Meth and Long-term Effects of the New Epidemic

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD, MPH

barely working lightbulb lit up in the dark to represent the potential darkness to come with the meth epidemic

Table of Contents

Meth: The Basics

nervous system. It goes by many names: blue, ice, crystal, and, put, Meth. Often, it will take the form of a bitter-tasting, odorless, white powder. According to the NIDA, about 1.6 million people in the U.S. reported using Methamphetamine in 2017. This accounts for about 0.6 of the total population, a level of epidemic proportions.

In the same year, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health claims:

“An estimated 964,000 people aged 12 or older (about 0.4 percent of the population) had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017—that is, they reported clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home as a result of their drug use.”

Being created from its parent drug, amphetamine, Meth was originally used for colds, coughs, nasal congestion, and bronchial inhalers. Over time, drug dealers found out how to take the pseudoephedrine from these common medicines.

As a result, millions of dollars are made each year by drug smugglers from Methamphetamine. This is due to continual use by users because of the extremely addictive properties. The NIDA says the effects of Meth are similar to amphetamine but delivered in overdrive. Making it easy to get addicted.

With addiction to Methamphetamine on the rise and the DEA helping as much as possible, many wonder what can be done about the problem. Also, many wonder what the long-term consequences of misusing Meth include.

Back to Life: Overcoming Meth and Gambling Addiction 


Where Is Meth Often Found?

Meth can be found in any state across the country. However, there are areas of the U.S. that are more affected by Meth than others.

Geography Plays A Huge Role in Availability

There are many different conclusions the DEA has come to regarding the stark difference between meth use in the Midwest and western states in comparison to the eastern states.

One of the reasons has to do with location. Geographically, Mexico sits just south of the areas of the country most affected. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of illegal drugs, including Meth, enter the country.

How The U.S. if Fighting Against the Meth Epidemic

Despite the U.S. and Mexico working together to stop TCOs from selling Meth over the border, the problem persists. This is because of the simple technique smugglers use to make the drug itself.

With most Methamphetamine being cooked by TCOs in Mexico and their ability to hide it from law enforcement makes it difficult for the DEA to find stable footing.

Not to mention the sale of these drugs to younger people in clubs causes more addiction. Thus, creating demand for more of the drug.

How to Identify if Someone is Using Meth

Typically, those who use Meth consistently have an addiction or a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). A meth user with a SUD can be identified if you know what signs to look for.

Overall, noticing these signs in someone who has a Meth SUD could save their life.

Meth Use Physical Signs

  • pupil dilation
  • quick, jerky eye movements
  • facial twitching
  • increased sweating
  • high body temperature
  • jerky or twitchy body movements or tremors
  • decreased appetite and weight loss
  • tooth decay
  • visibly high energy and excitement (euphoria)
  • frequent scratching or picking at the hair and skin
  • sores on the face and skin
  • constant, rapid speech
  • headaches

Meth Use Behavioral Signs

  • increased activity, like hyperactivity or restlessness
  • impulsive or unpredictable behavior
  • aggressive or violent reactions
  • anxious, nervous, or irritable behavior
  • suspicion of others (paranoia) or other irrational beliefs (delusions)
  • seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • going with little or no sleep for days at a time

Once the effects of meth fade, they may experience a low that involves:

  • extreme exhaustion
  • feelings of depression
  • extreme irritability

Although these signs may indicate a meth addiction or SUD, it is important to remember that these also may be signs of more common problems.

Such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, skin conditions, or dental issues.

It may not be wise to assume your friend or a family member has a SUD in these cases. However, knowing the signs is better than not knowing.

Long-term Physical, Mental, and Dental Effects

The long-term effects of Meth can be broken down into three categories: physical, mental, and dental.  

Physical Effects 

There are always noticeable characteristics of Meth abuse that everyone can see. These include: 

  • Hair loss 
  • Skin lesions  
  • Meth mouth 

These come as a result of chronic Methamphetamine abuse. Nevertheless, there are more that may go unnoticed, such as the neurological effects. According to the NIDA

With these cells being too active and attacking neurons, it is understandable how there would also be mental effects.  

Mental Effects 

Overall, many mental effects go along with prolonged meth use and addiction. This is due to the dependence on the drug for normal brain function. Meth rewires your brain to be less efficient when you are not under its influence, thus causing negative effects. The effects include:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Fatigue 
  • Intense cravings 
  • Visual and auditory Hallucinations  
  • Insomnia 
  • Psychosis 

Along with these, the speed and accuracy at which your brain operates may also be reduced. 

Meth is bad for the human body and brain. The physical and mental effects of long-term abuse are enough to keep anyone from using. Notwithstanding, there are even more undesired effects to consider. 

Dental Effects 

According to, a website created by the American Dental Association, the effect of Methamphetamine on the mouth are: 

  • Blackened Teeth 
  • Stained Teeth 
  • Rotting Gums 

This creates a big problem for dentists and meth user. The only solution after this is to remove all teeth from the user’s mouth. In a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, “meth mouth” statistics are staggering. 

An examination of the mouths of 571 methamphetamine users showed: 

  • 96% had cavities 
  • 58% had untreated tooth decay 
  • 31% had six or more missing teeth 

As far as these facts go, they are important information to remember. Participating in meth use can ruin your physical, mental, and dental health. If you suffer from meth addiction, is there are way out. The short answer is: Yes. Detox is available at many different treatment centers.

Is Quitting Meth Difficult?

Methamphetamine withdrawal and detoxification are known to be difficult but not impossible. Compared to other addictive substances, it is average in terms of pain. However, this strongly depends on how severe the addiction was. Generally, there is a timeline for Meth detox that includes four different time stages. 

  • First 2 days: This stage is the first and is known as “the crash.” This is when the user experiences a sharp decline in mood, emotion, and cognitive ability. They may also experience sweating and abdominal cramping.  
  • 3 – 10 days: The symptoms of withdrawal peak during this period. Typically, recovering users will experience severe depression, anxiety, and extreme fatigue. Also, lasting muscle aches and shaking are common during this period, as well as drug cravings. 
  • 14 – 20 days: Meth withdrawal symptoms can last for long periods but usually go away within 2-3 weeks of stopping the use. By this time, the physical symptoms will begin showing improvement. Nonetheless, the drug cravings will still be there. Also, depression and fatigue are still likely to exist.  
  • 30+ days: This is when the worst of the detox symptoms are over, and the remaining symptoms begin to stop. Anxiety and depression may still be present for the next couple of months. 


Methamphetamine is nothing to be taken lightly. This schedule II drug should only be used in cases of Narcolepsy and ADHD. Furthermore, recreational use of Meth can cause a severe addiction that will ruin health physically and mentally.

If you or a loved one is struggling to conquer a meth addiction, call the number provided. It’s never too late to begin again.

Sources of Information

[2] Psych Central
[3] Codependency and Addiction Guide

Susana Spiegel

Susana Spiegel

Susana has experience writing about addiction, treatment, mental health, and recovery. She holds a Bachelors in Arts of Theology from GCU, and has a deep empathy for those who are struggling with addiction, as she is in recovery herself.

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