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How does methamphetamine use affect the body?

Methamphetamine (a powerful, cheap, and easy-to-make drug) use can have very harmful effects on health and well being. Even in small doses, it can cause:
  • shortness of breath
  • decreased appetite
  • irregular heart beat and high blood pressure
  • increased wakefulness
  • increased physical activity
Long-term methamphetamine abuse can cause:
  • extreme weight loss
  • insomnia
  • confusion
  • irritability, anxiety and violent behavior
  • psychotic effects, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin)

Following are some of the effects that methamphetamine use has on the body:

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dramatic weight loss to the point of emaciation
  • insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • severe damage to the teeth
  • skin sores and infections as a result of picking at imaginary bugs
  • psychotic symptoms—anxiety, paranoia, depression, hallucinations including the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin and feelings of hopelessness—sometimes lasting for months or years after methamphetamine abuse has ceased
  • permanent damage to the heart that can result in increased blood pressure, chest pain, headaches and increased risk for stroke and heart attack
  • severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory that may be partially reversible
  • increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis

Methamphetamine causes different health consequences in women than in men and requires different approaches. This is particularly true with pregnant women and women with young children.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.