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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 prescribed low doses of meth or Desoxyn to treat ADHD.
Meth produces a euphoric high which varies in duration and intensity based on how you take the drug. It decreases appetite and makes you more talkative. When used over time, meth damages a person’s health and has both physical and mental health effects.
How Does Meth Affect The Body?
Meth is incredibly dangerous no matter whether you snort, inject, or smoke it. It’s very addictive and requires higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect the more you use it.
Meth affects the body in a variety of negative ways. It impacts the body’s organs and puts people at risk for various secondary health problems, including HIV, if you inject it.
Meth users also have a higher risk of:
- Heart disease
- Immune suppression
- Liver damage
- Parkinson’s disease
Side Effects of Meth Use
Side effects of short-term meth use include:
- Increased alertness
- Increased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Increased respiration
- Irregular heart rate
Side effects of long-term meth use include:
- Changes in the brain
- 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
Dangers of Snorting, Smoking, & Injecting Meth
All methods of meth use cause health problems, but there are slight variations based on how the drug is used.
Snorting meth, as you might expect, causes damage to the nose and sinus cavities.
Many health experts believe smoking meth poses the greatest and fastest risk of addiction. It also poses a risk to the mouth, throat, and lungs. Meth mouth is most likely to develop when someone smokes the drug. This condition causes tooth decay, gum disease, and mouth sores.
Injecting meth creates a risk of exposure to HIV and hepatitis C due to the use of needles. Even if you don’t share needles with other people, there is a higher risk of infection and collapsed veins when you inject meth.
There is also a risk of blockages in the brain, heart, or liver, and infection of the heart tissue when meth is injected directly into the blood.
How Does Meth Affect The Throat?
Meth use negatively affects the throat when it is smoked or snorted. Additionally, it causes rapid breathing due to its stimulant effects, which dries and irritates the throat.
Smoking meth puts users at risk of coughing up blood because of bleeding in the alveoli, which is the part of the lungs responsible for gas exchange with the body’s blood supply.
Snorting meth causes violent coughing fits and respiratory trauma, including a collapsed lung. The air might also be released into the body outside of the lungs, which is a condition known as pneumomediastinum.
Inhalation of meth leads to deposits of impurities in the lungs. This leads to the formulation of granulomas and elevates the risk of interstitial lung disease.
How Does Meth Affect The Mouth?
Meth mouth is the term many people use to describe the combination of dental health problems users experience.
Meth is well-known for the toll it takes on users’ dental health. 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, which wears 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, which leads to recession and erosion.
What is Meth Mouth?
Meth mouth is a combination of symptoms associated with the poor dental health of meth users. It includes severe tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth fracture, acid erosion, poor gum health, and more.
Health experts believe the condition is caused by the side effects of meth and common lifestyle factors among long-term users. Meth is also acidic, which leads to faster erosion than non-users experience.
Despite meth users being at high risk of dental health issues, it is not the only drug that causes these problems. Heroin and club drugs like MDMA can also cause oral health conditions.
However, meth users have a very high risk of developing dental health issues. Cavities, enamel erosion, gum inflammation, and missing teeth are all common among users.
Many meth users also have blackened, rotting, or crumbling teeth, especially after long-term use. Others need to have their teeth removed due to severe damage.
Treatment for Meth Mouth
Meth mouth is treatable, even when all of the damage cannot be reversed completely. The first step to treating meth mouth is to get treatment for meth addiction. Once someone has their addiction under control, they can seek dental health treatment.
Some of the most common dental treatments for meth mouth include:
- Fillings and crowns
- Mouth guards
- Topical fluoride
Every patient is different. This is why 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, it’s important to establish a healthy lifestyle, make smart choices about nutrition, and maintain good dental habits, including brushing and flossing.
Treatment for Meth Abuse & Addiction
Breaking an addiction to meth and maintaining sobriety is a challenge that almost always requires professional support from a healthcare provider. If you or a loved one is addicted to meth, it’s important to seek medical advice from an addiction specialist.
There is no pharmacological treatment for meth addiction or for preventing relapse, but there are medications available that ease the side effects of recovering from an addiction to meth.
Currently, studies are underway to examine drugs that could potentially manage:
- Central nervous system inflammation
- Cognitive problems
Many drugs used to treat other addictions are under investigation to see if they might be useful for treating meth addiction.
There are many nonpharmacological treatments available for treating substance use disorders (SUDs). These therapies create behavioral changes by altering activity patterns in the brain. They also help recovering addicts learn how to monitor and control their 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.
These drug rehab and addiction treatment methods are in various stages of test trials to determine their effectiveness and safety in treating addiction.
Additionally, drug addiction specialists use proven methods of treatment to support meth withdrawal and recovery. These include:
- Medically supervised detox
- 12-step groups
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Individual and family counseling
- Behavioral health treatments