Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful, highly addictive drug that causes devastating health effects, and sometimes death, even on the first try.
Meth is easy to get addicted to and hard to recover from. Meth is a dangerous, synthetic, stimulant drug often used in combination with other substances that can be smoked, injected, snorted, or taken orally. Someone using meth may experience a temporary sense of heightened euphoria, alertness, and energy. But using meth changes how the brain works and speeds up the body’s systems to dangerous, and sometimes lethal, levels—increasing heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiratory rate. Chronic meth users also experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, aggression, visual and auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions.
The Rise of Meth Use in the United States
The number of fatal overdoses involving meth has more than tripled (PDF | 336 KB) between 2011 and 2016, according to the CDC. Use is also on the rise between 2016-2018 for most age groups. In 2018, more than 106,000 adults aged 26 or older used meth—a 43 percent increase over the previous year.
Short-term Effects of Meth
Even taking small amounts of meth, or just trying it once, can cause harmful health effects, including:
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Faster breathing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
- Bizarre, erratic, aggressive, irritable, or violent behavior
Long-term Health Risks of Meth
Chronic meth use leads to many damaging, long-term health effects, even when users stop taking meth, including:
- Permanent damage to the heart and brain
- High blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death
- Liver, kidney, and lung damage
- Anxiety, confusion, or insomnia
- Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior (psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after quitting meth)
- Intense itching, causing skin sores from scratching
- Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)