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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Severe aftereffects include visual or auditory hallucinations and paranoia.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
After using meth for a while, some people may be unable to control if they are shaking or rocking.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
NIDA explains that people who take meth can expect the following changes:
Unfortunately, not all adverse bodily effects can be reversed.
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.
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(June 2018) What is methamphetamine? National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
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(March 2018) 7 scary side effects of meth that are deadly. HelloGiggles. Retrieved January 2019 from https://hellogiggles.com/news/scary-side-effects-meth-deadly/
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(February 2013) UF study: Many meth side effects kick in only after stopping. The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.gainesville.com/news/20130219/uf-study-many-meth-side-effects-kick-in-only-after-stopping/1
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