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?

Meth is short for methamphetamine, a stimulant drug that has limited medical uses in the United States. It can be used to treat ADHD and obesity. It’s chemically related to amphetamines, a class of stimulants that are often used to treat ADHD. It’s used to treat weight problems for its ability to suppress your appetite. However, for both obesity and ADHD, meth is a second-line medication, which means that it’s not the first choice when treating these disorders. Meth is more commonly used as an illicit recreational drug in the United States. 

As a recreational drug, meth is used for its potent but short-lived high. A meth high involves intense euphoria, a feeling of empowerment, and increased energy. But the euphoria caused by meth only lasts for a few minutes, and it’s followed by an uncomfortable comedown, which is a period of anxiety, paranoia, and agitation that’s followed by fatigue and low mood. In many cases, meth’s short high and long comedown encourages users to go on a meth binge, which is taking several doses in a row to stave off the uncomfortable side effects. This increases the risk of stimulant psychosis.

Meth works with a chemical in your brain called dopamine, which is a natural “feel-good chemical” that is tied to reward, motivation, and pleasure. Meth increases the release of dopamine and prevents it from being removed, which floods your brain with the chemical. After a period of regular meth use, dopamine receptors may become damaged and less functional over time. This can lead to anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure, which can contribute to severe depression. Meth dependence and addiction can be extremely difficult to get over, but they can be treated effectively.  

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
  • A 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 – Smoking has an immediate effect, as a person can become high on the drug in just a few minutes.

Snorting – Snorting meth affects the body within 3 to 5 minutes.

Intravenous injection – Intravenous injection can affect a person in as little as 15 to 30 seconds.

Swallowing or drinking – 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. A common question many have is does meth make you sweat? 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. Commonly used terms for these are meth smell and meth sweat. And in case you are wondering, no, there is no sweating out meth. That is a myth.
  • 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. We hope this answers the question of what does meth do to your body.

Extremely severe long-term effects of using meth include:

  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma

What Causes Meth Mouth?

Meth users routinely struggle with tooth decay and other mouth-related medical issues. Meth mouth is a term that’s used to describe the deterioration of dental health in people that go through a period of chronic meth abuse. It’s related to teeth grinding that’s often caused by meth addiction, but there are several possible causes that work together. There may be some effects of meth that directly affect your dental hygiene, but there are several other factors that may expedite tooth issues. Here are several contributing factors to meth mouth:

  • Bruxism. Bruxism is the medical term for grinding teeth. Chronic bruxism can wear down your enamel and make your teeth more vulnerable to disease.
  • Poor hygiene. A degradation in hygiene isn’t exclusive to meth users. Addiction, in general, can cause people to neglect many aspects of typical daily life, including oral hygiene.
  • Xerostomia. This is the medical term for dry mouth. Meth causes the narrowing of blood vessels that may affect your salivary glands. This can slow down the production of saliva, which dries out your mouth. Your saliva contains enzymes that break down food and bacteria in your mouth. Chronic dry mouth may make your mouth more vulnerable to bacteria and disease. 
  • Meth is caustic. Caustic is a term for chemicals that can corrode organic material. Meth may have some effects that erode your death and gums over time. 

What Causes Meth Mites?

Meth mites aren’t actual parasites that affect your skin. Instead, the term refers to something called formication, which is the sensation of bugs crawling on your skin. Formication is a common sensation that comes with stimulant abuse, as your nervous system becomes overactive. When this is mixed with meth’s ability to cause stimulant psychosis and hallucinations, meth users often feel like they are constantly crawling with insects. This can cause them to scratch at their skin, which causes abrasions and scaring. 

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.

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.

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