Meth and the Body

Meth and Physical Appearance – One of the most striking effects of meth is the change in the physical appearance of meth users. Because meth causes the blood vessels to constrict, it cuts off the steady flow of blood to all parts of the body. Heavy usage can weaken and destroy these vessels, causing tissues to become prone to damage and inhibiting the body’s ability to repair itself. Acne appears, sores take longer to heal, and the skin loses its luster and elasticity. Some users are covered in small sores, the result of obsessive skin-picking brought on by the hallucination of having bugs crawling beneath the skin, a disorder known as formication.

In addition, stimulants such as meth cause tremendous bursts of physical activity while suppressing the appetite, an attractive combination for many people who began using meth to lose weight. But while contemporary culture may idealize slim figures, heavy meth users often become gaunt and frail. Their day- or week-long meth “runs” are usually accompanied by tooth-grinding, poor diet, and bad hygiene, which lead to mouths full of broken, stained and rotting teeth.

Meth Mouth – A common indication of meth abuse is extreme tooth decay, a condition that has become referred to as “meth mouth.” Users with “meth mouth” have blackened, stained, or rotting teeth, which often can’t be fixed, even among young or short-term users. The exact causes of “meth mouth” are not fully understood. Various reports have attributed the decay to the corrosive effects of the chemicals found in the drug, which when smoked or snorted might erode the tooth’s protective enamel coating; however, it’s more likely that this degree of tooth decay is brought on by a combination of side effects from a meth high.

When meth is ingested, it causes the user’s blood vessels to shrink, limiting the steady blood supply that the mouth needs in order to stay healthy. With repeated shrinking, these vessels die and the oral tissues decay. Similarly, meth use leads to “dry mouth” (xerostomia), and without enough saliva to neutralize the mouth’s harsh acids, those acids eat away at the tooth and gums, causing weak spots that are susceptible to cavities. The cavities are then exacerbated by behavior common in users on a meth high: a strong desire for sugary foods and drinks, compulsive tooth grinding, and the general neglect of regular brushing and flossing.

The extent of a tooth decay varies widely among meth users. A 2000 report in the Journal of Periodontology found that users who snorted the drug had significantly worse tooth decay than users who smoked or injected it, although all types of users suffered from dental problems. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the degree of tooth decay is not necessarily dependent on the length of drug use.

Meth’s Affect on the Brain: When addicts use meth over and over again, the drug actually changes their brain chemistry, destroying the wiring in the brain’s pleasure centers and making it increasingly impossible to experience any pleasure at all. Although studies have shown that these tissues can regrow over time, the process can take years, and the repair may never be complete.

In addition to affecting cognitive abilities, these changes in brain chemistry can lead to disturbing, even violent behavior. Meth, like all stimulants, causes the brain to release high doses of adrenaline, the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, inducing anxiety, wakefulness and intensely focused attention, called “tweaking.” When users are tweaking, they exhibit hyperactive and obsessive behavior. Heavy, chronic usage can also prompt psychotic behavior, such as paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and delusions.

Meth takes a serious toll on the body. Contact us today to see how we can help you stop using meth!

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