Crystal meth, or simply meth, is a highly addictive neurotoxic drug made from amphetamine, which is a synthetic substance. This drug has a potent effect on the brain and central nervous system. The drug has several names on the street, including crank, ice, crystal, chalk, speed, and glass, among others. Crystal meth is unique in that it produces a “high” of up to 12 hours, which is stronger and longer lasting than cocaine.
Meth users experience mental stimulation that enables them to go without sleep for days. Chronic abuse of this drug can lead to psychotic behaviors, including anxiety, insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, and delusions. More than a fifth of users develop a prolonged psychosis resembling schizophrenia which can last for six months or longer upon quitting the drug. The overwhelming majority of methamphetamine in the United States is manufactured in super labs in California and Mexico. There are an estimated 50 million people worldwide who abuse this drug.
Addiction to methamphetamine leads to serious consequences. Users are often referred to by derogatory terms such as meth head and speed freak. The most common effects of people abusing this drug are meth sores and mites.
Meth Face Sores and Other Effects
There are an estimated 1.4 million Americans who are addicted to methamphetamine. It is widely believed that this addiction is a national epidemic. It erodes the mental and physical well-being of the addict and affects finances and relationships. Parents who are addicted to this drug are more likely to physically and sexually abuse their children or expose them to toxic chemicals by cooking meth at home. No one is immune to the dangerous side effects of long-term drug abuse. Methamphetamine abuse ranks amongst the top in the list of negative effects. The devastating effects of methamphetamine abuse that are all too apparent in many addicts include meth bugs, meth scabs, meth mouth, and meth tongue.
Methamphetamine causes the release of large amounts of a neurotransmitter in the human brain known as dopamine. In fact, studies have shown that methamphetamine causes almost four times the amount of dopamine to be released than cocaine. This chemical is responsible for feelings of euphoria and pleasure. However, repeated use of the drug destroys dopamine receptors. Excessive exposure over a prolonged period of time leads to anhedonia, where meth people can no longer experience pleasure. This leads to addiction, which is associated with permanent brain damage and altered motor skills.
The Faces of Meth: Mites and Sores
Meth mites refer to the hallucinations experienced by chronic users in which they feel as though there are bugs crawling under their skin. Some users report actually seeing the mites. Meth mites are not real, but rather a side effect of the chemicals present in methamphetamines that cause the addict’s skin to dry out. The dry skin leads to a delusional parasitosis which is a psychological effect of chronic methamphetamine abuse.
The official terminology for the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin is fornication. The obsessive picking of the skin as a result of the hallucinations often causes the user’s skin to become covered in small sores known as meth sores. These skin lesions are not contagious like shingles or chickenpox. Addicts experience constant itching and scratching and tend to use their fingernails and even sharp instruments to pick at the mites.
Not all addicts experience this side effect and there is no specific timeframe when this effect occurs. Some users experience it when they first use the drug while others do not. Meth mites can be experienced anywhere on the body but most commonly occur on the face, chest, and upper arms. The skin lesions start off looking like small pimples and go on to become dry and turn into small red spots. When the addict picks and scratches them, they become sores which are prone to infection.
The terrible thing about meth skin effects is how rapidly the sores form and spread. They almost invariably become clearly visible on the skin of people who are abusing this drug. The Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office in Oregon has published photos of meth addicts to show the disturbing appearance of a meth face. This was done in partnership with the Faces of Meth program to show the effects of methamphetamine use. The idea was that the before and after photos would serve as a deterrent to people who are using the drug or thinking about using the drug.
Meth Scars: Effects on an Addict’s Skin
Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that alters the addict’s facial appearance through both physical and psychological effects. Therefore, users of this drug have to fight its effects on two fronts. Even small doses of methamphetamine can result in widespread acne due to the drying effect of the drug on the skin. The psychological effects of the drug include hallucinations with a sensation of crank bugs crawling under the skin. This inevitably leads to incessant itching and scratching.
Drug abuse invariably weakens the addict’s immune system. The skin tends to become pale due to the physical stress and frequent illnesses as a result of the weak immune system. The effects of methamphetamine on the skin are even more apparent when the drug is smoked. Smoking the drug causes the skin to wrinkle and become rough in texture.
Methamphetamine also causes or worsens acne due to dehydration and oil imbalance. The skin is irritable, dry, and pimple prone. Addicts often obsessively pick at pimples, sometimes creating large wounds. Poor personal hygiene, lack of sufficient water intake, and going without sleep for long periods of time all contribute to irritating the skin and clogging pores, which exacerbates acne.
The drug causes excessive sweating which leads to dehydration and reduction in the natural skin oils. This severe dehydration is responsible for the sensation of meth mites. Chronic addicts have meth mouth, i.e., the teeth are affected, and sores on the skin of the face and arms. Some of these sores become infected and swollen open wounds that bleed and become filled with pus. If sores progress to abscesses, they require medical therapy to heal. Because of the addict’s poor immunity and reduced blood flow, healing is slow. Scars may form on the skin at the site of previous sores. Meth scars are more apparent in addicts with and undernourished skin and poor overall health.
Methamphetamine has been found to suppress appetite, which leads to a chronic malnourishment of the skin. Eventually, the muscle tissue and facial fat disappear, and this is responsible for the characteristic gaunt and skeletal meth face appearance of addicts.
Treatments and Cure for Meth Mites and Sores
The more addicts become engrossed in their addiction, the less likely they are to care for their body or observe personal hygiene. As a result, it is very common to find users neglecting routine bathing, brushing their teeth, or eating a nutritious diet. By the time many addicts realize the destruction the drug is causing to their body, it is often too late to heal and return to normal health. Invariably, some permanent damage occurs.
The only cure for mites, sores, and other negative effects of methamphetamine use is quitting the drug altogether. Overcoming this addiction requires a complete physical and mental transformation. Because of the immense damage, it causes to the body, complete healing is not always possible. Treatment for methamphetamine addiction requires a physical detox. Once the addict’s body is rid of methamphetamine, a return to healthy habits is essential to allow the skin and body to heal.
Methamphetamine addiction is not a hopeless situation. The rate of relapse is unfortunately high, but recovery is possible with behavior therapy and medical treatment. During the crystal meth detox, the dopamine receptors in the addict’s brain grow back, but until this process is complete, it is not unusual for the recovering addict to experience profound depression. This depression must be treated with psychological therapy and prescription drugs to prevent relapse.
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