What Does Methamphetamine Do to Your Body?

Skin problems
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While it might be common knowledge that using drugs is harmful, it is still worthwhile to examine how drugs cause harm. In the case of meth, this is a drug that eats away at one’s physical form and causes noticeable, extremely harmful physiological and psychological damage.

To fully understand why no one would ever want to use meth, it’s worth examining the sheer harm that meth abuse brings about in a user.

Meth Side Effects

Meth causes immediate harm the moment one begins using it. The following is not a full list of side effects, but it is a quick look at what can happen as a result of using meth. Some of these effects can occur after one use, and others develop after ongoing use:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Hot flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Teeth falling out
  • Brain damage
  • Memory problems
  • Hampered body movements
  • Mood swings
  • Violent behavior
  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Death

Meth, the Drug that Destroys the Body

Scratching arm

People take meth for the sudden rush of energetic pleasure they claim to get from it. However, the more they use meth, the larger and larger quantities of the drug they must take to get the same euphoric effects from it. Even after just one use of meth, and especially after repeated uses, meth takes a severe toll on the body, causing harm to the heart and lungs, skin, teeth, mouth, gums, and brain.

Most recovering addicts will say that they took meth for its euphoric effects. But that’s a double-edged sword of the very worst kind because meth completely rewires brain chemistry, destroying the circuitry connected to dopamine and making it increasingly difficult to experience pleasure naturally.

Meth abuse also causes the destruction of blood vessel tissue. That inhibits the body’s ability to heal itself. That phenomenon is much of the cause for skin sores taking longer to heal and for meth users to appear much older than they are. Meth causes bodies to erode from the inside out, and meth prevents the body from healing itself.

There is some evidence that suggests the damage meth does to one’s ability to experience pleasure is not permanent. However, studies of ex-meth users continue to show long-term, impaired cognitive function, memory loss, poor judgment, impaired motor coordination, and symptoms similar to those seen in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

What Meth Does to Your Brain

Last but not least, it’s essential to look at the neurological effects of meth use. This does not get as much attention as it should, as the glaringly obvious physiological impacts of meth use usually take up much of the spotlight.

But the effects of meth use on the brain deal a much deeper blow, one that can have lasting, even permanent, harmful effects. For example, meth causes brain hyperthermia, which is essentially an extremely dangerous, unregulated overheating of the brain. Meth use also causes a weakening of the brain-blood-barrier, another phenomenon that can cause serious harm.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine explored these phenomena, extrapolating that meth use can cause severe and permanent brain damage and neurological harm. Quoting authors Kiyatkin and Sharma, "Although the issue of the extent of damage and its reversibility remains unanswered and requires additional studies, it is likely that rapid cell abnormalities may initiate cascades that could precipitate cellular and molecular dysfunctions, leading to neurodegeneration—the most dangerous outcome of chronic abuse with amphetamine-like drugs."

Methamphetamine Psychosis

Psychosis
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In addition to the long list of physiological effects of meth use, there are harmful psychological effects of meth use. According to experts, meth psychosis is the most challenging and difficult effect of meth use. Some of the manifestations of meth psychosis include:

  • Feeling overly suspicious of others.
  • Having the sense that others are out to get them.
  • Having strange ideas, even delusions of grandeur.
  • Seeing and hearing things that are not real.
  • Hallucinations that can cause irrational, even dangerous actions.

Countless methamphetamine users experience psychosis while using meth. Unless they get help and get clean, repeated meth use could create repeated bouts of psychosis, some of which may continue even after the individual has ceased using meth.

Addiction Treatment—Seeking Freedom from Meth NOW

Though meth addiction is truly devastating to the individual and his family members, loved ones, and friends, it is a reversible condition. No one has to be addicted to meth for life, and everyone can receive help and pursue a life that is free of drug use or drinking.

Meth addiction can seem impossible to walk away from, and the pulls of the drug can feel strangulating. But with the help of a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, even the most heavily afflicted meth addict can overcome their crisis. It takes addressing the personal, underlying issues that drove them to meth use in the first place and handling the behavioral, physical, and emotional connections to meth.


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Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP

AUTHOR

Ren

After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.