Causes and Side Effects of Meth Sores, Tooth Loss, Psychosis, & Impotence

Meth is a powerful stimulant that can lead to addiction as well as a wide range of other health issues.1, 2

Stimulants such as methamphetamine act on the cardiovascular system and increase heart rate and blood pressure. Meth stimulates the central nervous system, and users feel increased energy, alertness, and sociability and decreased fatigue, need for sleep, and appetite. Chronic long-term use of meth can have destructive neurological effects as well as cardiovascular complications such as cardiomyopathy and myocarditis.2

The manner in which meth is abused can increase the likelihood of developing other health problems.2, 3 For example, injecting meth or engaging in risky sexual behaviors while under the influence can put a person at risk for contracting HIV or hepatitis.2 Also, cognitive or emotional issues are common with long-term use of meth.1, 2

Read on to learn about some of the more well-known potential side effects of long-term chronic meth use, such as:

  • Pyschosis
  • Skin lesions and sores.
  • Tooth loss, dry mouth, and problems as a result of poor dental hygiene.
  • Impotence and sexual dysfunction.

What is Meth Psychosis?

Methamphetamine-associated psychosis (MAP) is a psychotic disorder that is caused by the use of crystal meth.1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 MAP has symptoms in common with schizophrenia, in that individuals experience hallucinations and/or delusions. 2, 3, 4 In many cases where MAP manifests it is difficult for psychiatrists to determine where or not the psychotic disorder was caused by methamphetamine or another primary psychiatric disorder.8 The hallucinations associated with MAP can be:2, 3, 4, 6

  • Visual hallucinations, which consist of seeing things that aren’t there (seeing meth mites).
  • Auditory hallucinations, which most often involve hearing voices that aren’t there, but can also consist of other sounds.
  • Tactile hallucinations, which consist of feeling things that aren’t there, such as experiencing the sensation of formication, or bugs crawling under the skin.

The delusions, or false and fixed beliefs, associated with MAP can include:1, 2, 3, 6, 9

  • Delusions of reference, where a person believes that events in the environment, such as a radio broadcast or television show encodes a message for them specifically.
  • Paranoid delusions, which include the idea that they are being persecuted or that someone wants to harm them.
  • Somatic delusions, which pertain to one’s body or health, such as having “meth mites.”

It is common for chronic meth users to become extremely paranoid and suspicious.1, 2, 9 Some people may also develop compulsive, repetitive behaviors, such as hair-pulling or skin picking.1, 2

In addition, researchers have found that genetic variations influence susceptibility to MAP.6  People who chronically abuse large amounts of meth for longer periods of time are more likely to experience psychotic symptoms.3 The damage associated with chronic meth abuse is particularly salient in the frontal part of the brain that is associated with attention, reasoning, and judgment.1, 6

Meth Psychosis Treatment

To address meth psychosis, the first step is to stop using. Treatment consists of addiction recovery and use of antipsychotic medications to control any recurring delusions or hallucinations.3

Symptoms of psychosis are typically resolved within a month following drug cessation, however, in some people they persist long after you stop using meth, in some cases for months or even years.1, 6, 9 If you experience a lot of stress or relapse on meth, you may experience psychotic symptoms again.1

What are Meth Mites?

“Meth mites” is a term used to describe a common tactile hallucination experienced by methamphetamine and cocaine users (where it is called “cocaine bugs”), It can result in skin picking or scratching that lead to skin lesions commonly found on the face, arms, chest.3, 9, 10 These sores may become infected, which can then cause lesions and other skin infections to spread or fail to heal.10, 11

Meth mites, also known as “formication”, is considerably rare as an effect of long-term meth use.12

Can Meth Cause Other Skin Problems?

In addition to sores resulting from formication, meth use may result in other types of skin trauma:

  • Burns: When meth is smoked, the pipe can get very hot and burn the fingers, hands, lips or area around the mouth.3
  • Skin abscesses: Abscesses are common in people who inject drugs meth.9, 11

What Does Meth Do to Your Teeth?

Meth use is commonly known to have devastating effects on dental health.1, 2 Chronic meth users are often said to suffer from a condition known as “meth mouth,” which involves severe dental decay, gum disease, and teeth that are discolored, blackened, rotting, crumbling, or falling out.9

A 2015 study of people who use meth showed that meth users have high rates of dental disease and that higher levels of meth use are associated with higher rates of dental disease.3

The deleterious effects that meth has on teeth is likely due to various factors:1, 3, 13

  • Dry mouth: Meth causes the mouth to produce less saliva, which normally functions to protect the teeth and reduce the likelihood of bad breath. Too little saliva can increase the risk of cavities and other damage to the enamel.
  • Exposure to increased acidity: Since meth is acidic, it can erode the enamel of teeth, especially since there is less saliva protecting them. This can increase the rate of dental damage and decay.
  • Grinding the teeth and/or clenching the jaws: People who use meth commonly grind their teeth and clench their jaws, increasing damage to the teeth. This can lead to chipped or broken teeth.
  • Poor dental hygiene: People may not maintain good dental hygiene habits when they are so focused on using meth. Lack of attention to brushing and flossing teeth for significant periods of time can allow bacteria to build up and contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Poor diet: Meth decreases appetite and can increase sugar cravings. Sugary drinks, such as soda, can increase the rate of tooth decay.

Meth and Impotence

Although meth is associated with increased sex drive, chronic meth use is also associated with sexual dysfunction in men.3, 14 Erectile dysfunction (ED) as a result of long-term meth use can have a few contributing factors, including high blood pressure and constricted blood vessels, which can make it hard to achieve an erection.5, 14

Over time, use of meth may lead men to take ED medication to achieve an erection. The use of Viagra or other similar medications is common in men who use meth long-term.14

Treatment for Meth Abuse

No FDA-approved medications are available to manage methamphetamine withdrawal, so detox focuses on providing monitoring for complications and supportive care.2, 15 If complaints of headaches or insomnia are problematic, non-addictive medications can be provided.15 If there are any symptoms of depression or psychosis, these can be treated with medications.3, 15

After detox, attending inpatient or outpatient substance use rehab can help you achieve long-term sobriety and manage a stimulant use disorder.15, 16

Behavioral therapy techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and the matrix model are commonly used to treat stimulant addiction and can help you learn the skills needed to maintain sobriety, including changing thoughts and actions surrounding substance use, developing coping skills, managing cravings, and improving your ability to function in society without the use of meth.1, 2, 7, 16

Sunrise House in New Jersey can help you get clean from meth. As the leading provider in addiction treatment, you can get a range of care from medical detox to inpatient rehab and aftercare. Learn more about how we can help you get sober by calling .


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