Methamphetamine, or meth, is a drug that falls in the stimulant category of substances, much like cocaine. It causes racing thoughts, hyperactivity, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and feeling no need for sleep among other things. It also comes with a lot of other side-effects that are more physical, some very obvious, that are disfiguring and debilitating. And some of those are permanent.
One of the obvious side effects of meth usage is often termed, “meth mouth.” This from the rotting, blackening and falling apart of the teeth of longer-term meth users. This comes from both the acidic nature of methamphetamines, the dry mouth and lack of saliva to clean the teeth that comes with use, and the general lack of self-care, awareness, and hygiene of meth users. Over half of meth users surveyed had rotting teeth, and a third had one or more missing teeth from rot. Once the teeth are rotting, removal is likely the only option left, and once the teeth are gone, dentures are the only choice left for the user.
Another meth side effect that comes from dehydration is skin lesions and sores that come from “meth mites.” The term comes from the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin that long-term users get. This is both from the dehydration, and the neurological damage being done to the body. What happens often is that the user will begin scratching and picking at the skin, cause open sores, and inviting infection and necrosis into the body. The sores and lesions scar over if given a chance to heal, but as anyone with scars knows, they are always visible. For meth users, the permanency is worse, as one of the most impacted parts of the body is the face, the first thing people look.
Long-term meth use also damages the brain, causing many conditions and problems that were never there prior, and sadly these are all permanent. Paranoia is one of the more common side effects that will last after the using stops. The person will become mistrustful initially of strangers and strange places, but it will blossom into not believing friends and family, not leaving the home to go anywhere, and eventually believing outlandish delusions about being spied upon, monitored, or even controlled by mysterious outside forces.
Brain damage also comes with cognitive difficulties that were never there before. A person who used meth chronically will have difficulty remembering, focusing, or thinking through problems. Cognitive capacities will be very limited, and overall IQ will be lowered and damaged in likely ways science has not yet even grasped yet. Some memories and abilities will never recover. While neuroscience is learning more about ways to work around brain damage, the damage itself cannot be reversed, only worked around.
Methamphetamines are both very addictive, and very dangerous. They present the option of an impossible amount of energy and exuberance, but the cost is very high. What is given up to chronic meth use side-effects, is mostly permanent, obvious and on display for the world, and life-altering, if not deadly.