings it produces could lead a person to take higher doses or even binge on meth for days at a time. Here are more long-term effects of taking meth:

DRASTIC WEIGHT LOSS

Crystal meth causes people to feel more alert while also suppressing their appetite. This often results in weight loss, and some people end up looking frail because they binge and eat less nutritious eat foods.

A CHANGE IN BREATH AND BODY ODOR

Meth is made using a variety of chemicals that often have a bad odor. Long-term meth users may experience a change in how their breath or sweat smells. Tooth decay and poor hygiene are associated with the use of crystal meth and contribute to bad breath. In addition, the sweat of a meth user may be similar to the smell of resin.

DRY MOUTH

 

Metro UK reports that meth use causes dry mouth. Without saliva to protect teeth from acids, a person’s teeth decay faster and even change color. Yellow or blackened teeth are common in meth users. This is commonly referred to as “meth mouth.”

 

TEETH GRINDING AND FACIAL TICS

After using meth for a while, some people may be unable to control if they are shaking or rocking.

CARDIOVASCULAR ISSUES

A 2016 report from Psychiatric Times warns that prolonged meth use is associated with the constriction of blood vessels. Some people experience an irregular or rapid heartbeat. The damage done to the heart makes it easier for a person to overdose. This is because their body is less able to handle the pressure of doing so much meth.

TRANSMISSION OF DISEASES

Per the Center for Integrated Healthcare, meth reduces inhibitions and may result in people having unsafe sex or sharing needles, thus increasing the chances of contracting hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS.

ACNE AND SORES

Per Metro UK, meth causes the body’s cells to die. Using meth for a long time reduces skin’s elasticity because the body is not producing enough new skin cells to replace the ones being lost to meth. Visible sores and acne form on the person’s face and take a long time to heal because meth is affecting a person’s skin.

SKIN PICKING

Meth users eventually experience formication — hallucinations that small insects or mites are under their skin. Believing these mind alterations are real, a person who uses meth will pick their skin in an effort to get rid of these insects. This often results in bloody sores that do not easily heal.

Extremely severe long-term effects of using meth include:

  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma

Psychological Effects of Meth

Negative health outcomes from meth are not limited to the body. Constant or long-term meth use also changes the brain.

As stated in a 2014 report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), drugs affect the part of the brain that feels good after repeating positive activities or reaching goals. Consistently using drugs takes over the brain’s reward circuit and teaches the brain to seek drugs so it can feel good, causing changes in how the brain works.

Meth causes the body to produce an increased amount of dopamine and norepinephrine. The increased production of these two hormones is taxing on the body, making it unable to produce these at sustained levels, causing depression to set in.

Addiction is also known to change the way the brain works.  

Effects on the Body from Meth

NIDA explains that people who take meth can expect the following changes:

  • Lessened verbal learning
  • Reduced coordination
  • Violent or aggressive behaviors
  • Psychosis
  • Feelings of paranoia

Can These Effects Be Reversed?

Unfortunately, not all adverse bodily effects can be reversed.

  • A February 2013 article from the Gainesville Sun found that meth use could permanently damage some brain functions, including memory, attention span, and the ability to make decisions or set goals.
  • Damage to the teeth from meth use may not be reversible. Meth users are known to grind their teeth, and the harsh way meth affects the production of saliva and gum health could cause a person to lose teeth.
  • Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice mentions that persistent use of meth could cause the heart to expand. Some muscles in the heart could die if a person has a heart attack brought on by meth use. These forms of damage could linger for some time or be permanent.

Hope in Recovery

Not everything is lost for people who decide to quit meth. Former meth users need to abstain from the drug for at least 12 to 17 months, so their verbal and motor skills can get back to normal. At that point, they may see substantial levels of healing.

Each person is different. An individual’s recovery will depend on how much and how long meth was used.