Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use
Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences, including addiction. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain.
Tolerance to methamphetamine’s pleasurable effects develops when it is taken repeatedly. Users often need to take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change how they take it in an effort to get the desired effect. Chronic methamphetamine users may develop difficulty feeling any pleasure other than that provided by the drug, fueling further use.
Withdrawal from methamphetamine occurs when a chronic user stops taking the drug; symptoms of withdrawal include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and an intense craving for the drug.
Mood & Psychotic Symptoms
People who use methamphetamine long-term may exhibit symptoms that can include significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. They also may display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin).
Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit using methamphetamine, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in people who use methamphetamine and have previously experienced psychosis.
Long-term users also suffer physical effects, including weight loss, severe tooth decay and tooth loss (“meth mouth”), and skin sores. The dental problems may be caused by a combination of poor nutrition and dental hygiene as well as dry mouth and teeth grinding caused by the drug. Skin sores are the result of picking and scratching the skin to get rid of insects imagined to be crawling under it.