Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that’s used by over 1.6 million people annually. You may know it by names like speed, crank, ice, crystal, or simply meth.
When you use meth, you experience effects that include euphoria and an intense increase in energy. But that’s not all—using meth can lead to serious health effects too.
Those health effects can include:
- Addiction and dependence
- Cardiovascular damage
- Liver and kidney disorders
- Mental health problems
You can also develop health effects related to the way that you use meth. Those may include lung problems from smoking, abscesses from injecting, or sinus damage from snorting meth.
Your risk factors are what determines how likely you are to develop side effects from meth. The more meth risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop health problems from meth use.
What Are the Risk Factors for Meth Use?
Meth use is more common than you think. It’s not just a certain demographic who uses meth. More than 12 million people have used meth at least once in their life.
In some parts of the Pacific and Southwestern United States, up to 70% of drug use is attributed to meth.
You could be at risk for meth use if you have any of these risk factors:
- High levels of stress, including financial, emotional, or life stress
- A history of mental illness
- Another meth user in the home
What Are the Risk Factors for Addiction to Meth?
It’s too easy for meth use to turn into meth abuse—meth is highly addictive and causes physical dependence fast.
Dependence means that when you stop using meth, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms can mimic a severe major depressive episode, and they’re often bad enough to lead to relapse. Your focus becomes finding and using meth so you can avoid withdrawal.
Some people are more likely to develop an addiction than others. You’re more likely to start increasing your meth use if you:
- Have a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder
- Have a history of substance abuse
- Have a family history with meth addiction
It’s important to remember that you can develop addiction even if you don’t have any of the risk factors for meth abuse.
What Are the Short-Term Health Risks of Using Meth?
Using meth can have serious short-term impacts on your health. It doesn’t take long-term meth use to cause damage to your health.
You can experience health problems from meth even if you only use it rarely. You don’t need to have meth addiction to have negative health effects from it.
The short-term risks of taking drugs like meth include:
- High blood pressure
- High heart rate
The most serious short-term health risk of meth is an overdose. In 2017, meth overdose deaths had increased by 7.5 times since 2007. Over 100,000 people went to the emergency room for a meth overdose in 2011.
The signs and symptoms of a meth overdose include:
- Chest pain
- Changes in heart rate
- Large pupils
- Mood changes, including fear, anxiety, and agitation
- Stomach pain
- Trouble breathing
You can die from a meth overdose without treatment. Call 911 right away if you suspect you’re having a meth overdose.
What Are the Long-Term Health Risks of Using Meth?
In the long term, meth can seriously affect your mental and physical health. Not only does meth affect your brain structure, but it can also lead to problems with your heart, vascular system, teeth, and more.
Long-term health risks of using meth:
- Addiction is the most common long-term health effect of using meth. Meth is highly addictive and it can develop relatively fast. Some people get addicted after just a few days of consecutive use.
- Brain damage: Meth damages the serotonin and dopamine receptors in your brain, which affects your body’s ability to use these critical chemicals. The result is behavior changes like psychosis, executive function problems, memory problems, and more.
- Dental decay: Meth is very acidic and damaging to your teeth. When you use meth long-term, you’re at risk of developing meth mouth, which is severe dental decay and gum disease. You could lose most of your teeth without treatment.
- Heart disease: When you use meth, your blood vessels constrict, which causes your heart to work too hard. Your blood pressure may skyrocket and your heart may experience electrical problems that lead to arrhythmia.
- Malnutrition: Long-term meth use leads to severe anorexia and malnutrition. Meth suppresses your appetite and increases your physical activity. This means you’re burning more energy but not taking in enough nutrition to maintain your weight.
- Parkinson’s disease: Over time, meth reduces your body’s ability to use dopamine, a chemical that’s involved in movement. This can lead to Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that’s characterized by tremors and other abnormal movements.
What Are the Health Risks of Teen Meth Use?
Teens and meth don’t mix! It’s especially dangerous to use meth if you’re underage. Specifically, teens are more susceptible to the brain effects of meth because their brains are still developing.
That means teens who use meth are at a higher risk for:
- Addiction: Teens are at higher risk of meth addiction because their reward systems aren’t developed yet. Additionally, teens who use meth are at a higher risk of other substance abuse, too.
- Brain damage: Meth changes the structure of your brain, which affects the way it functions. This effect is even stronger in growing brains. Teens who use meth may find that it affects their memory and executive function months or years later.
- Mental health disorders: If you use meth as a teen, you’re more likely to develop mental health disorders like depression. That’s because meth affects your serotonin and dopamine systems, which both control mood.
Teens are also more susceptible to the long-term effects of meth use later in life, like Parkinson’s disease and heart disease.
Less than 1% of teens have ever used meth, but the consequences can be dire for teens who do use it. You should avoid using meth at an early age.
What Are the Risk Factors for Meth-Related Health Complications?
Anyone can develop health complications from using meth. Still, some people are at a higher risk than others.
You may have a higher risk of health complications if you have any of these risk factors:
- A history of heavy or long-term meth use: Your history of drug use affects your likelihood of developing a condition. The longer you use meth, the higher your risk of health effects. The same is true of frequent meth consumption or heavy use.
- A history of poly-substance abuse: If you abuse multiple substances at once, you’re more likely to experience health complications. It’s common to mix meth with downers like opioids to contradict each other’s effects, but that makes it more likely that you’ll experience bad effects from both drugs.
- A history of co-occurring disorders: If you already have mental health conditions that affect your dopamine, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then you could be more likely to develop problems from meth use.
- Pre-existing health conditions: Meth is hard on your body, so you’re more likely to develop a health problem if you already have health conditions. That includes heart conditions, autoimmune conditions, vascular conditions, and more.
Your age and lifestyle can be risk factors, too. People who are young or old may have more health complications from using meth. The same is true of people who have lifestyle factors like poor diet, high stress, or lack of self-care.
What to Do When Meth Affects Your Health
When meth affects your health, it’s time to seek help. Bedrock Recovery Center can help you take your life back from meth addiction. We’ll treat you with a full-body approach that considers your health as well as your addiction.
That approach may include:
- Medical meth detox to keep you safe and comfortable during withdrawal
- Behavioral treatment such as counseling or therapy to help you unlearn the coping mechanisms that led you to meth
Your Meth addiction residential inpatient rehab stay will prepare you for a lifetime of recovery. Call Bedrock Recovery Center today to learn how we can help you
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.