Physical Effects of Meth

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

An image of a man ill from the Physical Effects of Meth

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Methamphetamines might be a powerful and remarkably addictive substance, but there are many treatment options available for the physical effects of meth.

With data from NSDUH 2020 showing that over 2.5 million people in the United States used methamphetamine last year, more people than ever are wondering about the physical effects of meth use.

What are the effects of methamphetamine, then?

What are the Physical Effects of Meth?

Meth is the abbreviated name for crystal methamphetamine.  There are many names for meth, including crystal, ice, and crank.

Highly addictive, meth is a psychostimulant that can be smoked, snorted, or injected.

Meth use brings about intense waves of pleasure and euphoria. These effects are short-lived, though, and users experience strong cravings to use more of the drug so they can recreate these feelings. This pattern of use quickly and easily turns into dependence followed by addiction. Some meth users report feeling addicted to meth after a single use.

Prolonged and sustained meth abuse leads to a battery of mental and physical health problems, some permanent, and others potentially lethal.

Meth not only damages the brain but can also cause both external and internal damage to your body. Some of this can be overcome by discontinuing use. Sadly, some of the physical effects of meth use are irreversible.

An image of a person sick from the Physical Effects of Meth

How Does Meth Affect You Short-Term?

Here are some of the most common short-term physical side effects of meth:

  • Hyperexcitability
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Increased body temperature
  • Erratic heartbeat
  • Extreme irritability
  • Sustained periods without sleep
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Violent behavior

Meth physical effects can be longer-lasting, too.

Long Term Physical Effects of Meth

If you use meth long-term, it can lead to serious and adverse physical outcomes, including:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Serious dental problems (meth mouth)
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Impaired brain function
  • Easily distracted
  • Memory loss
  • Skin sores and scars
  • Violent or erratic behavior
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis

These are some of the more serious long-term effects of meth abuse:

  • Skin Complaints
  • Meth Mouth
  • Cardiovascular Damage
  • Structural Changes in the Brain

Skin Complaints

The chronic use of methamphetamine impairs your body’s ability to repair itself. As such, skin complaints are among the most visible effects of meth abuse.

Many of those who use meth long-term develop skin issues like acne. The skin becomes less elastic and loses its luster.

If formication presents, you will feel the sensation of insects crawling beneath your skin. This condition frequently leads to scratching and picking of the skin, sometimes causing permanent damage.



Meth Mouth

The most publicized adverse outcome of methamphetamine abuse is meth mouth, the result of severe dental issues. Meth-induced dental problems typically stem from poor dental hygiene combined with poor nutrition.

Long-term meth abuse can trigger a condition called dry mouth (xerostomia), as well as teeth grinding (bruxism).

This study shows that 96% of those who used meth had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had at least six missing teeth.

Cardiovascular Damage

Meth abuse can cause a variety of heart problems, including:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Enlarged heart muscle

This meta-analysis of studies shows that abusing methamphetamine can inflame pre-existing cardiac disorders, increasing the chance of myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death.

People who abuse meth are also at heightened risk of cardiovascular damage.

Structural Changes in the Brain

Research shows that chronic meth abuse can alter the brain structures governing decision-making. Meth misuse can also increase the incidence of useless behaviors, while at the same time impairing verbal learning.

The abuse of methamphetamine is also associated with functional and structural changes in the areas of the brain linked with emotion and memory.

These changes play a central part in meth addiction, formally termed stimulant use disorder.

Even though some of this damage is permanent, research indicates that some meth-induced damage can be reversed after a year or more of abstinence.



An image of the Renaissance Recovery logo | Physical Effects of Meth

Meth Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

While medication-assisted treatment is effective for treating many substance use disorders, there are currently no FDA-approved drugs that prolong abstinence from meth or inhibit further meth usage.

Instead, behavioral therapies are the most effective treatments for meth addiction, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).

The matrix model can also be applied to stimulant use disorders like meth addiction. This involves comprehensive treatment over a four-month period, including:

  • Individual counseling
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Family counseling
  • 12-step programs
  • Drug testing
  • Incentivized health behaviors

If you need meth rehab, we’ve got you covered here at Renaissance Recovery. We’ll start by personalizing a treatment plan so you can confidently move forward through the first step of detox and withdrawal.

You’ll then benefit from a variety of tailored behavioral therapies along with all the ongoing support you need to stay strong and stay sober. If you or a loved one is addicted to meth, don’t delay getting treatment. Call our friendly admissions team today at 866.330.9449 and we’ll help you to start addressing the psychological and physical effects of meth.

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Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country