Faces of Meth

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine or 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) [1]. 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 the physical and psychological side effects[2]. 

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 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. 

Faces of Meth
Continuous meth use will eventually change the appearance of a person’s face because of its long-term health effects. Faces of meth refer to decline & negative health consequences & facial appearances such as induced skin issues leading to facial fat and muscle loss.

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 than that because it is a chronic disease.

Drug addiction rewires brain functions and pushes individuals to continuously crave and use drugs despite the visible 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 that is 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 starts to change 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 begin to constantly crave more and more of the drug to feel the euphoria they first thought during the first time they used it.

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 who have a prolonged history of abuse. Meth face usually includes dental problems, skin issues, sores, false aging, and an overall deterioration of the face.

The adverse effects of meth on the 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.

Faces of Meth and Mouth 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. This means that as meth becomes water-soluble, it escapes the body through our pores like sweat. 

The pores on the face tend to sweat and excrete oil the most, therefore developing meth sores on the face and around the mouth. In addition, this meth-laden sweat irritates the skin, which results in meth sores. 

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 wounds that can take weeks to heal. 

Mouth sores 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 blisters that develop into open wounds. 

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 frank coronal involvement [3].

Eventually, the best course of 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 fully.

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 sores.

First, regular meth use will damage your gums and teeth to an extreme state 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.

Health Effects of Meth Sores

Even more dangerous than the cosmetic effects of meth is the high risk of infection. Meth users are more at risk for infection because of poor hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, and weakened immune system. 

Meth sores can lead to the following dangerous infections:

MRSA

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. 

Faces of Meth
When meth is used for long periods, the faces of meth tend to appear more aged or even deteriorated as a result.

Abscesses

Abscesses are pus-filled sores caused by a bacterial infection. They usually appear red, raised, and are painful to touch. Abscesses can be treated with antibiotics and by draining the infected area.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that appears red and swollen. Untreated meth sores can develop into cellulitis, which is a bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis is common but can cause dangerous health complications if left untreated.  

Methamphetamine and Faces of Meth Premature Aging

Abusing meth frequently causes people to age beyond their years. A person 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.

Meth has also been linked to the development of certain diseases that are associated with aging, 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

Meth can cause tactile hallucinations, which is 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 and neck.

In an effort to relieve the sensation or get rid of the perceived bugs, people will pick at the skin. This skin picking can become an obsessive behavior and render the skin scaly, dry, irritated, and covered in sores. The more someone continues to pick at sores, the longer it will take to heal, and there is an increased risk of infection.

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 is having negative effects on 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.

Symptoms, side effects, and signs of meth addiction may include:

  • Decreased appetite (crystal meth affects serotonin levels in the brain, responsible for regulating mood, appetite and memory)
  • Increased wakefulness and obsessive physical activity
  • Psychosis/psychotic episodes
  • Euphoria
  • Increased sensitivity to noise
  • Nervous activity, like scratching or picking at the skin
  • Irritability, dizziness or confusion
  • Depression
  • Tremors or convulsions
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • 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
  • Twitching
  • Small wounds from the injection site (“speed bumps”)

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)

Methamphetamine Withdrawal

When a person who abuses meth on a chronic basis stops taking the drug or significantly decreases their dose they may develop the following signs and symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Intense cravings

Many people turn back to meth and continue to take the drug as a way of avoiding these feelings.

Methamphetamine Overdose

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 [4].

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
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Panic
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Tremor

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.

Find the Right Treatment Plan at We Level Up NJ

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 as a result of crystal meth addiction. 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!

faces of meth
Faces of meth can be distressing but treatable. Treatment and rehabilitation from meth addiction do not happen successfully overnight, but it is one of many steps towards permanent recovery.

Sources

[1] UNDOC – https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Global_Smart_Update_20_web.pdf

[2] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706185/

[3] NCBI – https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/meth-mouth-some-ugly-numbers

[4] NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

[5] We Level UpMeth Addiction Treatment