Methamphetamine use is bad for your health, plain and simple. It can cause problems ranging from memory loss and tooth decay to skin infections and depression. However, new studies are showing that meth use also increases the risk of developing life-threatening chronic disease and illnesses in the long-term, even after usage is stopped.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive man-made stimulant. It is an illegal, highly concentrated drug that can cause physical dependence in just one use. People take methamphetamine by smoking, swallowing, snorting or injecting. The high from meth starts and fades extremely quickly, so users will often form an up and down “binge and crash” pattern. Because of the stimulating and addictive effects of the drug, some will use it for days on end, giving up food and sleep.
Other names for methamphetamine include Meth, Crystal Meth, Speed, Crank, and Ice.
Short-Term Effects of Meth Use
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
- Pupil Dilation
- Appetite Loss
- Erratic, dangerous, sometimes violent behaviors
- Convulsions or Seizures from high doses, such as those that can lead to overdose and death
Long-Term Effects of Meth Use
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Severe tooth decay and/or loss (“Meth mouth”)
- Premature skin ageing
- Permanent blood vessel damage in heart and brain
Diseases Associated with Meth Use
Meth use causes various circulatory problems that increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease is the second-leading cause of death among meth users, following only after accidental overdose.
Meth is creating a unique form of serious heart failure in young people who use the drug. In fact, the problem is becoming so concerning that the American Heart Association recently released a report titled, “Meth and Heart Disease: A Deadly Crisis We Don’t Fully Fathom.”
The positive news is that in some cases, some of the damage can be reversed if the meth user goes through treatment and stops using. This depends on the amount of inflammation and scarring so early intervention is vital.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disease that affects motor function and is the second most common neurological disease after Alzheimer’s. It typically onsets after the age of 50. A recent study finds that meth use increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease later in life by nearly five times.
Findings suggest that women are more likely to develop Parkinson’s after meth use than men, even though statistically, less females use meth than men. Further study to understand this.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of Staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. Meth users have higher rates of skin infections due to the picking, scratching and itching associated with meth use. The immune systems of meth users are weaker from the drug use and thus the open wounds are even more susceptible to bacteria and infection. MRSA also spreads through sharing needles. In fact, the likelihood of developing MRSA was 16.3 times higher in people who inject drugs.
STDs, HIV, and Hepatitis
Meth use creates a lack of inhibition that can cause risky sexual behaviors. These include increased number of sexual partners, increased risk of having unprotected sex, and increased risk of contracting or having sexually transmitted infections and/or HIV. In a study of 260,000 people, primarily heterosexuals, researchers found that people who used methamphetamine in the 12 months prior were 20% more likely to have an STD.
STD risk increases further among Methamphetamine users who inject the drug and share needles. Sharing needles increases the likelihood of contracting HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C.
Permanent Brain Damage
Frequent meth users risk permanent damage to brain cells, similar to the damage that occurs from a debilitating stroke or Alzheimer’s Disease. However, unlike Alzheimer’s, these effects occur much earlier in life. Research finds that even after meth users abstain from the drug for several months or even years, the same damage can be found. As a result, the research suggests that damage from meth use is permanent.
When the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) studied meth users’ brain chemicals, they found abnormal brain chemistry in all three brain regions studied. In one region, the damage was correlated to the history of drug use, with more damage associated with longer and most frequent use. They also found that levels of N-acetyl-aspartate was 5% lower in meth users’ brains. Many neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and epilepsy, are linked with reduced N-acetyl-aspartate. Not only are meth users at risk for neurological issues earlier in life, but they are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, stroke, and epilepsy due to the permanent brain damaging effects of the drug.
Meth use increases disease risk, even after its use is stopped. However, the sooner a person gets help for their addiction, the less permanent damage they will have done to their body. Early intervention is key to treating and preventing disease, therefore it is crucial to seek help as soon as possible. If you or a loved one are struggling with methamphetamine addiction, contact us today and find out how we can help.
We’re here for you.