By We Level Up NJ Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: November 14, 2022
What Are The Faces Of Meth Addiction?
More often than not, we have the misconception that substance abuse or drug addiction is the cause of a lack of morals or firm resolution. However, drug addiction is much more complicated because it is a chronic disease.
Drug addiction rewires brain functions and pushes individuals to continuously crave and use drugs despite the adverse effects on someone’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
Meth stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain in charge of the body’s reward system. It’s known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it makes a person feel pleasure and satisfaction.
Normally, the brain’s reward system motivates a person to do healthy tasks that benefit the body. But when someone starts to use meth and triggers the surge of dopamine, the brain rewards the act of using the drug. Consistent use of crystal meth eventually changes the brain’s decision-making centers and destroys brain functions until a person depends on the drug.
A meth addiction follows after this dependency, and the person’s body will constantly crave more and more of the drug to feel the euphoria they first thought when they used it.
23 Meth symptoms and side effects on the skin & Signs of meth addiction may include:
- Decreased appetite (crystal meth affects serotonin levels in the brain, which are responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and memory)
- Increased wakefulness and obsessive physical activity
- Psychosis/psychotic episodes
- Increased sensitivity to noise
- Nervous activity, like scratching or picking at the skin
- Irritability, dizziness, or confusion
- Tremors or convulsions
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of stroke; irregular heartbeat
- Mood swings or outbursts, including aggression and violent behavior
- Risk of HIV/AIDS
- Hyperthermia (overheating of the body)
- Dry mouth
- “Meth mouth” (broken, decayed, stained teeth)
- Incessant itching
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid eye movement
- Small wounds from the injection site (“speed bumps”)
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, and its other forms, such as crystal meth and methamphetamine tablets, are the most widely used synthetic drug globally, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) . Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, crystal meth abuse has devastating effects. It can cause lung disorders, kidney damage, hyperthermia, stroke, and cardiac arrest. In addition, methamphetamine physically alters one’s facial appearance through physical and psychological side effects.
Meth gives the user a rush of energy and intense feelings of pleasure. It is made from a mixture of household products and agricultural chemicals with pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, a decongestant found in over-the-counter cold remedies like Sudafed. Meth is popular and very addictive because of the euphoric meth effects it gives its users. However, it’s illicit because its continuous consumption has been proven to alter and destroy brain functions, resulting in a stroke, psychosis, or even death.
What Are The Faces Of Meth?
Meth face is the name for the decline in physical appearance in the face of many meth addicts, especially those with a long history of abuse. A person’s face on meth usually includes dental problems, skin issues, meth sores in the mouth, false aging, and an overall deterioration of the face.
The adverse effects of meth on a meth addict’s face typically get worse with heavier and more frequent use. When meth use stops, many of these effects can be reversed, but these changes often take time, effort, and professional help.
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Methamphetamine Fact Sheet
Methamphetamine is also known as Meth and Desoxyn
It can handle ADHD. It can aid in the weight loss of obese patients.
Methamphetamine Controlled Substance
Can lead to heart failure, delirium, panic attacks, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and psychosis.
Methamphetamine & Pregnancy
Consult a physician.
Methamphetamine & Alcohol
Avoid. There may be very serious interactions.
Meth Addiction Statistics
Meth usage over an extended period of time can seriously harm the brain, dopamine-producing cells, and serotonin-containing nerve cells. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cautions that exposure to meth over a long period of time can harm up to half of the brain’s dopamine-producing cells and possibly even more serotonin-containing nerve cells.
In 2020, 0.9%, or around 2.6 million people, reported taking methamphetamine in the previous 12 months.
Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse
In 2021, it is projected that 0.2% of eighth-graders, 0.2% of tenth-graders, and 0.2% of twelfth-graders used methamphetamine in the previous year.
Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse
A methamphetamine use problem in the previous 12 months affected a projected 0.6% (or 1.5 million) of individuals aged 12 or older in 2020.
Source: National Institute On Drug Abuse
Physical Signs of Long-term Meth Use
Indicators of meth use on the body include:
- Dilated eyes
- Unexpected weight reduction
- Skin ulcers
- Rapid eye movement
- Dental decay
- Rashes or scratchy skin
Faces of Meth and Mouth Sores
What causes meth sores? Many people addicted to meth may choose to dissolve the drug in water to inject it. This is especially common with advanced meth users. As meth becomes water-soluble, it escapes the body through our pores like sweat.
What are meth sores on the skin? The pores on the face tend to sweat and excrete oil the most, therefore developing meth mouth sores. In addition, this meth-laden sweat irritates the skin, which results in meth sores on the face.
Skin picking is also common among many individuals who are struggling with meth addiction, this can lead to open wounds on the face that become infected. Leading to large, open injuries that can take weeks to heal.
