What Is Meth and What Does It Do To the Body?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful and particularly nasty illegal drug. Meth is extremely addictive, and short or long term abuse can result in a large number of serious physical and mental health consequences.

In its illegal form, meth is a white, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. The drug can be snorted, smoked, taken orally or dissolved in liquid and injected. The effect on the user is a sudden feeling of euphoria and energy, which fades quickly and leaves them craving another dose. When a user becomes addicted to the drug, the need to experience that high overpowers all other needs and desires.

Addiction and Loss of Control

Methamphetamine gives an artificial but powerful feeling of well-being and a surge of energy. This feeling can lead people to push their bodies farther and harder than they are truly capable of going, bolstered by this false sense of strength and ability. As a result, some people put their lives at risk or suffer serious injury while under the influence of this drug. The subsequent crash that comes as the effects of the drug wear off can be devastating both physically and mentally.

Meth is an immensely addictive drug that has such a powerful impact on the brain that users can become addicted to the drug after a single use, and every subsequent use significantly increases the risk of addiction. People who become addicted to meth turn into compulsive drug seekers who are desperate for their next fix and will go to extremes in order to achieve it.

In the addicted brain, the need for meth outweighs all other concerns. Users may go for days without eating or sleeping as they binge on the drug every few hours. The constant need for another dose also means that people suffering from meth addiction develop a tolerance for the drug very quickly and need greater and greater amounts in order to achieve the same level of elation and satisfy their cravings.

Short-Term Physical Effects

Even short-term meth use will quickly begin to have a negative impact on health. Meth is an extremely dangerous drug to “experiment” with, because meth only needs a few doses to get someone hooked or to have a harmful impact on their body.

The jolt of energy that meth provides can cause sleep loss and disruptions of regular sleep patterns. As meth users become more and more sleep deprived, it becomes difficult for them to function normally in their everyday lives. The sleep disruptions that meth users experience may develop into insomnia, which can last for years even after a person has stopped using meth or other stimulant drugs.

Meth represses hunger signals and may trigger nausea, and users can suffer from rapid weight loss as a result. Other possible effects of meth use also include high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, increased body temperature and irregular heartbeat. All of these physical effects cause wear and tear on the body that can lead to more serious damage over time and increase the risk of major health complications.

Long-Term Physical Effects

The various long-term effects of meth use range from extremely unpleasant to genuinely life-threatening. The most well-known side effect of using meth for a long period of time is severe dental problems, “meth mouth.” The characteristics of meth mouth include severe tooth decay, tooth fracture, acid erosion and tooth loss. Experts believe that these problems come from a combination of the drug itself and the self-neglect that is associated with using meth.

The rapid weight loss that is often seen in short-term meth users can become extreme weight loss in chronic users. Users may lose so much weight and consume so few calories regularly that they become severely malnourished. This in turn causes deterioration of organs such as the heart and lungs and the body essentially begins to eat itself. The damage caused by this deterioration may not be reversible.

Meth users also frequently experience the delusion and sensation of insects crawling underneath their skin. This sensation makes them scratch and pick at their skin, leaving sores that can be very painful and may become infected.

Frequent users are at greater risk for contracting HIV/AIDS through shared needle use or risky behavior such as unprotected sex. Recent research also suggests that meth use may worsen the progress of HIV, damaging brain cells and causing greater cognitive impairment than in HIV-positive individuals who are not meth users.

In addition to the harm meth does to the body, this drug can also have a serious impact on mental health. Paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, repetitive behavior and delusions are all common symptoms of chronic meth use. Long-term use of this drug can even trigger psychosis, which frequently manifests as extremely aggressive and violent behavior.

Methamphetamine addiction is an extremely difficult addiction to treat. This drug has a disastrous effect on both the body and the mind, and many chronic users die before they are able to successfully escape from the drug. As a result, many experts consider meth to be the most dangerous drug in the world.