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Understanding Methamphetamine Side Effects

There are both short- and long-term effects of regular methamphetamine use and abuse. When it’s smoked, snorted or injected, users experience an immediate increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature as well as an instant sense of euphoria and general well-being. A sudden burst of physical activity is common, along with increased talkativeness, and users may reach a state of hyperexcitability. Also, to be expected in the short term is a loss of appetite, the inability to sleep, nausea, panic and—with regular use—bizarre, erratic and sometimes violent behavior and hallucinations. Convulsions and seizures can occur in even the occasional user given the unpredictable strength of a certain batch of the drug.

The body can certainly recover from the short-term effects of methamphetamine if the user stops taking it. The long-term effects, however, can be much more destructive both physically and psychologically. Methamphetamine causes permanent damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain leading to heart attacks, strokes and death. It also has serious debilitating effects on the liver, kidney and lungs, and destroys nasal tissue when snorted.

If snorted, respiratory and breathing problems are common, as are exposure to infectious diseases and abscesses if it’s injected directly into the bloodstream. And recent studies have identified a direct link between regular methamphetamine use and brain damage that mimics Alzheimer’s disease as well as the symptoms epilepsy. Tooth decay, which occurs when frequent users constantly grind and gnash their teeth, is also to be expected.

Methamphetamine overdose is most common when the drug is injected. Overdose symptoms—which can quickly turn fatal—include confusion and restlessness; aggressive or paranoid behavior; profuse sweating; spots in one’s field of vision; high fever; loss of muscle control; severe stomach and chest pain; arrhythmia of the heart; and convulsions. When a user is experiencing any combination of these symptoms, convulsions are likely and, if medical attention isn’t given immediately there is the possibility of slipping into a coma.

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy is a topic still being investigated by researchers and physicians, but direct links have already been established between the drug’s use and fetal development. Premature deliveries by women who used methamphetamine while pregnant are being widely reported, as are placental abruptions (a separation of the placental lining from the uterus), small birth weights and sizes, lethargy in newborns and heart and brain abnormalities. Additionally, as children of methamphetamine-addicted women develop they are more likely to have neurobehavioral problems such as decreased arousal and increased stress patterns as well as attention deficit disorders.