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Crystal Meth’s Shocking Side Effects

Updated on August 1, 2010

It’s no secret that crystal meth is a dangerous drug. Formerly a Class B drug, meth was bumped up a Class A drug in 2006. That means there are more serious penalties for possession (up to seven years in prison), putting it at the same level as cocaine, crack and heroin.

Meth is a mixture of highly volatile, toxic compounds. The dextrorotatory portion of methamphetamine makes it a potent stimulant of the central nervous system. Essentially this makes users “wired”. The heart races, blood pressure increases and blood sugar shoots up. The high increases mental alertness, energy levels and sexual libido but lowers appetite. Psychologically, one of the biggest attractions to addicts is the boosted self confidence it gives them.

A classic before and after shot.
A classic before and after shot.

Accelerated aging

Images of people before and after meth addiction have been sweeping the internet lately. As the old saying goes “a picture speaks a thousand words”. Not only has the drug made users look older it has stamped them as obvious misfits of society. Long-time use imparts a certain ghastly look that can’t be acquired by mere aging.

One strike feature is “meth marks”. Addicts sometimes pick at their skin leaving an ugly and painfully obvious indication that something isn’t quite right with them. Skin complexion becomes increasingly leathery and grey, producing a look popularized in American zombie movies.
Sometimes the changes are so diverse and serious that it hardly looks like the same person anymore. Of course, some scepticism must be applied as there is no doubt a portion of fake before and after photos out there to scare or sensationalise.


  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Marks and Sores
  • Wrinkles
  • Dulled Complexion

Meth mouth

The decay and damage caused to teeth is caused by several factors. Firstly, meth contains highly acid contents that may include battery acid, lantern fuel, anti-freeze, just to name a few. As with all street drugs, one can never be certain what it might contain. Secondly users tend to have horrible dental hygiene during the 12 hours they are high. Copious amounts of sugary drinks like Mountain Dew are craved and there is a tendency to clench and grind teeth.

This phenomenon of severe decay found in young people has been shocking dentists around the world. Never before have they seen patients so young get dentures. Dentists aren’t sure how to deal with the problem and usually have to extract several teeth upon check-up because the serious damage renders the teeth unsalvageable.


  • Grinding of teeth
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss

Effects on the brain and behaviour

Crystal is a neurotoxin, so it disrupts and even kills the brain neurons that process and send signals to other parts of the nervous system. It is believed that the huge surge of dopamine (the chemical in the brain that makes us feel euphoric) is critical to increased neurotoxicity. Dopamine breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, creating oxidative stress.

After abusing the drug over time, even in small doses, the changes in brain chemistry can be observed. Addicts feel a need to scratch or pick at their skin creating unsightly marks on the face that have become characteristic of meth use. Psychoses, repetitive bizarre behavior, loss of memory, wild mood swings and increased violent actions have been noted by researchers of the drug. See the list below for a complete listing of negative side effects that may appear after long-term or short-term use.

Psychological side effects

  • Insomnia
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Incessant conversations
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks

Meth addiction is extremely tough. Get help.
Meth addiction is extremely tough. Get help.

It’s addictive and kick the habit is not fun

Beating a methamphetamine addiction is more difficult than stopping cocaine use. Mental depression lasts longer and is more severe. To make matters worse, the drugs used to reduce cravings have a low success rate. Still, an addicted person doesn’t stand much of a chance dealing with it alone.

Recovery consists of detox, treatment of the health problems caused by meth use, and going through a 12-step process to kick the habit.

Miscellaneous Side Effects throughout the Body

Meth’s effects on the body are so numerous that it’s impossible to cover every one here. Use causes damage to a good portion of the organs in the body including the ones most vital to us: heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Below is a laundry list of side effect to be aware of.

-Impaired immune system

-High blood pressure
-Vessel damage in brain
-Blood clotting and stroke
-Chest pain
-Rapid heart rate
-Heart attack


-Dilated pupils

-Shortness of breath

-Jerky movements

Increased activity
-Loss of coordination



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    • profile image

      Tracy Mackey 2 years ago

      Candice... I hope you are ok. Hit me on facebook. I will help.

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 6 years ago from Aurora

      Had some roommmates like this go berserko. Your mind is your being.

    • profile image

      Blue 6 years ago

      Phone the Police Perry? The police can't and wont do anything because someone you suspect is "high" on meth. They can't force someone to give a urine or blood sample because you "suspect" someone is high on it. If they are on parole or probation then yes they will have to drop for tests. But the Police just can't do anything because u called and stated what you seen or suspect. They can't even search them based on what you "seen or suspect" either. Has to be PC (probable cause). If they have a real reason to search them and are in possession of the drug, that's different. But here's the thing, a person WONT get clean UNLESS they are the ones who are ready to stop. You as a friend or family member must create a rock bottom for them meaning no enabling. No phone calls. No nothing! And even in those cases, they wont stop. The rate of people stopping the use of meth isn't very high. From my understanding, Meth is one of the strongest addictions out there and people act crazy on it once they are high. Lack of sleep also stirs the pot. Don't you know that if a Meth user knew that you called the police on them, that same Meth user just might get paranoid enough to come back and kill yo ass? Must be crazy to do some shit like that. They have to get clean on their own. Sure, you can "try" to help them, and support them as they do, but you cannot force.

    • profile image

      candice 6 years ago

      I WANT 2 STOP: ( NO ONE 2 HELP.

    • profile image

      h@rd@ce 6 years ago

      A decade ago, i used a whole bunch - it helped land me in prison for a spell. Recently, I have been dabbling again, and I wish I wish i never knew what this drug was about or even that it existed - A MSG for every1 who sees this - STAY SO FAR AWAY FROM THIS SUBSTANCE, YOU LOSE FRIENDS, RELATIVES OVER IT - if that's what it takes to get/stay clean - in the end, they will understand. |_/\_@ce_/\_|

    • profile image

      venus 7 years ago

      i am a big time meth user and now i am peaty scared i am getting some of these things

    • Michael Durden profile image

      Michael Durden 7 years ago

      Those pictures were horrifying. Probably shouldn't have read this right before bed.

      Well written article, though, and one that many people should read. Just not right before hitting the hay. Yikes.

    • profile image

      Perry 7 years ago

      Please, everyone who reads this, please understand the side efects and please help people stop doing this drug. If you ever see a person doing this drug or even high on this drug, please phone the police