Chronic use can cause permanent damage. But it’s not just regular use of meth that takes a toll on your system. Infrequent use can also make you ill. The drug is dangerous enough to be lethal the first time it is tried. Simply being high on meth constitutes a medical emergency.
Amidst the opioid epidemic, meth use has also been on the rise in the U.S. Drug use lowers inhibitions which can increase risky behaviors including unsafe sex. Couple this with the use of shared needles and there’s a chance of contracting HIV or other infectious diseases.
Meth acts on your central nervous system (CNS). It causes a surge in dopamine, one of our feel-good neurotransmitters. The drug fills users with energy and confidence and makes them feel super alert. It can also result in a stronger sex drive. But what feels great initially, quickly lands users in a vicious cycle of dependence and poor well-being.
Let’s have a look at the short and long term effects of meth use and the health conditions that arise.
Short-Term Effects of Meth
Meth is a stimulant. This means it speeds up your body’s systems. So your heart rate goes through the roof, as does your breathing rate. Your body temperature can surge to the point of making you pass out. Many of the symptoms described below apply to meth overdoses as well. If someone who has taken meth has a seizure or appears to be in distress, call 911.
After taking meth, you will likely experience:
- Appetite loss
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid eye movement
- Blurred vision
- Rapid speech
- Excessive sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Agitation and mood swings
Long-Term Effects of Meth
Meth can wreak havoc long after it is consumed. The following medical conditions can occur with heavy and/or frequent use of the drug:
- Organ damage
- Bleeding in the brain
- Acne and skin dryness and dullness
- Compulsive skin picking and sores
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Nose and throat issues from snorting meth
- Intense itching and scratching
- Infections at needle sites and elsewhere on the body
- Dry mouth, teeth grinding, tooth decay and gum disease (so-called 'meth mouth')
- Drug-induced paranoia, insomnia and other mental health disorders
- Major cognitive decline including issues with memory, verbalizing, emotion and motor skills
It’s important to note that the organs in your body are connected. Damage to one part of your system can have far-reaching consequences. These linked outcomes extend well beyond the effects described below, and they can be fatal.
Can Meth Cause High Blood Pressure?
Yes. Crystal meth and high blood pressure often go together. The drug is a stimulant, and it puts immense stress on your heart. Hypertension also means more potential for strokes and heart attacks.
Meth, especially when injected, inflames the heart valves. It also causes inflammation and spasms in blood vessels which can cause them to burst. This can bring about long-term physical trauma.
Because of its cardiovascular impact, meth can cause sudden death.
Can Meth Cause Kidney Failure?
During a meth binge, users often neglect their bodies’ need for food and water. This can lead to dehydration. Without fluids to help blood circulate, your blood pressure can drop and there’s less blood flow to the kidneys.
In addition, meth use can also cause muscle breakdown. As a result, there’s a release of substances which are toxic to your kidneys. This can cause acute kidney injuries and kidney failure. Kidney failure can become end-stage renal disease.
What Does Meth Do to Your Liver?
For starters, a rise in body temperature affects the liver. There’s well-documented evidence that heat stroke can be catastrophic for the liver. And meth-induced hyperthermia is no different.
In addition to viral hepatitis from sharing needles, meth itself can cause chronic hepatitis. Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. Crystal meth liver damage and kidney damage leads to toxic levels of ammonia which can affect the brain too.
Meth and Lung Damage
If you’ve been smoking meth, the effects on your lungs are considerable. Pulmonary edema is possible. This condition leads to shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue. You can also develop pulmonary bleeding, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The inability to breathe and oxygenate your blood can kill you.
Meth’s Impact on Your GI Tract
A decreased appetite can lead to constipation and discomfort. Meth can also cause malignant giant gastric ulcers which are as horrible as they sound.
The drug can lead to inflammation of your large intestine. This condition is called ischemic colitis. It’s a result of blood clots or damage to your arteries which causes poor blood flow to the colon. You can expect stomach cramps, some blood in your stool, vomiting and diarrhea.
Meth and Psychiatric Problems
Microglia are cells in the brain and spinal cord. These cells are a part of the immune response in your CNS. Use meth, and microglia can become over-activated. This may lead to inflammation in your nervous system, and brain injury.
Meth causes brain damage that is not unlike the damage caused by Alzheimers or epilepsy. Apart from causing addiction, crystal meth makes changes that can result in meth psychosis. About 25% of meth users display psychosis in a given year.
Delusions of grandeur and crystal meth paranoid delusions are both possible. This means that the drug can make you feel invincible, or it can do the opposite and make you feel like you’re under attack. In addition to the link between meth and paranoia, there’s a link to hallucinations.
Meth use can thus lead to bizarre and erratic thoughts and behaviors. You may have seen news reports about meth-related incidents of violence. While meth users are not all violent, the drug is known to cause hostility and aggression. This can lead to criminal activity. In an extreme state, users require physical and chemical restraint.
You can also develop physical ailments that are the result of mental issues. For example, meth users sometimes feel like they have bugs crawling under their skin. In the process of relieving the sensation, lesions and scabs can form.
How Long Does Meth Psychosis Last?
Meth psychosis can last for about two or three hours. In cases where large doses are consumed, symptoms can persist for many days. If symptoms occur outside of meth use, it’s possible that the user has a co-occurring mental health disorder such as schizophrenia.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
With continued use of a drug such as meth, you can develop a tolerance. To feel the sensations you felt during your first hit, you need to take a larger dose. This compounds the risks of taking such a potent drug. Once you’re hooked, stopping use can lead to a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Many of these symptoms are the opposite of what takes place during intoxication. For example, while under the influence, meth users often don’t feel hungry. During withdrawal, they have strong cravings for carbs. Apart from an increase in appetite, other withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and depression
Meth users can, in some cases, experience withdrawal symptoms for months. This is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Prolonged depression can lead to suicidal ideation.
Get Help For Meth Addiction
Meth is harmful and an addiction can drastically reduce your quality of life. Some of the effects of meth addiction can be reversed. To dial back the damage, you need to abstain from use. It’s really difficult to stop using meth without professional help.
At Bedrock Recovery Center, we provide world-class treatment for substance use disorders. We can help you detox in a safe, medically-managed setting. With 24/7 care, your discomfort during withdrawal is minimized. Once you’re physically stable, you can move to our state-of-the-art residential facility.
Our inpatient treatment program uses evidence-based approaches to give you the tools necessary to stay sober. There’s no better place in MA to start your recovery journey – this is our promise to you. Contact us to find out more about the services we offer.