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The Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

Using methamphetamine has numerous effects on all aspects of your life. The drug can harm you in many different ways. The problem of meth addiction continues to grow the United States. According to the NIDA, a 2005 survey estimated 10.4 million people have tried methamphetamine at some point in the lives.

The effects of methamphetamine can be seen in almost every walk of life. As more people fall victim to this highly addictive drug, it becomes increasingly important to understand the effects of methamphetamine addiction.


About 4.5 percent of high school seniors have used meth at some point in their lifetimes.

Short-Term Effects Caused by Methamphetamine

The most damaging short-term effect of methamphetamine abuse is addiction. The drug is highly addictive, and many people become addicted after only a few uses over a matter of days.

Methamphetamine can be taken by smoking, injecting or snorting. It affects your brain and nervous system by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical responsible for the reward and pleasure centers within your brain. Taking meth gives you a strong sense of pleasure because of the dopamine it creates, but it also causes many harmful physical and behavioral side effects. Methamphetamine effects can vary, but generally include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased attention
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Aggressiveness
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Hyperthermia

In addition, overdose is a possibility. Convulsions often occur with a methamphetamine overdose. If an overdose goes untreated, it can result in death. If you think someone may be experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.


The number of people ages 12 to 17 admitted for meth treatment rose 100 percent from 1994 to 2004.

Long-Term Consequences

As your addiction progresses, methamphetamine’s effects will worsen. In many cases, taking meth for extended periods leads to severe health and personal issues. The long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse can destroy your life. Often, the long-term effects involve worsening of the short-term effects. Symptoms like confusion, anxiety, mood disturbances, insomnia and violent behavior continue to progress until they start to seriously affect the way you live.

Methamphetamine’s effects can limit your ability to experience pleasure naturally. Over time, your body may produce less dopamine or require higher levels of dopamine to achieve a result you can feel. This leads to an addict requiring higher doses of meth to receive the same effect. This may also force them to change the method in which they get high. Both of these actions lead to more risks.

How it Affects You Physically

Another side effect of prolonged use is resorting to more extreme methods to get methamphetamine. Addicts often resort to criminal behavior like robbery to get the money they need to buy more meth.

Several physical effects can occur with extended use. These include:

  • Dental decay and blackened or yellow teeth
  • Sores caused by scratching
  • Body odor
  • Weight loss
  • Uncontrollable anger
  • Brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Delusions

Meth causes similar addiction and withdrawal cycles to those associated with crack cocaine. The use of crack is characterized by binging, or using the drug for several consecutive days without sleep. Crack cocaine binging normally lasts for two to three days; however, meth binging often lasts as long two weeks. Meth binging also creates severe mood disturbances and bizarre thoughts and behaviors that can last for several days or weeks after the binge ends.

Increased Risks and Dangers of Regular Use

Meth users also face an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C. This is mostly true of the methamphetamine users that share syringes, but the likelihood increases somewhat with all meth users. Meth impairs judgment and can lead to risky sexual behavior. Meth also increases libido in the short-term. On the other hand, methamphetamine has been shown to decrease sexual functioning in men when taken over long periods of time.

Recent studies have shown that chronic methamphetamine abuse can significantly alter your brain. Brain scan studies have shown that altering the dopamine system can adversely affect your motor skills and impair your verbal learning skills. Chronic abuse can also damage the structure and cause functional changes to the parts of your brain that control memory and emotion. Researchers think these changes could account for the behavioral problems of meth addicts.

Find Addiction Treatment Options in Your Area

The good news is that this brain damage might be reversible. Scans have shown that some areas damaged by meth have shown improvement after two years of abstinence from the drug. Some areas showed no improvement after two years, meaning some damage is persistent.

The sooner you seek treatment for your meth addiction the sooner you can heal, both physically and emotionally. If you would like more information on methamphetamine detox and withdrawal as well as addiction and treatment, call today.


About 85 percent of meth production occurs in California and Mexico in meth labs known as “super labs.”

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