What do meth sores look like? Sores on the face from meth are also common among crystal meth users who smoke the drug through a pipe. As the pipe heats up, it can burn the skin around the mouth and the lips, resulting in meth blisters that develop into open wounds.
Does meth make you itchy? People who use meth usually develop skin problems for several different reasons. Meth can cause severe itching that makes people rub their skin raw. It can also make a person hallucinate and scratch imaginary bugs. Meth users often develop unhealthy skin after eating a poor diet and neglecting their hygiene.
Faces of Meth and Meth Mouth
Meth mouth is a term used to describe the visible effects of oral disease in a person who uses meth because of the widespread tooth decay that often happens with the drug’s use. People who use meth may have blackened, stained, broken, or rotting teeth, both due to side effects of meth itself and related lifestyle factors. The typical decay pattern involves the maxillary and mandibular teeth’ facial and cervical areas with eventual progression to direct coronal involvement .
Eventually, the best treatment for someone struggling with oral disease caused by meth use, such as meth mouth, is to treat the addiction. In addition, treating meth addiction is usually a long, continuous process requiring medical detox and ongoing social support and therapy to recover and prevent a relapse entirely.
Faces of Meth – Meth Sores on the Mouth
The mouth is a common location for meth users to develop sores. There are a variety of reasons that contribute to the development of meth face sores.
First, regular meth use will severely damage your gums and teeth, creating the need for artificial replacements. Saliva production is cut short by meth use which leads to a drier mouth. Without the saliva to act as a protective shield, natural acids in your mouth will begin to eat into your teeth and gums, breaking them down and rotting them away.
The repeated use of meth use can also affect the appetite. Someone using these drugs might develop a poor or decreased appetite but still crave sugary foods or drinks. Drinking lots of sugary drinks in combination with reduced saliva production only increases the breakdown of teeth and gums.
As we mentioned earlier, people who often use meth might not have the best personal hygiene practices. A lack of good dental hygiene, alongside tooth and gum decay, allows sores to form in the mouth.
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Health Effects of Meth Sores
There are many faces of meth health effects that can occur. The high risk of infection is even more dangerous than the cosmetic effects of meth. Meth users are more at risk for meth skin infections because of poor hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, and weakened immune systems.
Face sores from meth can lead to the following dangerous infections:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are more likely to occur in people who use meth than in non-drug users.
The infection starts as painful red bumps that become abscessed and require medical care to be drained.
Abscesses are pus-filled sores caused by a bacterial infection. They usually appear red, raised, and painful to touch. Abscesses can be treated with antibiotics and by draining the infected area.
Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that appears red and swollen. Untreated meth facial sores can develop into cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis is common but can cause dangerous health complications if left untreated.
Meth Skin Infections
If someone injects meth, they risk contracting necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria). Other infections may also be contracted at the injection site, especially if the area is not cleaned correctly.
People who inject meth are at risk for developing MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA can be deadly if not properly treated. People who inject drugs are much more likely to encounter a serious staph infection like MRSA.
Does Meth Cause Acne?
The most common effect of meth on the skin is acne lesions. Since acne can be easily noticed and obvious, it’s no wonder why many people have been linking meth to acne breakouts.
Meth is dehydrating your system.
People who use meth, especially those who binge on the substance, don’t feel the need to drink as much water as people who don’t take meth. This is why their skin tends to get dehydrated. Furthermore, a person who uses meth also has a higher body temperature. This means they sweat more than they normally do, making them even more dehydrated.
When our skin gets so dry, it will do its best attempt at stopping more loss of fluid by shrinking the size of the pores. The smaller your pores get, the easier it gets clogged and irritated. Imagine all the dirt, sweat, and oil getting trapped in your pores.
Your body won’t receive the required nourishment.
A person who is using meth will have a weak appetite. You won’t feel the urge to eat, and you won’t even feel the desire to eat your favorite meals. Some meth users even claim to go days without consuming any food that contains nutrients.
Meth will damage your ability to heal.
Most meth users are undernourished; therefore, the immune system will also be badly affected. As a result, the will body will now have a poor capability of identifying harmful microorganisms and will have a hard time defending your system against infection.
Meth users frequently develop the habit of skin plucking.
The sensation of insects crawling under one’s skin is one of the prevalent experiences shared by meth addicts. This explains why they frequently and severely itch their skin. Some people even pick at their skin compulsively until it develops acne-like sores. Naturally, the acne that already exists will worsen. Acne will eventually become black and leave behind deep, raised scars.
You are not getting the right amount of sleep.
We are all aware of how powerful meth’s effects can be and how they frequently cause users to stay awake for several days. However, if our body doesn’t get the rest it requires, it will experience stress because there won’t be enough time to recover or relax. Your body’s inflammatory reaction will unquestionably be activated, releasing many stress hormones, including cortisol.
