While there are numerous mind-altering substances known to be addictive and highly damaging to the body, methamphetamine — also known colloquially as crystal meth — is often cited as one of the most dangerous of all. It’s a substance that’s considered far more addictive than even opioids, and it results in profound damage to and deterioration of the body.
In an effort to highlight the damaging effects of crystal meth to the body, here are five of the many ways that meth can damage your body.
How Does Crystal Meth Work?
Before we get into the actual effects, let’s take a brief moment to look closer at methamphetamine as a substance.
Whereas opioids and alcohol could fall under the “depressant” umbrella, methamphetamine is decidedly a “stimulant,” which means it’s a substance that increases a user’s energy level as well as the metabolism and other bodily functions. Meanwhile, the use of methamphetamine triggers a flood of dopamine in the brain. As you’re probably aware, dopamine is a pleasurable neurochemical that occurs naturally to reinforce behaviors that you find enjoyable, including essential survival behaviors like eating and sex. But when dopamine floods the brain from the use of methamphetamine, it’s the drug use that’s reinforced, and this is why crystal meth is such a highly addictive drug.
After imbibing crystal meth, a user experiences a flood of dopamine in his or her brain, which causes feelings of euphoria. It’s much more intense than the feeling of pleasure obtained from normal, everyday behaviors, so the user continues using crystal meth because he or she knows it’s a simple way of experiencing that euphoria whenever he or she wants. With continued use of meth over time, the individual’s brain and body become accustomed to frequent methamphetamine use and the subsequent spike in dopamine. In fact, the brain will begin decreasing its own natural dopamine production, relying on the methamphetamine and making it increasingly difficult (even painful) for the individual to stop using methamphetamine and return to normal dopamine levels.
It’s at this point that chemical dependence occurs.
5 Effects of Crystal Meth On Your Body
When an individual has become physically and psychologically dependent on crystal meth, he or she feels compelled to use the drug on a frequent or even daily basis. With this level of frequency in his or her methamphetamine use, the drug begins to have a number of notable effects, both on the mind and the body. While some of these effects will dissipate if the individual discontinues his or her use of crystal meth, it’s not uncommon for effects to linger indefinitely in some cases, particularly when it comes to effects involving the heart and respiratory systems.
- Skin damage
Regarding the effects of crystal meth on the body, skin damage is often the most notable and apparent. For the most part, the skin damage doesn’t occur as a direct result of the meth use; rather, it’s an indirect or secondary effect that occurs when individuals use methamphetamine. Due to the various sensations and hallucinations that can accompany the use of crystal meth, many meth users compulsively scratch and pick at their skin, causing rashes, abrasions, and sores of various sizes.
These injuries can appear almost anywhere on the body, from the arms and legs to even the face and neck. And unless the users discontinue their intake of meth, they are likely to continue picking at their injuries, which prevents them from healing and leaves them open — hence, they’re often referred to as “open sores.”
- Heart problems
Since crystal meth is a stimulant, use of the drug causes an increase in energy level that coincides with increased blood pressure and heart rate. If increased blood pressure and heart rate persist for an extended period of time, an individual can experience a number of other potential effects. Some of the most common cardiac problems exhibited by chronic methamphetamine users include heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, hardened arteries, and arrhythmia. When these conditions are left untreated, it can cause feelings of lightheadedness, fainting, or even cardiac arrest.
- Respiratory problems
The respiratory system is a bodily system that includes the lungs and pertains to breathing. Since crystal meth is often — but not exclusively — smoked as the primary means of administration, it follows that the use of methamphetamine would directly affect the respiratory system.
As meth is a stimulant, the use of the drug will cause an increase in breathing rate, which can lead to lightheadedness and possibly fainting. But due to the crystalline structure of methamphetamine, smoking the drug can cause bleeding in the lungs, resulting in users coughing up blood following or in-between sessions of meth use. It’s worth noting, too, that methamphetamine use has been associated with respiratory conditions like pulmonary hypertension, collapsed lungs, and the release of air from the lungs into the surrounding chest cavity.
- Immune system decline
Although a weakening of the immune system is a staple effect of almost every mind-altering drug, it warrants repeating here. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, the human body has develops ways of protecting itself from external threats and disease. But the use of substances like crystal meth not only alter the body’s chemical balance but also inhibit natural functioning. It makes the body less capable of fighting off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. To make matters even worse, methamphetamine is also commonly administered via intravenous injection; since meth users may share hypodermic needles, this means that the transmission of the HIV virus is a serious concern regarding meth use.
- Brain damage
It should come as no surprise that using a substance like methamphetamine damages the brain, which is arguably the most important organ of the human body. Unfortunately, the effects of meth on the brain are numerous and oftentimes profound. One of the greatest risks that meth poses for the brain is the potential for meth users to experience a stroke, which occurs when a region of the brain is cut-off from the blood supply. But there’s potential for effects that, while being less critical in terms of short-term risk, can have lasting repercussions. For instance, the surge in dopamine levels caused by meth use leads to the brain producing less dopamine on its own; when this occurs, users report having trouble enjoying things that they previously found enjoyable, which leads to depression.
Some of the other neurological considerations include an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease, dementia, symptoms of psychosis, and potentially permanent brain damage that could result in impairments in movement, speech, memory, or even paralysis.
Struggling With Meth Addiction?
Life likes to sneak up on people but meth addiction will run up on you as it tackles you to the ground. Don’t allow this overrated stimulant to take control of your life- it’s not worth it in the slightest. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 1-866-663-3030 or visit www.pasadenarecoverycenter.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.