What Does Meth Do to Your Body?

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Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that interacts with the brain’s reward system, triggering a release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that produce feelings of profound well-being. An extended state of arousal, alertness, and focus typically follows this intense rush.

This initial reward can quickly give way to long-term addiction, as chronic use changes the brain’s structure and functioning. These structural changes impair cognitive abilities, increase impulsivity and difficulty making decisions, and reduce sensitivity to rewards or pleasurable activities.

With continued use, tolerance levels increase as the body becomes accustomed to higher doses to achieve the same effects. As this process continues, users may find themselves using more and more frequently to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, and depression.

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Development of Addiction

Long-term meth use leads to physical dependence, making quitting difficult and even dangerous. The risks associated with using this powerful stimulant are numerous and should not be taken lightly. Addiction treatment programs, like those provided by Guardian Recovery, offer the best chance for recovery. We will work with you to develop an individualized and effective program to help you recover from addiction and get you on the road to long-term recovery. We believe in the benefits of a full curriculum of clinical care, beginning with medical detoxification, transitioning into a higher level of treatment, and concluding with personalized aftercare planning. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options in your area.

Methamphetamine Usage Adverse Effects

It can be hard to fathom how meth affects your body—its impact is that pervasive. Meth use can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack, damage your brain’s reward system and harm your organs. It causes chronic inflammation that affects the immune system making you vulnerable to serious illnesses such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.

Meth use can also cause the following behavioral symptoms:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression
  • Aggression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Paranoia.
  • Memory loss.

The Meth & HIV Connection

Meth use impairs judgment leading to dangerous behaviors such as unprotected sex and sharing needles. Coupled with a lowered immune response, this risk-taking increases the possibility for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C infection. Meth is one of the most widely used substances used by people infected with HIV.

Once you contract HIV, meth use makes it harder to control. Meth users with HIV have higher viral loads (the amount of HIV in their blood) than non-users and have a delayed response to antiviral therapy (treatment for HIV).

Short-term Effects

Short-term effects of meth include increased alertness, energy, and euphoria, as well as increased talkativeness, an exaggerated sense of confidence, and decreased appetite. You may also be experience irritability, anxiety, and an inability to concentrate. Physical side effects include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, and teeth grinding.

Methamphetamine can also lead to dehydration due to excessive stimulation of the brain’s reward system. This can result in exhaustion after a few days or weeks of using the drug. Using large amounts of meth for just one day can lead to dangerous levels of aggression, leading to serious physical harm or death.

Long-term Effects

Long-term use of methamphetamine can cause profound physical, emotional, and psychological damage. Chronic users are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as irregular heartbeat or heart attack. Meth also causes damage to the brain’s reward system, which can result in cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Memory loss and loss of motor skills due to dopamine depletion in the brain are also common.

Cardiovascular System Impacts

Meth increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate. Chronic users are at a greater risk for developing an irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and high cholesterol levels associated with stroke. Studies also suggest that long-term meth use may lead to impaired functioning of the coronary arteries, which decreases blood flow to the heart. Additionally, long-term meth abuse has been linked with an increased risk for cardiomyopathy, weakening heart muscles, leading to reduced cardiac output and subsequent organ failure.

How Does Meth Impact Cholesterol Levels

Methamphetamines can prompt the liver to produce more lipids and cholesterol. Long-term use can also elevate triglyceride levels, which can further increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

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Effects on the Respiratory System

The stimulant properties of meth cause an increase in respiration that can lead to respiratory distress and even death. Chronic use can lead to pulmonary edema, a condition caused by fluid accumulation in the lungs, and increased risk for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Long-term meth abuse is also associated with an increased risk for pneumonia or other respiratory system infections due to decreased immunity.

Neurological and Cognitive Effects

Chronic meth abuse changes brain chemistry, including decreased dopamine production, which is responsible for reward processing, motivation, and decision-making. This can lead to impaired executive functioning, such as difficulty with planning, organizing, or problem-solving. Meth also causes an increased risk for mood disorders such as depression and psychosis due to the alteration of neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Long-term meth abuse leads to significant memory loss and problems learning new information or recalling previously known material.

Common Emotional and Behavioral Changes

Meth use can have serious adverse effects on your emotional and behavioral functioning. You may experience changes in mood, such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Other effects include:

  • Aggression. Violent tendencies.
  • Impaired decision-making.
  • Unpredictable behavior.
  • Sudden mood shifts.

Methamphetamine Reproductive System Impacts

Use of meth alters hormone levels in both men and women leading to decreased fertility and sexual dysfunction. Common changes include:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Decreased ovulation.
  • Ovaries not releasing eggs.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Decreased sperm production.
  • Damage to sperm cells.

If you become pregnant, you run the risk of spontaneous miscarriage due to meth’s toxic effects on the reproductive system. It disrupts embryonic development and causes increased uterine contractions that may lead to premature labor. Meth can also damage placenta cells or decrease placental blood flow, which is necessary for fetal growth and development.

Changes to the Physical Appearance

Methamphetamine use can have serious adverse effects on physical appearance. Chronic users often display visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin due to dehydration and malnutrition. Meth also causes an increased risk of hair loss, weight loss, and acne due to its acidic properties.

What Meth Does to Your Oral Health

Meth causes dry mouth, which increases the risk of cavities and gum disease due to a lack of saliva production and reduced hygiene. Additionally, chronic meth abuse has been linked to an increased risk for tooth decay or periodontal disease due to its acidic properties—known as “meth mouth.”

Continued meth use may also cause bruxism, a condition characterized by grinding or clenching of teeth that can lead to jaw pain and enamel erosion.

Nutritional Deficiencies

If you have a dependence on meth, you can develop serious nutritional deficiencies due to appetite and food consumption changes. Chronic meth users often lack interest in food or may even engage in binging and purging behaviors that can lead to malnutrition. Additionally, long-term meth abuse has been linked to zinc deficiencies and an increased risk for vitamin deficiency due to inadequate absorption of nutrients.

What Are the Effects of a Zinc Deficiency Due to Meth Use?

Zinc deficiencies due to methamphetamine use can have serious adverse effects on health. Zinc is an essential mineral for proper growth and development, and a deficiency can lead to stunted growth, impaired immune system functioning, delayed wound healing, and decreased appetite. Additionally, zinc deficiencies associated with long-term meth abuse may cause increased anxiety and difficulty concentrating or remembering information.

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Methamphetamine is a powerful and addictive stimulant with serious short- and long-term effects on physical and mental health. Using large amounts of meth for even just one day can lead to harm or death. Long-term use can have profound physical, emotional, and psychological damage, including cognitive impairment, increased risk of heart attack, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. No matter the substance, the best way to overcome addiction is with the help of experienced, trusted professionals like those at Guardian Recovery. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and skilled administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you have to do is ask; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.

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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.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9206696/
  2. https://cellandbioscience.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13578-021-00703-4
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/real-healing/201603/alcohol-or-drug-use-can-rob-your-body-nutrients
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  5. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

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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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