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Article Summary

Meth - Long-Term Health Effects

Meth, short for the drug name methamphetamine, is a form of the drug amphetamine. The use of meth can have a number of long term health effects. It can cause both physical and psychological effects in the long term. In many cases, these effects get worse over time with continued use and can be irreversible. Long term health effects of chronic meth use include effects on dental hygiene, the skin, the immune system, the brain, heart, lungs and liver.

Tooth decay

Long term meth use can lead to serious tooth decay. Meth causes staining of the tooth enamel when it is smoked, but it is the secondary need for sugar that it stimulates that is the main cause of tooth decay. Meth users tend to consume large amounts of sugary soft drinks when they are under the influence, and don't always maintain proper dental hygiene while using meth, particularly over time. Long term meth users typically have extreme tooth decay. Over time, all teeth may become affected.


Methamphetamines can cause scarring on the skin due to the long term effects of the drug.Meth use can cause the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin. This feeling can occur anywhere in the body, but it is especially felt intensely on the arms and face of the user. This causes them to pick at their skin, causing injury to themselves. The scabs that result are not able to heal properly, partly due to the effects of the drug, and scarring commonly occurs. Additionally, meth use can interfere with hormone levels in the body, resulting in an increase in acne, which can leave scars as well.

Weakened immune system

Another long term effect of meth use is that it can impair the body's immune system. The breaks can have the effect of breaking down the body's natural defenses and decreasing its ability to fight infections. By weakening the immune system, individuals become more susceptible to illness.

Brain changes and psychological effects

It is believed that long term use of meth can result in serious damage to the brain and psychological health effects. There is evidence that the 'pleasure' center in the brain starts to undergo degeneration with long term use of the drug. Serotonin and dopamine are chemicals in the brain that are stimulated by meth in high amounts and have the effect of causing pleasure. Over time with chronic use, receptors for dopamine become damaged. This results in the user ingesting more of the drug to experience the same high. Eventually, it reaches a stage when the user may not be able to experience any pleasure when the receptors are completely destroyed. Brain chemicals become depleted well below normal levels as a result, and this affects mood, thinking, motivation and emotional well being. There is also a long term risk of meth induced psychosis, with symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

Cardiovascular and heart effects

Long term meth use can also render damage to internal organs of the body, especially the heart and the liver. Meth use puts the heart under constant strain when the drug is in its system. It causes an increase in heart rate and body temperature, and the rapid increase in heart rate can potentially cause a sudden heart attack or stroke. The constant increase in heart rate and body temperature can also cause blood pressure to rise as well. Chronic use of meth may eventually cause the heart to fail under the strain.

Lung and liver damage

Meth use can also have long term effects on the lungs and liver. If the drug is smoked, it can cause serious damage to the lungs. The level of damage to the lungs caused by smoking meth is more severe than the lung damage caused by smoking cigarettes. Meth may also affect the liver and cause liver disease because the liver cannot properly process the toxins of this drug. Over time, it may become hardened and diseased.

As can be seen, there are many long term health effects of methamphetamine use. These effects may worsen over time with chronic use. The experience of these effects varies amongst meth users, and depends on many factors, including the length of use, the amount used and individual factors.

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