Meth Cough: How Meth Affects Lung Health

Meth abuse, and particularly meth use by smoking, is very dangerous to a person’s lung health. In the long term, it can cause some very serious health conditions, as well as a distinctive chronic cough known as “meth cough”.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Methamphetamine, commonly called crystal meth, is a powerful, illicit, stimulant drug that is most often smoked.

Meth is an amphetamine that affects the central nervous system by flooding its dopamine neurotransmitters, creating a euphoric high for the person using it.

Yet smoking meth can result in other negative bodily effects as well, including a chronic cough often referred to as a “meth cough”.

Effects Of Meth Use On The Lungs

Meth also causes a fast heart rate, high blood pressure (hypertension), high body temperature, and constricted blood vessels, leading to damaging effects on the cardiovascular system.

When blood vessels are constricted, healthy blood flow is reduced to all of the body’s vital organs, including the lungs. This is one of the main culprits for damage to a person’s lungs from meth.

Additionally, meth contains toxic chemicals and is often produced in a home meth lab, meaning no one quite knows what additives and chemicals are in the meth they purchase.

Some of these substances can cause irritation, inflammation, and infections in the lungs.

The damage that is done to a person’s lungs from heavy meth use can be felt in both the short term and long term.

Damage To Blood Vessels In The Lungs

Using meth constricts the blood vessels throughout the body, including those blood vessels in the lungs.

When these vessels are constricted, it can cause excess fluid to build up in the lungs and eventually lead to chronic lung disease.

Acute Respiratory Failure

Acute respiratory failure occurs when a person’s lungs can’t get enough oxygen into their blood and/or can’t remove enough carbon dioxide out of it.

Not only does this make it difficult to breathe, but it also deprives the body’s organs of oxygen-rich blood.


Pneumonia is an infection in the air sacs of one or both lungs that causes inflammation and irritation.

It results in severe coughing, a fever, chills, and difficulty breathing, and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Collapsed Lungs

A collapsed lung, also called pneumothorax, occurs when leaked air pushes on the outside of a lung and causes it to collapse inward, either partially or completely.

Collapsed lungs are a very serious condition and require immediate medical attention.

Long-Term Effects Of Smoking Crystal Meth

Smoking meth can result in a meth cough. It can also increase a person’s chance of developing lung cancer later on in life.

However, meth has many dangerous, long-term side effects no matter how it is used. Other common methods of use include snorting and injecting it.

Additional long-term effects of using crystal meth include:

  • weight loss and malnutrition
  • severe tooth decay known as “meth mouth”
  • organ failure
  • cardiovascular and heart disease
  • drug-induced psychosis
  • increased risk of death from heart attack, stroke, and hyperthermia
  • meth addiction and withdrawal

Can You Reverse Lung Damage Caused By Meth Abuse?

Some types of lung damage from methamphetamine use are treatable.

For instance, pneumonia is very treatable and typically lasts several days to a few weeks, though a person will continue to be more susceptible to this illness if they continue to use meth.

Pneumothorax is also treatable, though it usually requires surgery or other invasive medical procedures.

Once someone has had a collapsed lung, however, they are at a higher risk for it happening again, especially if they continue to use meth recreationally.

Treatments for acute respiratory failure will almost always include some form of oxygen therapy, in addition to antibiotics and potentially intubation and mechanical ventilation.

Depending on severity, respiratory failure can be reversed with discontinued meth use.

Treatment Programs For Meth Addiction

Every rehab center is different and will have its own unique offerings and amenities, but there are certain drug addiction services you can expect to find at most treatment centers for substance use.

Treatment programs for meth addiction may include:

  • inpatient treatment
  • outpatient treatment
  • individual counseling
  • behavioral therapy
  • medical detox
  • case management
  • family counseling
  • aftercare support

Find Treatment For Drug Abuse At Bedrock Recovery Center

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we specialize in early recovery treatment but believe in setting people up for success in the long term.

Are you ready to get started with addiction treatment for methamphetamine abuse or any other type of drug use? Call our helpline today.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  2. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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