Meth long term effects

In this article we cover the consequences of long term meth use and it effects on your body, brain, and behavior.

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Repeat use of meth is dangerous!

Methamphetamine (meth for short) is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Addiction to methamphetamine can be formed quite quickly, in some users after only a few uses. The drug produces very pleasurable and euphoric effects, but has a very uncomfortable crash. Such repeated use can seriously damage your body, change your brain in structure and in function, and influence your mental health, behavior, personality, mood and emotional responses.

But, what are the long term effects of using meth? How does it influence your brain and behavior? What are the symptoms of meth addiction? We examine here. Then, we invite your questions about the long terms effects of meth use at the end. In fact, we try to answer all questions personally and promptly.

Long term effects of meth use

Long term methamphetamine use is considered to be the regular, daily, consecutive use of meth for several weeks. There is no precise time-frame that is considered to be “long term” meth use, because it affects different people in different ways.

Studies have shown that there are evident changes in the brain of meth abusers, even in those cases when the drug is used for less than a year. Doctors strongly recommend that prevention programs to inform people about the devastating consequences of meth and attempt to reduce the rates of first-time use as much as possible. Because even after first use, meth affects you negatively.

Long term effects of meth on the brain

If you use meth repeatedly you risk permanently damaging your brain. Studies and medical experience have shown that people who abuse meth have reduced sensitivity to pleasure, emotional and cognitive problems, impaired verbal learning, and reduced motor skills. Other psychological effects of meth abuse include:

  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • confusions
  • delusions (feelings of bugs crawling on the skin)
  • distractibility
  • insomnia
  • memory loss
  • mood disturbances
  • paranoia
  • psychotic behavior
  • violent behavior
  • visual and auditory hallucinations

The reason for such difficulties among meth addicts is the reduced release of dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the reward and movement system in the brain. This neurotransmitter is a messenger located in the reward pathway and produces feelings of rewarding. It also has an important function in the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of the decision making process and self control. Continued meth abuse decreases normal levels of dopamine, and over time starts producing symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s disease.

Long term effects of meth on the body

Methamphetamine affects the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other organs of the body. More specifically, side effects of long term meth use effects on the body include:

  • breathing problems
  • coma
  • corneal ulcers
  • damaged blood vessels
  • death
  • elevated blood pressure
  • hyperthermia
  • increased heart rate
  • loss of appetite
  • rapid weight loss
  • stroke
  • skin sores (from scratching and picking at the skin)
  • tachycardia
  • tooth decay
  • tremors or convulsions
  • weight loss

Long term effects of meth on a fetus

When a woman is pregnant, her body is connected with her child. This means that everything that the mother consumes, can impact her unborn child. When a woman uses meth while pregnant she exposes herself and her unborn child to huge health risks and other complications.

In fact, consuming meth during pregnancy is never safe or recommended, and in some cases it may even have life threatening consequences. Meth use during pregnancy can lead to serious dangers for the mother and the baby. Here is a list of pregnancy and fetus side-effects from meth abuse in child-bearing women.

  • brain abnormalities
  • deformities
  • developmental and skeletal abnormalities in babies
  • irritability
  • learning disabilities in babies
  • lethargy
  • miscarriage
  • placental abruption
  • premature delivery
  • small fetal growth

Long term effects of meth abuse: Risk of addiction

Using meth chronically and for a longer period of time changes the normal functioning of the brain and other body organs. However, one of the biggest risks is the development of addiction. Long term meth use is one of the first signals of meth addiction. Here’s how addiction can occur:

When a person takes meth repeatedly, s/he develops a tolerance to its pleasurable effects. Tolerance means that after some time, you need a larger dose of meth to reach the same effects as in the beginning. Chronic meth abusers have a difficult time feeling any other pleasure except the one provided by the drug.

Psychological and physical dependence follow soon after repeated methamphetamine administration. Usually, it’s just a matter of time before a compulsive cravings for meth use is formed, and users start to obsess over taking it. Such need is called meth addiction.

There are three levels of methamphetamine addiction.

1. Low-intensity meth users – Users usually swallow (take it orally) or snort methamphetamine
2. Meth addicts – Users that smoke or inject methamphetamine
3. Long-term meth users – People who repeatedly binge on meth to delay withdrawal pain

Long term effects of meth addiction

Meth addiction can be recognized through a number of different behavioral and physical factors.

1. Changes in physical appearance

  • aged appearance
  • hair loss
  • neglected hygiene
  • skin sores
  • tooth decay

2. Changes in behavior

  • compulsive drug seeking behavior
  • continued meth use despite health problem awareness
  • dropping hobbies and activities to use meth
  • inability to stop meth despite wanting and trying to
  • obsessive need to obtain and use methamphetamine
  • social withdrawal

Can meth long term effects damage you permanently?

Yes, possibly even to the brain.

This powerful drug damages neurons that contain/release serotonin and this damage continue long after drug use is stopped. Permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain is a permanent side effect of meth use. Organs that may be permanently damaged by meth include the:

  • bones (premature osteoporosis)
  • kidneys
  • lungs
  • liver

According to the results of some medical studies, even after three years abstinence from meth, dopamine neurons are still damaged. It is not yet known if this damage is permanent or can be reversed, but research studies show that brain changes caused by meth use are long lasting.

Meth long term effects questions

Still have questions about how meth is affecting you or a loved one? If you have questions or would like to share your insights into this subject, please feel free to leave your comments below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: BNL: Researchers Document Brain Damage, Reduction in Motor and Cognitive Function from Methamphetamine Abuse
COURTINFO: Short and Long Term Effects
NIH: What are the risks of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy?
NDHEATH: Methamphetamine Use During Pregnancy
NIH: What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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