Methamphetamine use can have many effects on the body and the functioning of its many systems. Methamphetamine affects the mind and body in many different ways. Although methamphetamine abusers use this drug for the extreme euphoria it gives them, there are many more negative effects that users should consider that outweigh any positive benefit of using this drug.
Methamphetamine is a synthetically produced stimulant drug that is highly addictive. Methamphetamine attaches itself to dopamine receptors in the brain, causing a surge in dopamine that is 12 times that of any other pleasurable activity, including sex2.
Meth users will experience an intense feeling of euphoria that can last up to twelve hours. Those who use this drug also feel increased energy levels and activity. When on methamphetamine, users feel that they are more attractive and sexually desirable and have increased confidence.
Those who are under the effects of a meth high will be more social and conversational, often appearing to be argumentative. They may become so focused on a task that they repeat it over and over again, as if it is some sort of compulsion that they cannot control. Use continues in an effort to prolong the rush and the high, resulting in binge use until the user no longer feels a rush.
Taking meth actually causes changes to the brain, some of which may remain permanent. Long-term use can stop dopamine production in the brain, leading to an increase in tolerance to the drug. This causes a need for the user to take more of the drug to get the same effects. Meth use can also destroy dopamine receptors in the brain, making it difficult for users to feel pleasure from any other activities.
Using methamphetamine eventually makes it difficult for the user to feel any type of pleasure. It also has other effects on the mind as well. Users may experience delusions and hallucinations. Irritability, panic attacks, and paranoia are also commonly experienced by meth users. Like schizophrenia, methamphetamine affects many of the same parts of the brain resulting in users experiencing many of the same symptoms as those who suffer from this mental illness. Other symptoms of mental illness that methamphetamine users may experience include depression and anxiety.
The more a person uses meth, the more he or she develops aggressive behaviors. Violence is common among methamphetamine users. It doesn’t take long for a meth user’s behaviors to become unpredictable. Long-term use may result in the development of homicidal or suicidal thought patterns.
Meth use affects memory and judgment centers in the brain, leading to the decreased ability to learn or to make appropriate decisions. Obsessive and repetitive behaviors may occur, as well as uncontrollable movements, such as twitching and tremors. Permanent brain damage may occur, which can affect cognitive functioning for the remainder of a user’s lifetime, even if methamphetamine use is halted. This brain damage has been compared to the way that Alzheimer’s Disease affects the brain.
Methamphetamine use increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and even body temperature. This can lead to permanent damage within the blood vessels, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. Body temperature can rise high enough to cause organ failure and possibly even brain damage. Sudden death may also occur with any meth use.
Methamphetamine users can experience severe weight loss and malnutrition, which brings with it a whole new set of health concerns. Loss of muscle and bone mass can also occur, leading to increased risk of developing other diseases and conditions. On top of that, the immune system functioning is reduced, making it more difficult for the body to heal itself, resulting in more infections, especially in the skin.
Liver, kidney, and lung disorders are common to those who use methamphetamine over a long period of time. As the organs become diseased, there is an increased risk of an organ shutting down, leading to death or the need for a transplant.
Methamphetamine use affects the appearance of a person in so many ways. This is in part due to the toxic effects of the drug, malnutrition, and the user neglecting proper hygiene during periods of meth use. Hair loss may occur, resulting in thin and balding patches on the head.
The most common change to appearance is that of meth mouth. Dryness of the mouth can lead to acids in the mouth eating away at tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. This can lead to discolored, rotting, and broken teeth. Gum disease can also develop, creating even more problems in the mouth. Many meth users develop a habit of compulsive tooth grinding, which further erodes teeth and may result in breakage of weak and damaged teeth.
The skin is also affected by meth use. Users pick at the skin in an effort to eradicate the bugs that they feel are crawling beneath the skin. Compulsive picking at scabs is common as well. Due to a decrease in circulation to the skin and weakened immune system from using the drug, meth users have a greater risk of developing skin infections. Skin may also appear sunken due to a decrease in muscle mass, but also due to a breakdown in collagen levels that occurs with methamphetamine use. Collagen gives skin its firmness and elasticity; once this breaks down, it causes users to appear decades older than they really are.
1. Meth US; Meth Addiction Statistics