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Navigation: What is Methamphetamine?, Physical Effects, Mental Health Effects, Meth Addiction, Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction

Drug abuse is the habitual, excessive, or harmful use of substances that can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

Using drugs can impact your health, as well as your relationships, your career, your education, your employment, and other aspects of your life. Recognizing the problem is an important first step in the recovery journey. While drug abuse usually refers to illicit drugs, it can also refer to the misuse of prescription drugs. Any time a person takes a drug in a different way than it is meant for, or takes it in excessive amounts, it is considered drug abuse. [1]

Therefore drug abuse includes both legal substances, like prescription medications, and illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and cannabis.

People often have different reasons for abusing drugs. They take it to feel good, alleviate stress, cope with emotional pain, or escape reality for a little while. But this is a complex condition that has many contributing factors including peer pressure, environmental influences, genetic predisposition, mental health issues, and socioeconomic factors.

It’s worth noting that some drugs are more dangerous than others. So despite the appeal of drugs, it is important to stay away from them to avoid severe health consequences.

Here we will talk about one of the more dangerous drugs out there. In this article we will focus on long-term meth effects and how a person can recover from them.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It’s a synthetic substance that can take various forms, including a white, odorless crystalline powder or bluish-white rocks known as crystal meth. [2]

This drug was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine. Originally, it was used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. However, because of its addictive qualities, it was eventually classified as a Schedule II stimulant by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. [2]

When taken, methamphetamine increases the release of dopamine in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This surge in dopamine creates a rush of euphoria and increased energy, leading to a heightened sense of well-being and confidence.

Meth is highly addictive because of its impact on the brain’s reward system. The intense rush of pleasure and energy experienced by users compels them to seek out the drug and recreate that euphoric sensation.

With prolonged use, the brain adapts to the drug, reducing its natural dopamine production and altering the reward pathways. This leads to tolerance, wherein higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects.

Meth can even cause structural and functional changes in the brain. This makes it much more difficult for addicted individuals to quit using the drug. When they stop or reduce their intake, they experience severe withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. This creates a destructive cycle of substance abuse and withdrawal.

As a Schedule II stimulant, it is only available through a nonrefillable prescription. It goes without saying that there are severe methamphetamine misuse consequences that are worth looking into. [2]

Physical Effects

Methamphetamine is a powerful drug that affects not only your central nervous system but also your entire body.

Even though it increases the release of dopamine in the brain, it also disrupts normal brain function. This can lead to various adverse physical effects.

For example, meth abuse can result in increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and constriction of blood vessels. In the long run, this can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, strokes, and even potential cardiac arrest.

These physical health effects highlight the destructive nature of methamphetamine on the body and highlight the importance of addressing substance abuse to prevent severe health complications. Here are some of the long-term physical health effects of meth abuse and addiction.

Meth Mouth

One of the most notorious effects of meth use is “meth mouth”, which refers to severe dental problems caused by this drug. The use of meth can cause extensive tooth decay, gum disease, and rapid tooth loss. [3]

This is because methamphetamine use often results in dry mouth and a reduction in saliva production, which allows harmful bacteria to thrive in the mouth. This can accelerate tooth decay.

Additionally, meth use often leads to bruxism, or teeth grinding, which can further damage tooth enamel and exacerbate dental issues.

Addicted individuals also tend to neglect their oral hygiene because the substance is now on top of their priority list. This contributes to the problem and causes devastating dental problems. The result is what we call “meth mouth”.

Skin Problems

Severe skin problems are another prominent and visible consequence of meth abuse. Prolonged exposure to this substance can cause significant damage to the skin for several reasons.

Firstly, it depletes the body of essential nutrients, leading to malnutrition and a weakened immune system. While this doesn’t sound like it’s related, it actually prevents the skin from regenerating and repairing itself. This leads to a dry, sallow complexion. It also increases the person’s susceptibility to sores, acne, and infections.

This is why aside from meth mouth, “meth face” is another problem. This is a term used to describe the effects of meth on a person’s physical appearance. With chronic meth use, the person’s appearance may change drastically. [4]

Additionally, meth abuse often leads to obsessive skin picking or scratching. This behavior is known as “meth mites” or formication, where the person believes bugs are crawling under their skin. As a result, they may scratch and pick at imaginary sores, resulting in severe lesions and scarring. Meth use can also cause wrinkles, dark spots, and hardened skin. [4]

These skin problems not only impact physical health but also serve as visible indicators of a deeper, pervasive addiction that requires urgent attention and care.

Weight Loss

The physical changes of meth use can affect the entire body. In fact, weight loss is one of the visible manifestations of its impact.

The stimulant properties of meth significantly suppress appetite and increase metabolism, which can often lead to rapid and severe weight loss.

Prolonged meth use can also result in malnutrition. Addicted individuals frequently neglect proper nutrition due to reduced cravings. Their mind may also be more focused on obtaining and using the drug.

On top of all these factors, methamphetamine’s impact on the body’s systems, such as increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure, may contribute to the breakdown of muscle tissue, further exacerbating weight loss.