Methamphetamine and Faces of Crystal Meth Premature Aging
Abusing meth frequently causes people to age beyond their years. People may look haggard as their skin becomes leathery and takes on a grey cast. As an individual’s skin loses its elasticity, they may have more wrinkles than a person typically should at their age.
What does meth do to your face? Meth has also been linked to the development of certain aging-related diseases, including coronary artery atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and liver steatosis (fatty liver disease). Recent research has found that meth can cause cellular aging and inflammation, factors that may contribute to these problems.
Meth Mites and Crank Bugs
What are meth mites? Meth can cause tactile hallucinations, which are when a person feels something that doesn’t exist. Long-term meth abuse may make a person feel as if they have insects crawling on or burrowing beneath their skin. Referred to as “crank bugs” or “meth mites,” the scientific term for this is formication. The sensation is most commonly experienced on the face of meth addicts.
People pick at the skin to relieve the sensation or eliminate the perceived bugs. This skin picking can become an obsessive behavior and render the skin scaly, dry, irritated, and covered in sores. The more someone picks at sores, the longer it will take to heal, and there is an increased risk of infection.
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How Does Methamphetamine Affect Your Health?
Methamphetamine affects your brain. Methamphetamine causes changes in the brain circuits that control reward, stress, decision-making, and impulse control, making it more and more difficult to stop using even when it negatively affects your life and health. Frequent use also can lead to tolerance and withdrawal, so you need more of the drug to feel normal. Additional effects of using methamphetamine can include anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, paranoid or delusional thinking, and serious psychological issues.
Methamphetamine affects your body. Methamphetamine use increases heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of stroke. Other negative consequences of long-term methamphetamine use are extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, and skin sores caused by scratching. Methamphetamine use affects the levels of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It affects, among other things, movement, motivation, emotions, and feelings of pleasure. Because meth causes a flood of dopamine to the brain, the natural supply gets depleted. Thus, activities that would increase pleasure may no longer do so. This can lead to depression.
Methamphetamine affects your self-control. Methamphetamine can cause aggression, violent behavior, and loss of contact with reality.
Methamphetamine affects more than the user. Methamphetamine use impacts the user’s family and friends. Children found in meth labs may experience emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. The chemicals used to produce meth can cause fires and explosions, produce toxic vapors, and damage the environment.
Meth paraphernalia and other signs of use include:
- Water pipes
- Burned spoons
- Aluminum foil
- Rolled-up paper slips
- Needles, syringes, shoelaces, rubber tubing (used as a tourniquet if shooting up)
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When a person who abuses meth on a regular basis stops taking the drug or significantly decreases their dose, they may develop the following signs and symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal:
- Intense cravings
Many people turn back to meth and continue to take the drug to avoid these feelings.
One of the greatest physical dangers of abuse is a meth overdose. While a person can overdose the first time they take the drug, people who have used meth for long periods of time also face this risk .
A meth overdose occurs when the drug reaches toxic levels that the body can’t eliminate fast enough.
Signs and symptoms of an overdose include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing
A severe methamphetamine overdose can be fatal and cause a heart attack, hyperthermia, organ problems, seizures, or stroke. For these reasons, a methamphetamine overdose can be a medical emergency.
Popular Faces Of Meth FAQs
What Does The Face Of A Meth User Look Like?
If you are wondering, “what do faces of meth users look like?”, the answer is that face pores produce the greatest sweat and oil, leading to the development of meth mouth sores. Additionally, the irritation caused by this meth-contaminated sweat causes ulcers on the face.
What Are The Effects Of Meth On Face?
If you are wondering, “what are the effects of meth on the face?”, the answer is meth addiction typically results in premature aging. People could appear sallow when their skin turns leathery and develops a grey cast. An individual may have more wrinkles than they should at their age as their skin begins to lose its flexibility.
Talk to one of our team members today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you recover from the faces of meth addicts. Our team at We Level Up NJ specializes in creating an ideal environment and providing effective therapies to help individuals who struggle with crystal meth abuse. We will develop a personalized treatment plan and lead you to recovery. Get started today!
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Search We Level Up NJ Faces Of Meth & Resources
 UNDOC – https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Global_Smart_Update_20_web.pdf
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706185/
 NCBI – https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/meth-mouth-some-ugly-numbers
 NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Methamphetamine. Retrieved on 17th June 2019 from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/meth.pdf#search=methamphetamine
Foundation for a Drug-Free World. (2019). Crystal Meth: A Worldwide Epidemic of Addiction. Retrieved on 17th June 2019 from https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth/a-worldwide-epidemic-of-addiction.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine. Retrieved on 17th June 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45: Detoxification and substance abuse treatment.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Know the risks of meth.