Methamphetamine use can affect a person’s physical appearance, as well as physical and psychological health. Many of the side effects of methamphetamine use are permanent as affected parts of the body cannot reverse the damage done by this dangerous, and often deadly, drug. According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 5 percent of the population in the United States has used methamphetamine at some point during their lifetimes
Effects of Methamphetamine: Why People Use It
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. This drug causes the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine causes a rush of pleasure and a feeling of euphoria. This chemical is released naturally in the brain in response to pleasurable situations, such as during sexual activity or when eating pleasurable foods. According to statistics provided by Frontline on PBS, methamphetamine use causes 12 times the increase in dopamine levels as those experienced during sexual intercourse. This is an increase in pleasure that cannot be reproduced by anything else in the world, and is also hard to repeat even with continued methamphetamine use. Use of this drug also decreases appetite, increases a feeling of well being, increases feelings of attractiveness and desirability, and increases energy levels as well.
Brain Damage from Methamphetamine Use
Long-term use of methamphetamine can cause brain damage. When brain cells and nerve cells are exposed to high levels of dopamine over a period of time, they can die. The areas of the brain most affected by the use of this drug includes the areas that control memory, mood, and reasoning. Permanent memory loss or gaps in the memory can occur as an effect of methamphetamine use, as well as an inability to use common sense or to make logical connections in reasoning and thought processes. The brain may also be unable to retain new knowledge, affecting learning processes and ability.
Mental Illness From Using Methamphetamine
Long-term use of methamphetamine can also cause symptoms of mental illness as the brain no longer reacts to dopamine in the way it is intended. Depression, anxiety, and symptoms of schizophrenia are the most common mental illnesses seen, as well as some forms of psychosis. Mental illness symptoms most commonly seen from long-term methamphetamine use include:
- Low mood
- Mood swings
- Aggressive behaviors
One of the most frequently seen physical disfigurations caused by methamphetamine use is that which is commonly referred to as meth mouth. The teeth become blackened, rot, break, and fall out. This is caused from a combination of the drug’s effects. Saliva production decreases causing the mouth to become dry. This prevents the natural washing away of harmful acids in the mouth. Blood flow to the mouth is also reduced, affecting the health of the gums. Meth users also have a tendency to grind their teeth, crave sugary foods, and not take the time to properly care for their teeth. This all adds up to extensive decay and breakage of teeth. This, plus destruction of collagen in the skin, can cause the cheeks to become sunken and the chin to recede.
Acne and Sores on the Skin
Long-term meth use can cause damage to blood vessels leading to all parts of the body, hamper the effectiveness of the immune system, and cause slower healing of infections. Acne and sores on the skin can develop and become infected or abscessed. Meth users often pick at their skin as it feels like there are bugs crawling just beneath the surface of the skin. This causes the development of sores that can also become infected and take a long time to heal. Combined with the destruction of collagen in tissue, meths effects on the skin can cause users to look decades older than they really are.
Malnutrition and Weight Loss
Many people use meth to lose weight as it helps to decrease the appetite. However, meth users don’t lose a healthy amount of weight, and tend to look too thin, gaunt, and bony. When methamphetamine users do eat, they tend to crave sugary foods that don’t provide adequate nutrition to the body resulting in malnutrition. This can increase the risk of serious health problems to all parts of the body that are already being damaged by the methamphetamine use.
Lack of Ability to Feel Pleasure
Once meth users become used to extremely high levels of dopamine causing high levels of euphoria, nothing else will compare. Activities that used to bring pleasure will seem like nothing after experiencing meth for the long term. Long term use also changes the pleasure centers in the brain so that they no longer react to stimuli as they once did. Even meth use won’t be as pleasurable as it was at first, leading to an increase in use.
Cardiovascular Damage from Methamphetamine Use
Methamphetamine use causes the blood vessels to become restricted, thus cutting off blood flow. Over time, this can lead to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of blood vessels. This can lead to high blood pressure. Blood vessel damage combined with high blood pressure leads to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke from blocked or ruptured blood vessels in the heart or the brain. There may be no warning signs from a meth induced stroke or heart attack. Other heart problems can occur due to meth use changing the rhythm of the heart beat. Disturbances to heart rhythm can cause heart damage over time, or even result in instant death.
Although at the beginning, methamphetamine use may increase sex drive, stamina, and performance, long-term use has the opposite effect. Due to blood vessel and nerve damage, meth users may experience impotence and an inability to obtain an orgasm.
Methamphetamine Side Effects
The side effects of using methamphetamine can cause serious health problems that may or may not be able to be cured. Many side effects, especially those that concern the brain, can occur even after drug use has stopped. For those who use meth, it is important to quit to prevent the risk of further damage from the effects of methamphetamine.