Cardiovascular Health

When we talk about physical health effects, we are not just referring to the way it impacts your appearance. We are also referring to its effects on vital organs and bodily systems.

Meth use is commonly associated with its potent ability to drastically elevate heart rate and blood pressure. The stimulant properties of this drug cause the heart to work at an accelerated pace, leading to increased strain on the cardiovascular system.

Meth can cause blood vessels to constrict and spasm. It can also lead to dangerous spikes in blood pressure and other potentially fatal heart problems.

Prolonged exposure to meth can result in a range of cardiovascular complications like irregular heart rhythms, hypertension, and in extreme cases, even heart attacks or strokes.

These effects can be especially dangerous for those who have pre-existing heart conditions. Their meth use can potentially lead to life-threatening situations. Researchers are still trying to understand the unique cardiovascular consequences of meth use, especially in relation to the increase in meth-related deaths.

Respiratory Problems

Methamphetamine abuse also poses significant dangers to one’s respiratory system. The inhalation of meth can lead to various respiratory problems. When you inhale meth, harmful chemicals enter your lungs.

This is why meth abuse often leads to rapid and shallow breathing, increased heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.

Chronic use of this drug can cause lung damage, leading to conditions like pulmonary hypertension, chronic bronchitis, and even potentially fatal complications like pulmonary edema.

The toxic substances present in meth can also cause inflammation and irritation in the respiratory tract. Addicted individuals are therefore more susceptible to respiratory infections and long-term damage to lung tissues.

Liver and Kidney Damage

The toxic nature of methamphetamine also poses a threat to the liver and kidneys. Meth abuse puts significant strain on these vital organs.

As a potent stimulant, this drug disrupts the body’s natural processes, leading to increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and elevated body temperature. Prolonged meth use can result in vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow to organs and causing tissue damage.

The liver, responsible for metabolizing toxins, becomes overwhelmed by the presence of meth, leading to oxidative stress, inflammation, and potential damage.

Similarly, the kidneys, responsible for filtering waste from the blood, can suffer severe impairment due to prolonged exposure to meth, resulting in kidney damage, reduced function, or even kidney failure. The impact on these organs highlights the grave health risks associated with methamphetamine abuse and the need for intervention and treatment to mitigate these life-threatening consequences.

Mental Health Effects

Meth is known for its impact on the brain’s chemistry. As we mentioned earlier, meth increases the release of dopamine and impacts the brain’s reward system. This leads to intense feelings of euphoria and increased energy. However, the repeated use of methamphetamine disrupts the brain’s natural dopamine production and its receptors, leading to a depletion of dopamine levels over time. [5]

This disruption can result in various mental health issues, including anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, and even psychosis. Meth abuse can even lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, further exacerbating mental health problems and making it challenging to regulate emotions and cognitive processes.

Meth is often made with a number of toxic substances like antifreeze, drain cleaner, or battery acid. It is dangerous to manufacture and even more dangerous to consume. It’s no surprise that it can have profound effects on a person’s mental health. [5]


Methamphetamine can induce severe and persistent psychiatric effects, notably psychosis, on top of all the effects we’ve already listed above.

Regular use of meth can lead to alterations in brain chemistry, causing hallucinations, paranoia, and delusional thinking characteristic of psychosis.

Some people may experience a disconnect from reality. They may display erratic behavior and heightened aggression. In fact, prolonged methamphetamine-induced psychosis can persist even after cessation of drug use. It can lead to long-term mental health complications.

This condition severely impairs a person’s ability to function normally. It impacts their relationships, work, and mental well-being.


Meth abuse can induce severe psychological effects, foremost among them being anxiety.

The drug affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, altering their natural production and reuptake. While at first it makes the user feel good, it eventually plunges them into deep emotional lows as the drug wears off.

This is why meth use often causes heightened anxiety levels. It usually triggers panic attacks, irrational fears, and a persistent feeling of unease. Users may experience a constant state of agitation, restlessness, and paranoia, making it challenging to function normally in their daily life.


Methamphetamine can also impact mood regulation significantly. This is what results in severe depression. Prolonged meth use can deplete the brain’s dopamine levels, leading to an inability to experience pleasure from usual activities. This is a hallmark symptom of depression.

Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and worthlessness become prevalent, and addicted individuals may struggle with profound fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, and a lack of motivation.

Interestingly, little is known about the clinical course and outcomes of meth users with depressive symptoms, even though depression often co-occurs with substance use disorders. [6]

Since depression usually co-occurs with anxiety, a lot of people use more meth to alleviate their negative emotional state. But in the long run, this only worsens their condition. Seeking professional help and support is crucial to address these psychological dangers associated with methamphetamine use.

Memory and Cognitive Function

Meth abuse has another alarming effect, which is its devastating impact on memory and cognitive function. Chronic use of meth can lead to significant impairments in memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.

We mentioned how meth use can result in structural and functional changes in the brain. This also affects the regions that are responsible for memory formation and cognitive processing.

Studies have shown that individuals who abuse methamphetamine often struggle with memory problems, including both short-term and long-term memory deficits. They might experience difficulties in learning new information, recalling past events, and maintaining focus on tasks.

