Meth Side Effects | Short & Long Term Effects Of Meth Abuse

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 9, 2022

Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance that causes severe and bizarre effects on dental health and overall appearance, cardiovascular health, mental health, and personal behavior.

Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance and a pharmaceutical version of the drug is occasionally used to manage treatment-resistant forms of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and other conditions.

However, even low, controlled doses of pharmaceutically pure methamphetamine can cause considerable potential side-effects. And the short-term and long-term effects of street crystal meth are greater, more unusual, and likely more damaging.

Side Effects Of Pharmaceutical Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a powerful and long-acting central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug that works by boosting dopamine activity in the brain.

In those with ADHD and other medical conditions, stimulant drugs like mixed amphetamines (Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), and methamphetamine (Desoxyn) can normalize brain activity, increasing attention and decreasing restlessness, distraction, and impulsivity.

However, medical authorities caution that medical methamphetamine use can cause health risks that may include:

  • serious heart or blood vessel problems, especially in those with a family history of heart disease
  • behavioral changes like hostility, agitation, irritability, or suicidal thinking or behavior
  • hallucinations, or hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there
  • physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms
  • euphoria, dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, or reduced alertness
  • slowed growth and development in children, which is reversible if the medication is discontinued for a period of time
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: a condition impacting blood circulation in the fingers and toes

Short-Term Side Effects Of Meth Abuse

The first time a person uses crystal meth, it’s often described as making them feel invincible, energized, and unstoppable. However, the effects of meth don’t stop at euphoria and feelings of well-being.

In the hours after the drug is consumed, the effects of crystal meth can also include:

  • wakefulness
  • decreased appetite
  • disinhibition
  • aggressive or violent behavior and mood swings
  • increased libido
  • excessive talkativeness
  • elevated heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing
  • mental programing and urges to use methamphetamine again in the future

Meth Overdose

While most overdose deaths in the United State stem from opioid narcotics like heroin and fentanyl, a large minority of overdose deaths are related to stimulant substance abuse and meth abuse in particular.

Methamphetamine’s effects are potent enough that they can simply overwhelm the body’s natural internal balance, leading to severe mental and physical consequences that may include:

  • agitation
  • severe chest or stomach pains
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • irregular heartbeats
  • difficulty breathing or respiratory collapse
  • overheating
  • kidney damage or failure
  • severe paranoia or psychosis
  • seizures

If you suspect a meth overdose has occurred, immediately contact your local emergency medical services.

Long-Term Effects Of Methamphetamine Addiction

Because of its effects on the human brain, methamphetamine is deeply addictive, with even a single exposure to the drug likely triggering the rapid development of meth addiction and severe mental, physical, and social decline.

Some of these risks relate to the specific method of administration used to take the drug, while others are linked to the overarching effects of methamphetamine and its contaminants on the body as a whole.

Injecting Methamphetamine

Injection is the fastest and most intensive way to use meth but also causes the most severe health risks. These may include:

  • damaged blood vessels
  • skin sores, scars, and infections at injection sites
  • bacteremia, a potentially fatal condition where bacteria enter the bloodstream
  • endocarditis, a potentially fatal infection of the heart valves
  • tetanus, another potentially fatal condition that can also cause lockjaw and muscle spasms
  • necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, an infection that swiftly degrades the flesh around injection wounds and can also be fatal
  • hepatitis, a damaging infection of the liver

Snorting Methamphetamine

Snorting meth brings methamphetamine into the body and bloodstream through the soft tissues of the nasal cavity. However, snorting meth long-term can also lead to:

  • runny nose, nosebleeds, and other chronic sinus issues
  • nasal sores and infections
  • problems swallowing and breathing
  • septum or palatal perforation: gaps formed in the tissue between the nostrils or in the top of the mouth

Smoking Methamphetamine

When smoked, methamphetamine rapidly passes into the bloodstream through the lungs, leading to long-term issues that can include:

  • increased pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs
  • lung injury
  • lung cancer
  • breathing issues
  • pneumonia
  • acute respiratory failure

Other Long-Term Side-Effects

Regardless of how it’s used, street methamphetamine can do profound damage to any person’s life, frequently causing severe physical and mental harms that may include:

  • addiction and drug-seeking behavior
  • intense drug cravings
  • depression, anxiety, confusion, memory loss, and decision-making problems
  • symptoms of psychosis including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations
  • increased risk of cancer
  • unhealthy weight loss, chronic illness, and premature aging due to toxin exposure, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and poor self-care
  • meth mouth, or severe dental health problems stemming from dry mouth and impaired oral self-care
  • severe and lasting cardiovascular issues impacting the heart, lungs, and blood vessels
  • skin picking, open sores, and other forms of self-injury
  • severe physical dependence and prolonged meth withdrawal symptoms

If you or a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder, we can help. Please reach out today to learn about our personalized meth addiction treatment programs, which include detox, behavioral therapy, and ongoing aftercare.

  1. Mayo Clinic — Methamphetamine (Oral Route) Precautions
  2. National Harm Reduction Coalition — Potential Health Complications of Injection Drug Use,overdoses%20and%20other%20medical%20emergencies.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse?
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Know the Risks of Meth

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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