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The Horrors Of Methamphetamine: What Do Methheads Suffer?

Meth sores

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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.

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Table of Contents

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

Screaming woman with hallucinations and psychosis
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

Girl with problematic skin and scars from acne 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.

Find the Help

If someone is addicted to methamphetamines or other illicit substances, call our free helpline (888)-459-5511 for more information on treatment options. Advisors are available to answer the questions, give more information about the effects of methamphetamine, and guide on the path to recovery. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Isaak Stotts

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


Leave a comment

  • Brad
    Me and my wife on meth with is alot more o. It .she git meth bumps and sores all over her I been slacking off if it. But she want listen to me she already stilling my things to get high I don’t want to leave her hiw can I get help
    • Jesus
      Oh Lord… Pray to God. He heals all.
    • Sandie
      Brad. There is a place called Teen Challenge…, it is a faithbased rehab and they take all Ages as the disease affects all ages …, you can get the number on line …, talk with a counselor , you stay as long as you need .., I have seen some really high rates of success in this program ………, I know it’s scary yogi e up your “freedom”””, but Brad you and your wife are not really free now …, are you:( what is this time to heal and learn your triggers and how to enter into the Lord for strength to resist and overcome…., let your body rest your mind rest …, so at least you can make decisions in your right mind…, me Cj hope and prayers for you and yours Brad
  • Heather N
    I’m addicted to meth and I want to stop but it’s almost impossible for myself to do so… Never made it past evening 4 without a relapse… My body physically and mentally can’t handle it anymore… Attitude and anger set in…. I’m not a mean person, I don’t believe on putting your hands on another human being with any type of negative attitude but by evening 4 anyone is target for any reason in the world… Basically whoever rubs me wrong at that moment… But as soon as I take a hit or shot I’m content…. Well my body feels normal again…. With the fact that I just want to be done with it all… I’m upset and angry within myself bc I had made it to day four and over one hit I gotta start that process all over again… And day/night 2:is by far my hardest to survive threw workout
    • Emese Oseni
      Oh my goodness Heather. I hope you will be brave enough to get the help you need. I will pray for you. I’m so lucky that none of my grandchildren has tried it. Thus far we’re lucky that none of them have tried it. I wish you tremendous luck with recovery. Make sure you stick with it.
    • Melo
      I truley hope you are have or are making progress to becoming & remaining sober. It is your body telling you because youve become imune to it but it is also your mentality. You really have to want to stop and commit to it and pish yourself even if it hurts. Ive seen it get ugly but the outcome is beautiful. May God bless you
    • Rachel
      Heather, I will be praying for you. My hope is that you are somewhere safe now and on your way to a healthier lifestyle. You are loved. And if not by anyone in your circle, I love you. I love you because you exist and that is all that is needed to get started. Existing.
    • Nichole L Kesteloot
      Ur strong this message states ur strength remove ur self and be blessed im not a god person and my disability has the same effects as if i where to smoke or snort meth im super speddy constantly talking extremely fast i can sit still most of the time i get irrate and depressed i go threw times where i chopp my hair off die it or make my eye brows to small aka “geting stuck” or “tweeking ” as referred to when useing this drug my dophine pushes out twice what my body should i have hallucinations and memory issues if i had a chance as u are giving ur self with this statement to be cured id take it my child is five and im perfect around her my focus comes back allso i found that working keeps me busy
      • Monique
        Omgosh I could have written this about myself
      • Monique
        What have you been diagnosed with?
  • Lester H. P.
    Hi, is Lester, an I’m an addict and a alcoholic. I’m not gonna lie to u and say it’s easy, or that I did it. Also not gonna b.s. u and say anybody and everybody can do it. But most of the people that have done this, overcome their addiction have sought help. First, it’s important to know this simple truth, once an addict, always an addict. Which means there’s no cure. It is a disease. Where we stop, is the point where we pick up again. But you guys have it, in you to do so. Stop using. If you want to do it alone, more power to you. But some of u have it right. Substition is something to think about, but not with another drug screen and use another activity. And choose different places to relax, instead of kicking with the usual croud, go to a library, church, the beach. Life’s is beautiful and so are you. Stop killing yourself and your spirit within. Remember, you didn’t need to get high to enjoy life. Everyone of us have baggage, it’s a process in life, it’s out our mistakes that we grow. But also, sometimes we have to just let go. I been dwelling over stuff I have no human abiliry to change for 24 years. More that’s half my life is gone. Don’t u do the same. Time is nort on our side. It waits for nothing or nobody. Start by admitting that theirs a problem and seek help, immediately….GOD BLESs and best of luck, YOU CAN DO THiS, COME ON, YOU DESERVE TO BE HAPPY AND FREE FROM ADDICTION.
