Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous stimulant drug with mind-altering properties. Casual use can quickly lead to addiction and long-term mental and physical health problems, including deadly overdose. The long-term effects of methamphetamine use are as great, if not greater, than any drug available today. This powerful, dangerous, and illegal stimulant drug has become one of the most common drugs of abuse in the United States.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is widely produced in illicit laboratories. In addition to this, methamphetamine is also prescribed in limited instances for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain weight loss treatments. The brand name of methamphetamine medication for ADHD is Desoxyn.
On the street, methamphetamine is referred to as meth, crystal meth, and glass. Meth may be found in several forms, either as a powder, termed “crystal;” a rock-like version termed “ice;” or as a liquid for injection. Like many stimulants, the rush from meth is relatively short-lived, lasting only about five to 30 minutes. However, the pleasurable feelings from meth may last six or 12 hours.
Long-Term Effects of Meth
The longer a person uses a drug, the greater the opportunity for harm to the body and mind. Further, long-term use increases the odds that a person will become addicted.
As a person uses meth in more frequent and larger doses, their body doesn’t feel the drug’s euphoric effects as strongly. This is called tolerance. Many individuals use more of the drug in higher quantities to overcome this. These behaviors can cause a person to form a dependence and become addicted quickly.
Long-term effects of meth and the long-term effects of crystal meth can cause:
- Brain damage
- Cognitive deficits
- Death (overdose)
- High blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Impaired verbal learning
- Infections of the heart
- Liver damage
- Lung disease
- Memory loss
- Mood disturbances
- Nerve damage in the brain
- Poor hygiene
- Repetitive movements like twitching
- Slowed motor speed
- Suppressed immune system
Prolonged meth use may make a person aggressive and violent. Individuals may attempt to harm themselves or others as they struggle with homicidal or suicidal thoughts.
People are far more likely to engage in risky behaviors while high on meth. This may include driving a vehicle while under the influence or engaging in unsafe sexual practices. The latter has been linked to an increased risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C.
The brain damage associated with long-term meth use may become severe. Symptoms may resemble those of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s Diseases. These individuals may exhibit difficulty with movement, memory, or thought.
If a woman is pregnant and uses meth, she may encounter complications during her pregnancy or delivery. These dangers include placental abruption or the child being born prematurely. Methamphetamine use can also cause various congenital disabilities, including brain abnormalities, cleft palate, cardiac (heart) defects, lethargy, and the child’s small size.
Methamphetamine and Psychosis
Chronic methamphetamine users may develop psychotic tendencies. Sometimes this psychosis resembles schizophrenia.
Psychotic symptoms include auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Specific paranoid delusions may last up to 15 hours. One hallucination commonly experienced by meth users is “crank bugs.” This causes the feeling of insects crawling on or just beneath the skin.
The effects of meth can be so significant that some individuals continue to experience these psychotic symptoms for months or years after abstaining.
Chronic Meth Use. Changes a Person’s Appearance
Over time, long-term meth use can change a person’s appearance. Many meth users age very quickly, beyond their years.
Meth causes tissue and blood vessel damage, making it difficult for the body to heal. As a person’s immune system declines from use, their skin can take on a pale, sickly hue. During binges, meth user refrains from eating for long periods of time. This causes malnourishment and facial muscle loss which creates a skeletal look.
Visual signs of chronic meth use include severe acne, skin infections, sores, and scarring. Many of these sores develop as a person repeatedly digs and scratches at their skin in an attempt to rid themselves of “crank bugs.” Drug users also suffer severe weight loss.
Long-Term Meth Use Causes “Meth Mouth”
Meth drug users frequently develop severe dental problems, collectively known as “meth mouth.”
Meth itself is acidic, which can damage and weaken the teeth. In addition, chronic meth use causes dry mouth, poor personal hygiene, and teeth grinding or clenching. During meth high, many drug users experience cravings for carbonated, sugary beverages, which erode tooth enamel even more.
As a result, a person may have bleeding gums, cracked teeth, gum disease, and severe tooth decay. This damage causes teeth to become black or stained, crumble, fall out or rot.
Treating Methamphetamine Addiction at Vertava Health
As methamphetamine can be physically and psychologically addictive, the most successful rehabilitation programs deliver treatments on both these levels. Contact Vertava Health to learn more about treatment options for meth addiction.