Meth abuse can cause reduced problem-solving skills, impaired judgment, and diminished ability to concentrate, impacting many different aspects of the person’s daily life. These cognitive impairments can persist even after discontinuing meth use, highlighting the lasting and damaging effects it can have on the brain’s cognitive functions.

Increased Risk of Suicide

Methamphetamine abuse can cause a range of adverse effects, including extreme mood swings, paranoia, hallucinations, and intense anxiety. These symptoms, coupled with the drug’s ability to disrupt normal sleep patterns and induce prolonged periods of wakefulness, set the person up for deteriorating mental health.

The distorted thinking patterns, impulsiveness, and emotional instability associated with meth use significantly elevate the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The drug’s addictive nature can also exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and desperation, making those affected by meth addiction more likely to attempt self-harm or suicide.

There’s also the fact that methamphetamine abuse often leads to social isolation, deteriorating relationships, and financial struggles. Addicted people feel alone and hopeless, leading to a downward spiral, where they become trapped in a cycle of substance abuse and deteriorating mental health.

The combination of chemical alterations in the brain, psychological distress, and the ripple effects on one’s life can significantly heighten the likelihood of suicidal ideation and actions among meth users. Access to comprehensive mental health support is crucial to address these risks and assist individuals in breaking free from the grip of meth addiction while addressing their mental health needs.

Meth Addiction

One of the most significant long term effects of meth use is the development of addiction. This is a severe and chronic condition characterized by the compulsive use of methamphetamine.

The intense euphoria caused by meth is what often draws people to repeatedly use the drug. However, over time, the brain becomes tolerant to its effects. Meth users begin to consume larger doses to achieve the same high. This is what eventually leads to addiction.

Just like other substance use disorders, it causes a person to seek out and use the drug even when they are already suffering from its consequences.

If you are unable to reduce or stop your drug use, you may be addicted. Addicted individuals tend to feel uncomfortable when they don’t have the drug. They also use it to cope emotionally, physically, and socially. They may even change their social circle, preferring people who also abuse drugs. [1]

The addictive nature of methamphetamine is complex and multifaceted. Not only does it create a rapid and intense reward in the brain, but it also alters the brain’s chemistry and structure over time.

The consequences of meth addiction are therefore severe and wide-ranging. It can impact a person’s physical and mental health, but it can also affect their relationships, their finances, their career, etc.

Socially, meth addiction often leads to strained relationships, financial difficulties, legal issues, and isolation from friends and family.

If you think a loved one may be addicted to meth, watch out for certain signs and symptoms. They may withdraw themselves from their friends and family members, they may experience problems in school or at work, and they may often feel anxious, depressed, or angry. Because of the financial problems associated with substance abuse, they may borrow money or steal from others just to support their addiction. [1]

It is important to approach them with compassion, patience, and understanding. Read up on meth addiction, its effects, and treatment so you can have an idea of what they are going through. The stigma of addiction and rehab is still a major obstacle towards treatment. This is what keeps many people trapped in the cycle of addiction. They feel ashamed or afraid of the reaction of the people around them. This only keeps them from reaching out and receiving the help that they need.

Treating meth addiction typically involves a combination of behavioral therapies, counseling, support groups, and sometimes medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with methamphetamine misuse, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. Meth addiction is a chronic disease that requires professional treatment and support to overcome.

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions. [7]

However, the treatment process needs to take a multifaceted approach due to the complex nature of addiction. Behavioral therapy is one of the primary methods used in rehab. It aims to modify a person’s attitudes and behaviors related to drug use.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used and helps patients recognize and change destructive patterns of thinking and behavior associated with meth abuse. CBT focuses on coping strategies, identifying triggers, and developing skills to avoid relapse.

Contingency management, where individuals receive tangible rewards for maintaining sobriety, has also shown effectiveness in treating methamphetamine addiction.

Other behavioral treatment approaches include motivational interviewing, family education, individual counseling, group counseling, and 12-step support. [7]

Medical detox is also frequently used. It is important for the person to go through detox so that their meth intake can be gradually lowered while dangerous withdrawal symptoms are managed by medical professionals.

Medications can also play a role in managing addiction. While there isn’t a specific medication approved to directly treat methamphetamine addiction, some medications may be used to help with cravings or withdrawal. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) keeps the person safe throughout this uncomfortable stage of recovery.

Finally, support groups and peer support programs are invaluable in the recovery process. Twelve-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous or group therapy sessions offer a sense of community and understanding among those facing similar challenges.

These groups provide a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and gaining support throughout the recovery journey. Support from friends, family, or a sober living environment can significantly contribute to maintaining sobriety and preventing relapse.

A combination of therapy, medication, and a strong support system is often the most effective approach in treating methamphetamine addiction. The best rehab centers use a personalized approach because addiction affects everyone differently.

Methamphetamine misuse can have severe and long-lasting consequences on a person’s physical and mental health. It is a highly addictive drug that can lead to dependence and addiction, as well as a range of physical and mental health problems.

Seeking help for methamphetamine misuse is crucial for individuals to overcome their addiction and improve their overall well-being and quality of life. Look for a rehab near you today and get started on your journey to recovery.










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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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