    • Alex
      Thank you
    • Emese Oseni
      I love this reply from you Lester. Keep encouraging everyone. Great job in representing yourself and you’re absolutely right, once a drug addict always a drug addict. Once in recovery, you can say “I’m a recovering drug addict”. Good luck to you too my dear.
    • Alex
      I think that was very beautiful what you wrote. I never was addicted to meth but started doing it maybe once a week for about 5 months. I started to hallucinate and litterally see things that weren’t real!! It was insane and terrifying! But I didn’t change crowds yet which made it very difficult to not shoot up a hit every now and then… in any case I have been sober from it for about 2 months now and the skin thing is still HORRIBLE! It’s taking forever to heal! The drug is seriously dangerous and I hope everyone can find the strength to quit… I did use weed to help me sleep and I don’t like preaching “switch to another mild drug” but honestly, it helped me, I stoped smoking after 3 weeks, insomnia isn’t as bad now. I kicking meth is NOTHING like kicking alcohol or heroin. So I know they can do it. Anyways, thank you for you uplifting post and please pray for my ongoing rollercoaster recovery!
      • Julie J
        Is kicking meth harder than kicking alcohol & heroin? Sorry to ask, but I am trying to understand. I have a loved one on meth. Thanks
  • Ashley
    Yeah. I’m from Ontario , I’m 27 years old and have been using IV drugs since I was sixteen Including Crystal meth. I’m currently in the ER being treated for a skin infection which is how I came to find this page. I never planned on this being the way things went. People like me are just normal people who ,however it came to be,, tried meth one day not realizing what effect it was going to have what role it was then going To play in their lives . Being a tweaker is a pretty harsh confised dehumanizing affair. It just Grabs on and continues to lash out at your life everything and everyone you love whille you corrode from the inside out, wasting away mind body and spirit. Sometimes when I’m not doing great I’m a scabby skinny dead eyed raving flailing manic zombie and other times when I’m straight i volunteer at a community centre, have dreams and aspirations make plans to reconnect with estranged family including my son I’m hard working genuine kind outgoing and I’m actually a nice half decent bloke. Then back, and forth. It’s like meth is playing tug of war with my life ripping me and it slowly in half ah heck what a trip this s**t turned out to be
  • Emese Oseni
    It’s not a pathetic rant. Where are you located? Are you in the US or Canada? The rehabs are full are you’re right they are not 100%. I am a retired Banker and have 8 grandchildren and just logged on this site to see how the young people are suffering so I can tell my grandchildren (ranging in ages 9 to 23) that this or any other drug should never be used because it’s hard to get off. I wish you tremendous luck in getting help with this.
  • Greg S.
    I was a daily user for over 6 years. I turned to meth after me and wife split up and she took my children and was keeping them from me. So in doing meth to cope with it I only pushed my chances of children being away even further which in turn made me wanna do more meth… and so on.. but I finally got to a point where I was feed up with the lifestyle the hassles of getting it and hiding my addiction. So I tried for the past year to stop completely on my own. I’ve learned a lot about how to stop in this past year. You have to stop using meth to escape your emotions it will never fix anything. Nut up or shut up. Face your problems and push threw them.. meth is a very mentally controlling drug. Mood swings depression f**k it attitude back and forth. With saying that every time I got the urge to make those emotions disappear with a couple hits or just I line or 2. I’d think to myself Mind over matter if I don’t mind it don’t matter.. and push throw. Set goals and slowly bring your consumption of the drug down each day. I was using almost 7grams a week and not sharing it. And it took me awhile but over time I went from 7grams to none in a week. It wasn’t easy. I can honestly say it was easier to go from using none to using 7grams but yeah. You have to brake all ties with anyone that uses.. all ties no calls no text nothing disappear off the face of the planet. Or at least the meth planet. It’s almost impossible to turn it down when it’s in front of you. I was so nervous the first time It was back in front of me after I had come down and started being normal again. I had finally gotten to where I didn’t think I needed it to survive. I didn’t sleep all day I was active and back working. Unless you just want back into all then get the hell up the second you see it and leave. I struggle everyday all day with it. I’ve relapsed over 100 times.. but I don’t let that 1 hit turn into 2 hits then 2 to 4 weeks later I’m still doing fuck that. I’ve literally Beatin it into myself carved say no in my forearm with a razor blade so it would scare and always remain there just to prevent it. It can be done. It’s hard af with help. Trust me it’s even harder alone.. but it can be done. Good luck. And don’t let the drug have control get your life back
