What Are Meth Mites or Meth Bugs?

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“Meth mites” or “meth bugs” are not actually insects but hallucinations experienced by some people who use methamphetamine. These terms are used to describe this sensation because people who encounter it often believe they are infested with bugs or parasites. These hallucinations are also commonly referred to as “formication,” or the sensation of insects crawling on or underneath the skin. (1)

If you or a loved one have been using meth and are having this terrifying experience, you are urged to seek professional help. At Guardian Recovery, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment programs that can help individuals overcome drug use and its related symptoms, including formication caused by stimulant use. Our team of experienced addiction professionals is committed to providing compassionate care and support throughout the recovery journey.

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What Is the Cause or Link Between Meth & Parasitic Hallucinations?

The sensation of formication can be caused by a variety of factors, including certain medical conditions, psychological disorders, and drug use. In the case of drug use, stimulants such as meth and cocaine can cause tactile hallucinations, including formication. These substances affect the central nervous system and alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These changes can affect cognitive function and lead to changes in sensory perception. Other drugs associated with formication include LSD, PCP, heroin, and even prescription painkillers.

Along with increased energy and euphoria, meth use is associated with episodes of extreme agitation, restlessness, and paranoia. This is commonly referred to as “tweaking,” in which a person suffers from a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including meth mites or bugs. (2) During a tweaking episode, a person may become fixated on the experience of formication and engage in obsessive behaviors like scratching or picking at their skin.

Symptoms of Tweaking Include:

  • Extreme restlessness.
  • Tremors or shakiness.
  • Paranoia.
  • Agitation.
  • Impulsive or erratic behavior.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hallucinations.

Identifying the Side Effects of Meth Mites Hallucinations

The experience of meth mites can be distressing and uncomfortable for individuals who are using meth. There are several effects associated with meth mites and formication.

Psychological Effects of Meth Use & Meth Mites Include:

  • Obsessive behaviors, such as scratching, picking, or biting at their skin, which can lead to sores, infections, and scarring.
  • Paranoia, anxiety, and distress.
  • Insomnia, sleep disturbances, and sleep deprivation.
  • Mood disturbances, including irritability, anger, and depression.

Physical Side Effects Include:

  • Restlessness.
  • Tremors or shakiness.
  • Sweating.
  • Rapid heart rate.

Moreover, chronic meth use is notorious for causing a wide range of severe dental problems. Symptoms include dry mouth, gum disease, tooth decay, cracked or broken teeth and tooth loss—symptoms of a meth use-related condition, commonly referred to as “meth mouth.” (3)

What Are Meth Sores?

Long-term meth use can damage the cells and nerves in the skin, which can increase the sensation of formication, make it more intense and chronic, and lead to meth sores. These problems can occur anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the face, arms, and legs.

Types of Meth Sores Include:

  • Open sores caused by itching, picking, and scratching.
  • Scabs and scarring due to picking.
  • Acne-like eruptions, which may be more severe than typical acne.
  • Skin infections, due to the use of unsterilized equipment and poor hygiene practices.
  • Injecting meth can also cause these types of skin injuries, as well as an increased risk of collapsed veins and blood clots.

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The Role of Meth Addiction & the Development of Meth Mites

Meth addiction can develop as a result of chronic or excessive meth use. Meth’s ability to produce feelings of euphoria and increased energy makes it highly addictive. Over time, users can build a tolerance to meth, meaning that increasing amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the desired effects. The more meth ingested, the more likely it is that physical and psychological dependence will also develop, making it challenging for the user to quit without suffering extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and cravings.

Meth addiction, which includes compulsive drug-seeking behavior, becomes increasingly likely to result in the sensation of meth mites due to the high level of meth use. The repeated experience of meth mites may also result in chronic skin irritation, leading to persistent itching and scratching. Prolonged meth use can likewise cause long-lasting psychotic symptoms that can last for months or years after cessation, including formication and other hallucinations.

According to a study on meth and infection, meth use compromises the immune system. This reduces the body’s ability to resist infections, including those affecting the skin. (4)

Treatment for Meth Mites, Meth Sores, & Skin Damage

Treatment for meth mites, meth sores, and skin damage caused by meth use typically includes medical care to address physical complications. For example, a health provider will likely recommend wound care, including antibiotics and topical remedies, to treat infections and inflammation. In some cases, individuals with severe skin damage may need surgical interventions to remove damaged tissue or repair affected areas.

Additionally, seeking treatment for meth addiction is vital for preventing further harm and will likely involve a combination of behavioral therapies, medication-assisted treatment, and support groups to help individuals manage cravings, cope with withdrawal symptoms, and learn the coping skills they’ll need to maintain sobriety.

Do Other Substances Cause Formication?

Both prescription and recreational drugs such as meth and other stimulants are among the most common causes of formication.

Prescription Drugs That Can Cause Formication Include:

  • Antidepressant medications, such as phenelzine or bupropion.
  • Anti-seizure and anti-tremor medications, such as levetiracetam and topiramate.
  • Anti-Parkinson’s disease drugs, such as amantadine, piribedil, pramipexole, ropinirole, and trihexyphenidyl.
  • Sedative/hypnotic medications, such as eszopiclone.
  • Medications that affect hormone levels, such as cabergoline.
  • Antifungal and antibiotic medications, such as ciprofloxacin and ketoconazole.

Formication can occur with any of the aforementioned drugs. It can also happen If an individual develops a dependence on a drug and then stops taking it, causing withdrawal symptoms.

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Recovery from meth use and addiction can be a long and challenging process, but with the right treatment and support, individuals can overcome addiction and improve their physical and mental health. Participation in intensive, evidence-based rehab programs and therapies is recommended to increase the likelihood of success and provide individuals with the tools and resources they need to be successful and reclaim their lives.

If you would like to speak to a skilled Treatment Advisor and receive a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check, reach out to Guardian Recovery today. Our comprehensive approach to addiction treatment has helped countless individuals achieve sustainable recovery. With a focus on individualized care and evidence-based practices, we are committed to helping our clients build a foundation for lifelong wellness.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/odd-curious-and-rare/200911/formication (2)https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=3005 (3)https://www.absolutedental.com/blog/how-meth-destroys-mouth/ (4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290678/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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