Negative Impact of Methamphetamine on the Body

What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that is highly addictive and can cause multiple health problems and death. Meth, unlike many drugs, is not derived from plants. Instead, it is made from a variety of store-bought chemicals. One compound seems to be found in all methamphetamine creations: pseudoephedrine, an ingredient found in cold medicines. Other chemicals that are used to create methamphetamines can be paint thinner, ether, Freon, acetone, ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium from inside batteries.

There is currently a new form of meth being created known as P2P meth. The principal chemicals are phenyl-2-propanone, aluminum, methylamine, and mercuric chloride.

How is Methamphetamine Made?

These ingredients are then cooked together in make-shift labs or illegal labs. Most people do not understand that cooking these chemicals together creates a dangerous, explosive, and highly toxic environment. Sadly, the fumes from cooking Meth are poisonous, and often these small labs are in people’s kitchens, cars, garages, and basements, where children are regularly exposed. The impact on children exposed to the cooking process of Meth is severe, and parents who are making Meth (and usually using the drug simultaneously) often neglect their children.

Currently, the Mexican Drug Cartels are the largest manufacturer of methamphetamines. They have the super labs, though ice meth is finding its way into the US from China.

How is Methamphetamine Used?

Meth comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally. Smoking and injecting meth help the drug enter the bloodstream and brain quickly, producing an intense rush. Snorting or orally ingesting the drug creates a euphoria that is not as intense as the rush.

Meths Impact on the body

Meth negatively impacts the central nervous system. This system connects the brain and the spinal cord, and then the peripheral nervous system, which connects the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. As the name implies, the central nervous system is the body’s processing center. Meth as a stimulant that is highly addictive. Yet, like other addictions, regular use requires more of the drug to induce the sense of euphoria that accompanies the first usage. Beyond the need or craving for more of the drug, there are clear signs that a person has been using meth regularly. Long-term use can produce:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances 
  • Violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Psychosis
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain

The effects of long-term use have been documented by brain imaging which shows how meth changes the brain; these changes, from long-term use, are seen in the dopamine system as reduce motor coordination and verbal learning.

Other signs of long-term use include:

  • Meth mouth and tooth decay (a person who uses meth regularly will have specific rotting away of the teeth)
  • Skin sores (meth users often believe that insects are crawling under the skin and pick at the sores)
  • Weight loss
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Like other stimulants, one can experience a binge and crash pattern to methamphetamine use. Sometimes, an addict will go on a “run” during the binge phase forgetting to eat or sleep and continue taking the drug. Overdose is possible, especially during a binge and crash phase.

“In 2017, about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the methamphetamine category, and 50 percent of those deaths also involved an opioid, with half of those cases related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (CDC Wonder Multiple Causes of Death—see #42 on Meth RR.) It is important to note that cheap, dangerous synthetic opioids are sometimes added to street methamphetamine without the user knowing.”

Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Sexual Dysfunction While Using Methamphetamines

Those who use and share needles to inject meth are at a greater risk of contracting and transmitting HIV and Hepatitis B and C. People who use meth by other means than injection run the risk of contracting other sexually related diseases because meth leads people to engage in risky behaviors, including unprotected sex.

According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, meth is a stimulant that impacts the libido, increasing risky sexual behavior. However, the irony of addiction to meth is that long-term use “may lead to reduced sexual functioning, at least in men.”

Meth users with HIV on antiretroviral therapy to treat the HIV condition are at greater risk of developing AIDS (perhaps associated with poor medication adherence). Additionally, there seems to be “greater neuronal injury [nerve damage that interrupts communications from the brain to the muscles and organs] and cognitive impairment due to HIV, [for meth users ]compared to those who do not misuse the drug.”

Increase Usage in the US of Illegal Methamphetamine

According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of 2020 (issued by the CDC), “During 2015–2018, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults aged ≥18 years, on average, reported past-year methamphetamine use; 52.9% had a methamphetamine use disorder, and 22.3% reported injecting methamphetamine within the past year. Co-occurring substance use and mental illness were common among those who used methamphetamine within the past year.” In 2020, there were 2.4 million adults admitted  using methamphetamine on the national survey.

Compromised Immunity and Meth Use

At a time when pandemics are circulating around the globe, methamphetamine users are working against their body’s immune system. The innate (present at birth) and adaptive (acquired over time) immune systems become compromised. The use of meth alters the production of antibodies and “reduces the ability of highly specialized cells, known as lymphocyte T-cells, to fight off pathogens [diseases and viruses].”

Additionally, the lungs and heart are adversely impacted by the use of methamphetamine. It is known that meth increases the risk of heart disease, irregular heartbeat, and the body’s ability of the heart to pump blood. Meth can cause inflammation of the lungs which can cause pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, and high blood pressure.

You can stop the cycle of binging and crashing. You can break the pattern of endless days of sleeplessness, paranoia, and self-starvation. Treatment does work. The body has profound healing qualities. But, to break the cycle of addiction and accompanying mental illness, appropriate help is needed. One of our specially trained staff can answer all your questions and put your fears to rest. Every conversation is confidential. You or your loved one can get “on the road” to recovery quickly. Call now and begin life anew.

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Connor Barton
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2022-05-04
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