  • Susie
    My son is 21 and is a meth user. He avoids me. He will not look me in the eye when he comes home once a week to change clothes and shower. I tell him repeatedly I love him. I tell him he always has food and a warm bed at my house. But what I cant understand is why does he prefer to stay in a trap house with no food, no electric and no water ? I love my son, but I know he is not ready to quit. Every night I cant sleep just knowing I am going to get a phone call. He was recently arrested for selling/ using meth. My question to you all how or what should I do to help my son ? I think you all are strong in stepping forward. My thoughts and love with you all
  • susy
    Susie, My name is also Susy, I am a nurse. For 25 years I watched and suffered my son with his meth addiction tear apart our family. I lost 1 son along the way at 21 years old. After 25 years of struggling through with my son, his girlfriend, their 5 yr old daughter and their addiction, I offered a coffin or a bus ticket out of town, away from all the people and places that kept him in his addiction. It’s been 6 years, they have married, are raising my grandaughter themselves and are clean and sober. Their bodies are older than their years, they suffer with with little or no teeth, but they are happy and raising their own daughter! There can be a happy ending to these meth nightmares. Hang in there-don’t give up, find a way if you have to tie him to a tree in the back yard!
  • Sarah McIntyre
    Hi Katrina my name is Sarah. I just read your story. I really relate to u. I was wondering if u would talk to me sometime. Our stories are so similar.
  • Michaela
    Let’s not judge …. I think I would rather not be able to spell than to be the one that would only have a comment like yours. Forgive me Father. .. the big picture is much worse than spelling. I pray God opens the door for you to help an addict, that your heart be open to compassion towards others
  • Ann
    My loved one has sores on the outside of the nostrils and a runny nose (often Vaseline on nose). Plus frequent impetigo-ish looking face problems that can’t be concealed by make up. Other suspicious behavior. My recently departed husband asked this loved one directly numerous times if drugs were being used and (obviously?) denials and righteous indignation ensued. How do I approach this loved one? Or do I?
  • Christina
    Your message was beautiful.. I to have been dealing with addiction that has effected my own family. Also, as you can see I have proper grammar and I also can spell, and neither one of those have changed the fact that I am an addict. I join over a million of my sisters and brothers in addiction. And like you my dear, I am my brothers and sisters keeper. I’m trying so hard to beat this disease and it does not help that it’s on EVERY street corner. The only place to get away from it is rehab. Please continue to pray for the addict still suffering and pray that we all find a safe place to lay our heads. With the help of God I will beat this and just wanted to say thanks for spreading the hope.
  • Alisa
    I feel for all of y’all I never abused drugs but I know y’all can overcome it if you really try. I have love ones who suffer drug addiction and it’s hard watching it. Don’t let others judgment keep you down, try to stay positive and keep fighting it really is a mind over matter situation. If you feel alone just know there is support/help out there you just have to be fully ready to take and embrace it. Love your mind and love your body by continuously trying to get better. Good luck and much love to you all !
  • Bama
    Unreal that you believe God chose them to be addicts. I’m a recovering addict and I have been 100% clean for the past 13 years. I believe in God but let me tell you, totally relying on prayers and religion to get clean and sober has proven to have poor results. And telling someone that God chose them to be drug addicts is heartless, demoralizing, and could cause suicidal thoughts
  • Jolleen
    Hello I’m sorry you’re all dealing with that. I came on this page because I have a feeling my older brother is using (he has the symptoms) and I want to get him help! I pray you all come over this storm in life. But after every storm there is calm. Don’t give up!!!!!
  • Destiny
    What a beautiful and true message! With God, all things are possible!
  • Stacie McCallum
    I’m a meth addict, but don’t wanna be. My bf and I smoked together and he’s been doing it longer than I’ve been alive. so kinda feel it would be wrong of me to ask him to quit with me. It’s part of him now. I, in my heart, would not mind leaving him to get away from it but, I could never expect another person to suffer with me. I want my old self back!! I loved her and I respected her. Please help me. Somebody…. Anybody… Stacie