Meth is a dangerous, highly addictive drug that can greatly impact your physical and mental health. The long-term effects of methamphetamine can be dangerous, and even deadly. Learn what meth does to your brain and body, and why you should quit.
Meth’s Effect on Your Brain
When you abuse meth, the brain produces excessive amounts of dopamine, which is a chemical that creates feelings of euphoria. Taking the drug regularly starts depleting your natural supplies of dopamine. This brain chemical plays an important role in many functions, so when it’s off balance, your entire system is impacted.
When you’re addicted to a substance, your brain begins depending on that drug to function normally. When you try to stop using meth, dopamine levels drop, and your brain sends your body into withdrawal in an effort to restore chemical balance.
Research suggests changes in the brain due to meth affect brain structure and function. The impact on your neurotransmitters can lead to psychotic symptoms or violent behavior. Methamphetamine psychosis can include symptoms like:
- Hallucinations – seeing, hearing, or sensing things that aren’t there.
- Ideas of reference – a belief that people are talking to you when they’re not.
- Disorganized speech – quickly switching between topics, stringing sentences together that don’t make sense, jumbled words, and repeating words.
- Persecutory delusions – believing that a person or group is going to hurt you or out to get you without any proof.
Meth can cause brain damage by decreasing white matter, killing brain cells, and altering neurotransmitters. Users may experience short-term and long-term memory loss, mood disturbances, confusion, and serious mental health issues.
Meth’s Effect on Your Heart
After accidents and meth overdoses, heart disease is the leading cause of death in meth users. The stimulant drug affects the cardiovascular system in several ways. The American Heart Association reports meth users are at risk for these conditions:
- Constricted blood vessels, which can lead to dangerous blood pressure spikes.
- Severe heart disease (and at a younger age).
- Abnormal and increased heart rate.
- Structure changes in the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).
- A unique form of severe heart failure in young meth users.
- Heart attacks even years after you stop.
Meth’s Effect on Your Immune System
Research shows chronic methamphetamine abuse can significantly affect your immune system. Meth can alter your immune cells and disrupt their signaling pathways. It may suppress white blood cells that fight bacteria and viruses. This can lead to poorer immune system functioning and increased risk of infections.
Meth abuse can cause mouth abrasions and mucous membranes to dry out, decreasing natural barriers against infection. People who abuse meth are at greater risk for diseases like hepatitis B and C and HIV. If you inject meth and share needles, it increases your susceptibility to these illnesses. Meth also greatly clouds your judgement and makes you less inhibited, which can lead to risky behaviors like unprotected sex. During the COVID-19 pandemic, studies found that meth users were at higher risk of infection and death from the disease due to their compromised immune system.
Meth’s Effect on Your Muscles
The effects of methamphetamine abuse can even reach into your muscles, causing issues like:
- Involuntary movement
- Muscle twitching
- Repeated movements
- Muscle atrophy
A small body of research suggests a link between methamphetamine abuse and Parkinson’s Disease or early onset of the disease, which attacks the musculoskeletal system.
Meth’s Effect on Breathing
Meth can put you at risk for acute respiratory failure, pneumonia, and other types of lung damage. This is caused by constriction of your blood vessels, which puts pressure on the arteries leading to the lungs. Smoking crystal meth is a common way to take the drug because it leads to a quicker high. Using meth in this way increases your risk of the myriad of respiratory issues that come from smoking substances.
Meth’s Effect on Your Appearance
Meth abuse can affect your physical appearance. Some of the effects of meth are due to the way the drug changes your priorities. When you’re addicted to meth, it becomes the central focus in your life. You’re not concerned with personal hygiene, nutrition, or other factors that affect your appearance and health. Meth abusers often share these physical characteristics:
Also known as “meth mouth,” meth abusers may have several dental issues because they neglect oral hygiene and nutrition. Methamphetamine is also acidic which can compound these problems. Many meth users crave sugary foods and drinks, which exacerbates dental issues. Meth mouth may include tooth decay, missing teeth, and dry mouth.
You may have heard the term “meth mites.” A common meth hallucination is the feeling that bugs are crawling on you. Known as “crank bugs” these hallucinations can lead you to obsessively pick or scratch your skin causing sores that often become infected.
Chronic methamphetamine abuse often leads to acne. This is due to a few factors:
- Some meth toxins are excreted through the pores.
- Meth restricts blood flow to your skin.
- Meth users often have poor personal hygiene, not cleaning their faces regularly.
If you use meth, you might look older than your age. Restricted blood flow can cause your skin to lose some of its elasticity, appearing wrinkled and sagging.
People who use meth by smoking it may have burns or sores on their face or hands.
Meth is a stimulant and appetite suppressant. People who use meth are often thin or underweight. Clothes may be baggy and disheveled.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
A meth addiction is difficult to overcome, but not impossible with the right treatment, support, and motivation. If you or a loved one needs help, reach out to us. Footprints to Recovery provides evidence-based substance abuse and mental health treatment that addresses the root causes of your addiction. These may include trauma, a dual diagnosis, and other challenges. Our holistic approach to addiction treatment teaches you healthier ways to cope without drugs and alcohol and helps you begin repairing the mental and physical effects of methamphetamine abuse.
Levels of care at our drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers include:
- Alcohol and drug detox
- Residential treatment program
- Partial hospitalization program
- Intensive outpatient treatment program
- Outpatient treatment
- Sober-living residences
We’ve seen thousands of clients take back their lives from addiction. You can too. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation.