What Are the Side Effects of Methamphetamine?
Meth is a harmfully addictive substance with dangerous side effects. Short-term side effects of meth can include an increased heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. The long-term side effects of meth can include damage to the brain, heart, and other organs, along with psychotic symptoms.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a potent synthetic stimulant that acts on the central nervous system and stimulates the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that rewards behaviors. It’s highly addictive and carries a significant risk of toxicity and fatal overdose, as well as other adverse health effects.
Meth may be smoked, snorted, injected, or consumed orally, with or without other substances, to achieve an intense high – or “rush.” This rush has serious side effects in both the short- and long-term on physical and mental well-being.
Side Effects of Methamphetamine
Short-Term Effects of Meth
Even small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects like:
- Increased blood pressure
- Extremely elevated body temperature
- Rapid breathing rate
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Erratic, aggressive, or violent behavior
- Stroke or heart attack
The short-term effects of crystal methamphetamine, a high-purity form of meth, may include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased respiratory rate
- Elevated body temperature
- Aggression and violent behaviors
- Stroke or heart attack
Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine
Chronic meth use can lead to long-term health effects, even once you stop taking meth, such as:
- Permanent damage to the brain and heart
- High blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage,
- Anxiety, confusion, and insomnia
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Psychotic symptoms and psychosis
- Skin sores from intense itching and scratching
- Premature osteoporosis
- Dental disease
- Weight loss
The long-term effects of crystal methamphetamine are similar to other types of meth and may include:
- Stimulant use disorder
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Decreased motor skills
- Chronic anxiety
- Mood disturbances
- Aggressive or violent behaviors
- Mood swings
- Twitching or jerky movements
- Severe dental disease
Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use on the Brain
People who chronically misuse meth or develop a methamphetamine use disorder are at risk for significant structural and functional brain changes that negatively impact memory, emotions, and decision-making abilities. This may be why methamphetamine use disorder can be challenging to treat and overcome.
Some brain changes with chronic meth use can be reversed with abstinence. Studies indicate that the meth-related brain changes returned to normal after a year or more of abstinence.
Methamphetamine Long-Term Effects on Physical and Mental Health
Chronic meth use has many serious long-term effects, including increasing the risk of developing associated physical and mental health issues.
Physically, people who use meth over long periods develop problems like malnutrition and severe dental problems with tooth loss. High blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and irregular heart rate can also be an effect of long-term use, which increases the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Meth use has mental health consequences as well, including prolonged psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions that can last for months or years after they stop taking meth.
There are indirect risks associated with meth use because of increased risk-taking behaviors and poor decision-making. People who inject meth may contract bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C from sharing needles. Unprotected sex, driving under the influence, or taking other unnecessary risks are common while taking meth.
Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine and crystal meth are highly addictive drugs. Due to its potency, methamphetamine abuse can cause people to binge and become dependent faster than other illicit drugs – and it’s difficult to quit.
Once the body and brain crave meth, use becomes an addiction. Quitting leads to extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, irritability, insomnia, hallucinations, extreme cravings, and dry mouth. These symptoms can be so severe that they cause relapse just to relieve them.
Fortunately, addiction treatment can be effective for treating methamphetamine use disorder, the formal term for methamphetamine addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction or meth abuse, here are some treatment options that may be available to you:
Meth withdrawal isn’t usually life-threatening, but it can be extremely unpleasant. Medical detox allows the body to rid itself of the drug with medical supervision and medications to manage symptoms like insomnia and anxiety, so you can be safe and comfortable.
Inpatient programs offer round-the-clock intensive care with medical supervision, behavioral therapies, and counseling sessions. This is ideal for people who need the accountability and support that comes from a residential setting.
Aftercare services help people transition from inpatient or outpatient care to daily life. They typically include support groups and other therapies for relapse prevention, stress management, and other life skills as part of a long-term alumni program.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do the Effects of Methamphetamine Last?
Methamphetamine produces a high that’s longer lasting than cocaine and other stimulants but still relatively short-lived. It can vary, but the initial “rush” lasts about five minutes. The euphoria subsides a bit after that, but the other methamphetamine side effects can last for an hour or longer. Typically, people binge meth to sustain that rush, repeating the process over and over again.
Can Methamphetamine Make You Sick?
Meth doesn’t usually make you “sick” in the way that marijuana or alcohol use can cause nausea or vomiting, but it does have serious adverse health effects. Upon use, it speeds up the body’s systems to dangerous levels by increasing the heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, which can be fatal. Long-term use can cause brain and organ damage, as well as increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
What Are the Side Effects of Injecting Methamphetamine?
Injecting meth is often referred to as “slamming” and may produce a quicker and more intense high than other methods. The initial rush subsides, but the adrenaline continues to pump through the body to sustain an energy high that can last up to eight hours. Along with the general side effects of using meth, injecting meth can cause vein damage, scarring, and collapse, inflammation and burning, and abscesses. People are at a greater risk of bloodborne illnesses like HIV and hepatitis from using contaminated needles as well.
What Are the Effects of Smoking Methamphetamine?
Smoking meth involves heating fragments of meth in a glass pipe. The effects of smoking methamphetamine are similar to other methods, including dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, as well as mouth, throat, and lung burns and inflammation. If meth has cutting agents like baby powder or baking soda, it can cause additional adverse effects when smoked.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Substance use – amphetamines: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000792.htm on 2023, June 24.