“Meth mouth” is one specific effect of using the dangerous drug methamphetamine (Crystal Meth). While it may be one of the more visible outward signs of the drug, it’s not the only harmful effect of crystal meth addiction.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is an addictive stimulant affecting the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a version of the drug that looks like glass or rocks, and it’s got a chemical structure similar to amphetamine. Medical professionals use Amphetamine in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Drug users take meth in different ways; smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injecting a dissolved version.
When someone takes methamphetamine, it increases the amount of dopamine in their brain, which causes them to feel an intense high. Meth releases artificially high amounts of dopamine in the brain. That then activates reward centers in the brain, making the user compulsively start taking the substance.
In the short term, meth can have side effects such as:
- Increased energy and alertness
- Decreased appetite
- Fast breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Dry mouth
- Violent behavior
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
- Users feel the effects of meth rapidly after introducing the drug into their system, especially if it’s injected or smoked. The onset speed results from the body absorbing the drug as soon as it enters the bloodstream.
- The actual high of being on meth is short-lived, leading to rapid cycling where someone binges on it and uses a significant amount within a short window of time.
- The half-life of meth, that’s how long it takes the body to break down the meth to one-half of the dose used, is around 12 to 34 hours.
- Even though someone might not feel the euphoric high for long, they can feel the effects of the drug for up to 24 hours after the last time they used it.
- If someone were to undergo a drug test, meth could show up in a blood test for up to 72 hours after use, and if you used large amounts, as long as ten days.
- Detected in urine testing, meth metabolites could be detectable for three to five days after use.
Why Is Meth So Dangerous?
Meth is considered one of the most dangerous and potentially deadly illicit drugs.
Some of the reasons this is true include:
- Meth is highly addictive. It’s not uncommon for people to become addicted after using it just once. It’s possibly the most addictive recreational drug available.
- The intense highs of meth come with equally as intense lows. When you come down from a meth high, it can create extreme misery and depression. For instance, while high on meth you may stay awake for days, but when you crash you might end up sleeping for days.
- If you inject meth, it creates a whole other set of risks in addition to the dangers of the drug itself. For example, this can put you at risk of contracting infectious diseases like hepatitis or HIV.
- As a stimulant, meth raises your core body functions, including your breathing, body temperature, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and heart rate, putting you at risk of heart attack or stroke as well as a fatal overdose.
- Meth creates permanent brain damage.
While meth is one of the more dangerous and addictive drugs that exists, treatment options are available for those who are struggling, but ready to quit; Opus Health has helped many people break the chains of this dangerous addiction.
The Long-Term Effects of Meth Abuse
There are many long-term effects of meth. Some may be reversible with the right treatment options if you stop using the drug, while others may not be.
Long-term effects of meth use:
- Weight loss
- Severe dental problems
- Sores from scratching
- Changes in the function and structure of the brain
- Memory loss
- Sleep problems
- Paranoia, which is an extreme, irrational distrust of others
- Hallucinations, which are images or sensory experiences that aren’t real
- Bad Breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dental decay
Over time, when someone uses methamphetamine repeatedly, it causes changes in the dopamine system. That can lead to impaired verbal learning and coordination problems. There have been brain imaging studies of long-term meth users indicating significant changes in the areas of the brain related to memory and emotion.
One study was completed relatively recently that individuals who used meth even once were at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s affects the nerves and movement.
Addiction and dependence are also considered long-term effects of meth. Someone dependent on meth may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. Meth withdrawal symptoms may include severe depression, psychosis, cravings, fatigue, and anxiety.
What Is Meth Mouth?
The term meth mouth refers to dental damage and oral hygiene issues specifically related to meth addicts. Long-term methamphetamine abuse will cause tooth decay. This decay can be due to the effects of drugs themselves, the tendency to eat sugary foods and drink sugary beverages when on meth, and a lack of self-care.
- For example, research from the American Dental Association found among meth users, 96% had cavities. In addition, 58% had tooth decay, and more than 30% had six or more missing teeth.
- People who smoked meth were three times as likely to experience symptoms of meth mouth than people who used it in other ways.
- Noticeable meth mouth can occur within a year of using the drug for many people.
- Actual symptoms of meth mouth include dry mouth, gum disease, and tooth decay.
- When someone is high on meth they might clench or grind their teeth when they are, which can also make the oral health and appearance of their mouth worse.
- When you use meth, you can experience xerostomia, which is just another term for dry mouth. That then reduces your teeth’s natural protection, leading them to decay more quickly.
What is the “Faces of Meth Project”?
The appearance of meth users can be so dramatically changed by the drug that in the early 2000s, the Faces of Meth Project was born. It’s a drug prevention initiative run by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, highlighting physical changes the drug can cause. The project uses mug shots of repeat offenders to show the damaging effects of using meth over a period of time.
The project uses both before and after mug shots which highlight the intense deterioration caused by the drug.
Along with the effects on dental health and meth mouth, taking meth can also cause facial sores. Often what will happen is either that someone burns themselves when they’re smoking meth, or they experience the sensation that bugs are crawling on them, causing incessant scratching, leading to bleeding and subsequent sores.
If you are a methamphetamine user, or someone you know, the most important fact for you to remember is that treatment facilities like Opus Health can help.
Methamphetamine addiction is dangerous and potentially deadly, but it’s never too late to get help. With proper treatment, it’s possible to be safe going through withdrawal and to enter into recovery.
Healing can occur physically, mentally, and spiritually with the right treatment. Opus Health can help you every step of the way, from detox to aftercare. Call us today for a free consultation with a care coordinator and take your first steps towards a new smile.