Updated on February 6, 2024
7 min read

How Meth Use Affects the Throat

Key Takeaways

How Meth Affects the Throat

Smoking or snorting meth can negatively affect your throat. Because of its stimulant effects, it can cause rapid breathing, which dries and irritates the throat.

Inhaling meth can cause deposits of impurities in the lungs. This leads to the formation of granulomas and elevates the risk of interstitial lung disease.

Lastly, methamphetamine use can affect the salivary glands. This reduces saliva production and can lead to a dry mouth.

How Does Smoking Meth Affect the Throat?

Smoking meth can increase the risk of coughing up blood due to bleeding in the alveoli. The alveoli is the part of the lungs responsible for gas exchange with the body's blood supply.

Other side effects of smoking meth include:

  • Burning sensation in the throat
  • Dryness and irritation
  • Painful swallowing

How Does Snorting Meth Affect the Throat?

Snorting meth can irritate your throat, and this leads to violent coughing fits that result in:

  • Respiratory trauma
  • Collapsed lung
  • Changes in your voice
  • Swelling and lesions on the vocal cords
  • Sensitive throat and airway, which causes more coughing

The air might also get released into the body outside of the lungs. This is a condition known as pneumomediastinum. 

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What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?

Methamphetamine, also called crystal meth or meth, is an addictive drug that is snorted, smoked, or injected. It’s a white, odorless crystal-like powder that has a bitter taste. In extremely rare cases, doctors prescribe low doses of meth or Desoxyn to treat ADHD.

Meth affects the central nervous system and produces a euphoric high that lasts only a few minutes. The duration and intensity of the high varies depending on the method of consumption.

It decreases appetite and makes you more talkative. When used over time, meth damages your physical and mental health. It can also lead to long-term substance abuse and addiction.

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How Meth Affects the Mouth 

Meth is well-known for the toll it takes on users’ dental health. Meth mouth is the term many people use to describe the combination of dental health problems users experience.

Meth causes dry mouth, which reduces the body’s ability to fight off bacteria. This leads to an increase in cavities and other dental health issues. Meth users also struggle with compulsive teeth grinding, wearing them down over time.

Additionally, meth users tend to neglect their dental health and eat poorly, further exacerbating their oral health issues. Gum health is also a problem, leading to gum recession and erosion. 

What is Meth Mouth? 

Meth mouth is a combination of symptoms associated with the poor dental health of meth users. Health experts believe it's caused by meth's side effects and other lifestyle factors such as poor oral hygiene and eating habits.

Meth is also acidic and causes direct damage to the soft tissues in the mouth. This causes faster tooth erosion and contributes to the development of meth mouth.

Symptoms of meth mouth include:

  • Severe tooth decay
  • Tooth loss
  • Tooth fracture
  • Acid erosion
  • Poor gum health
  • Gum disease
  • Mouth sores
  • Cavities
  • Enamel erosion
  • Gum inflammation
  • Missing teeth
  • Blackened, rotting, or crumbling teeth

Can Other Drugs Cause Dental Problems?

Meth is not the only drug that causes dental health issues. Heroin and other club drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) can also cause oral health conditions. However, people who use meth have a higher risk of developing these issues.

Meth Mouth Treatment

Meth mouth is treatable, even when all of the damage cannot be reversed completely. However, you'll need to get treatment for meth addiction first. Once your addiction is under control, you can seek dental health treatment.

Some of the most common dental treatments for meth mouth include:

  • Extraction
  • Veneers
  • Implants
  • Dentures
  • Fillings and crowns
  • Mouth guards
  • Topical fluoride

Every person is different. It’s important to work with a dentist you trust and have them help you create a customized treatment plan. In addition to the corrective dental procedures, you should also consider:

  • Having a healthier lifestyle
  • Making smart choices about nutrition and diet
  • Maintaining good dental habits 

How Meth Affects the Body

Meth or crystal meth is incredibly dangerous and highly addictive. It can negatively affect the body by impacting your organs, increasing the risk of various long-term health problems.

Chronic methamphetamine abuse can lead to constricted blood vessels, resulting in increased blood pressure and potential damage to other organs. It can also lead to increased tolerance, meaning you'll need higher doses to achieve the same effects.

Other health risks of meth use include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Immune suppression
  • Liver damage
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Death

Depending on how you use the drug, there are also slight variations in how meth affects your body. These include:

Dangers of Snorting meth

Aside from the side effects mentioned earlier, snorting meth can increase the risk of viral infections and respiratory issues. Those who snort meth can also damage their nose and sinus cavities.

Dangers of Smoking Meth

Meth mouth is one of the dangers of smoking meth. However, many health experts believe smoking meth poses the greatest and fastest risk of addiction. It also poses a risk to your lungs.

Dangers of Injecting Meth

Injecting meth creates a risk of exposure to HIV and hepatitis C due to needle use. Even if you don’t share needles with others, there's still a high risk of infection.

When you inject meth directly into the bloodstream, you are at risk of:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Blockages in the brain, heart, or liver
  • Heart tissue infection

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Side Effects of Meth Use 

Side effects of short-term meth use include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Increased activity
  • Euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Increased body temperature or hyperthermia

Side effects of long-term meth use include:

  • Addiction
  • Changes in the brain
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Memory loss
  • Deficits in mental and motor skills
  • Increased distractibility
  • Aggression and other mood disturbances
  • Weight loss
  • Dental health problems (‘meth mouth’)
  • Increased risk of heart problems
  • Meth overdose

Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal

If you've been abusing meth for prolonged periods, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop. Methamphetamine withdrawal can cause acute or post-acute symptoms.

The severity and duration of meth withdrawal depend on different factors. These include the purity of the meth, the route of administration, and the dosage.

Acute meth withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes like anxiety, depression, or irritability
  • Dysphoria (low mood) leading to suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight gain
  • Dehydration
  • Chills
  • Insomnia followed by hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • Problems with thinking
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Drug cravings

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms from meth can include:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Intense cravings for meth
  • Anhedonia
  • Psychosis
  • Fatigue and excessive sleepiness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Suicidal ideation

Meth Abuse & Addiction Treatment

There is no pharmacological treatment for meth addiction or relapse prevention. However, medications and nonpharmacological treatments can help manage an addiction to meth.

Many nonpharmacological treatments are available for substance use disorders (SUDs). These therapies create behavioral changes by altering activity patterns in your brain and help you monitor your addiction.

These include:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) stimulates the brain with magnetic pulses.
  • Neurofeedback is a biofeedback method that displays real-time brain activity to teach people to recognize and regulate their brain function.
  • Vaccines and antibodies use the body’s natural immune system function to prevent meth from entering the brain.

Available Treatment Options for Meth Addiction

Seeking treatment for drug abuse early on can help mitigate the negative side effects of methamphetamine use. This can also improve your chances of a successful recovery.

These meth rehab and addiction treatment methods are in various stages of test trials to determine their effectiveness and safety in treating addiction.

Drug addiction specialists also use proven treatment methods to support meth withdrawal and recovery. These include

  • Medical detox: Medically supervised detox used to avoid harmful withdrawal effects
  • Inpatient treatment: Involves checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision
  • Outpatient treatment: A treatment program where you are freely allowed to leave the rehab facility
  • Behavioral health treatments: Therapy techniques that explore the link between thought patterns and substance abuse
  • Addiction counseling: Individual or group counseling designed to provide support and guidance to people with addiction
  • 12-step groups: Support groups that follow a 12-step process designed to help guide individuals through recovery and maintain sobriety

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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