If you ever experienced any kind of substance use prevention education in school, you might recall being shown pictures of people who were addicted to a variety of substances.
Bloodshot eyes, unfocused gazes, and unappealing scabs or sores might be some of the examples that you saw projected on the screen. Your teacher might have warned you: “avoid using drugs if you don’t want to end up like this!”
Educational programs aimed to teach children about the dangers of drug use has been heavily criticized for the approach that it has taken to the topic. The approach often involves criticizing drug use and addiction, but treatment paths toward sobriety or discussion about the complex factors that often contribute to the development of addiction are ignored.
At Pathways Recovery, we know that addiction happens. We never want to shame anybody who has an addiction and understand that substances are not the only contributing factor in addiction. We’re certainly not here to lecture you. Instead, we open ourselves to the discussion and embrace the sharing of accurate information to support you or your loved ones in addiction treatment and recovery!
Today’s topic is all about those meth sores and some other curious symptoms that can happen as a side effect of meth use.
First, What Is Meth?
Meth, also known by its full name as methamphetamine, is a very strong stimulant. Meth is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II drug. This classification is based on the potential for the drug to be misused. Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, oxycodone, Adderall® (used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), Ritalin® (ADHD and narcolepsy treatment), and Vicodin® (pain management).
Stimulants are a specific category for certain substances that share similar characteristics. For example, both meth and cocaine are classified as stimulants. Stimulants can be both illegal and legal drugs. Meth and cocaine are illegal in the vast majority of cases, while other substances, such as Adderall, for example, are prescription medications that also happen to be stimulants.
Stimulants can result in a boost of energy, euphoric feelings, and an increase in concentration. These kinds of substances work by speeding up and energizing many of the body’s systems. This can cause several side effects that are related to faster-working bodily systems including high blood pressure and elevated heart rates. You might recognize the nickname “speed” as referring to meth. The name is definitely quite appropriate, especially given the increase in energy and alertness that comes with meth use.
There are a variety of ways in which meth can be used, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Meth can be smoked, snorted, transformed into an oral pill, or dissolved into a liquid such as water or alcohol to create a mixed solution that is injected into a vein.
In order to smoke meth, users will need a particular form of meth known as crystal meth. Crystal meth looks like small rock fragments or chunks of glass. It’s often blue or white. This appearance gives rise to other nicknames you might be familiar with such as “blue”, “crystal”, or “ice”.
What Does Meth Do To Your Brain?
Meth can be very addictive due to how it affects particular neurotransmitters in your brain. In particular, meth will encourage an increase in the amount of dopamine that your brain naturally produces. Think of dopamine as a kind of messenger for nerve cells in your body and especially the brain. Dopamine is very important in how we feel pleasure.
A substance like meth overloads your brain with the boost of dopamine that it produces. The quick and enormous amount of dopamine created due to meth use satisfies and greatly fulfills the brain’s natural reward system. By overloading the brain’s reward system with unnaturally large amounts of dopamine, a user will need to keep taking a sizable amount of meth to feel the same pleasure.
Eventually, this turns into an unfortunate cycle of meth use, which can transform into an addiction. Each time you use meth, your brain feels a great reward because of dopamine overload. That feeling can be powerful enough to make you want to take the drug again in order to achieve that same feeling.
This cycle is what makes tackling addiction so tricky. You might notice negative consequences of addiction on your health or relationships, but the reward that your brain craves is so powerful that you feel compelled to use and unable to stop or resist the craving for a dopamine overload.
What Are the Side Effects of Meth Use?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are both short-term and long-term effects of using meth. Many drugs—even prescription ones—usually have some kinds of side effects.
Knowing what to expect from meth use can help you see what kinds of reactions are normal and better understand the long-term negative effects of substance use.
Short-term effects include
- Increased energy
- Increased alertness
- Accelerated heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
- Higher body temperature
Long-term effects include
- Increased risk of contracting diseases
- Poor judgment (that can lead to risky or dangerous situations)
- Worsening progression of HIV/AIDS
- Severe tooth and gum decay (meth mouth)
- General confusion
- Hallucinations (sores and scabs as a result)
What Are Meth Sores?
You might have noticed that last symptom on the long-term: sores and scabs that result from hallucinations. This symptom probably sounds highly unappealing and undesirable to many people. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong in thinking that.
Sores are never a very appealing feature and more often than not, they’re indications of some underlying physical condition like a bad scratch that’s grown a scab or substance use in this case. So, what are these sores exactly? What do they look like and what creates them?
Meth sores are spots that often appear on the face and mouth area of a meth user. The face is one of the most common places for sores to appear, but they can also appear on the chest and arms. These sores are usually small round-looking patches of skin that appear red or irritated. Meth sores can look similar to acne and are sometimes mistaken for pimples or a rash.
Infected Meth Sores
When someone is quite deep into meth addiction, self-care and personal hygiene are not always the most urgent priorities in life. Hygiene might seem like a long and unnecessary routine when we’re feeling tired after a long day and hardly have the energy for a shower, but it turns out that good and regular hygiene is a very important part of living a healthy life and maintaining good health.
With a lack of good hygiene and general cleanliness, meth sores can become infected. Infected and untreated sores can become a potential danger to the individual. When you have an untreated infected sore, bacteria can easily enter your body through the wound. It might not seem like a big deal at first, after all, we’ve all gotten cuts before, and nothing too bad has ever happened. After a while, they seem to heal.
However, untreated wounds, whether they’re cuts or meth sores, also have the potential of becoming infected. That’s why when you get a cut, applying an antibiotic cream like Neosporin® and covering the wound with a bandage is a typical procedure.
Similarly, infected and untreated meth sores can spread harmful germs all around your body. Then from just one infected meth sore, more dangerous complications can potentially take place. In order to avoid more serious medical complications from an infection, it is always important for individuals to receive treatment for infected meth sores.
Infected meth sores aren’t usually too tricky to treat if they are treated early on. It’s always best to seek medical attention as early as possible to stave off any potential complications down the road. Nobody wants to deal with the issues that come from a spread of bacteria due to infection. It’s much simpler to deal with the initial infection first!
Meth Sores on the Mouth
The mouth is a common location for meth users to develop sores. There are a variety of reasons that contribute to the development of meth sores.
First, regular meth use will damage your teeth and gums to an extreme state creating the need for artificial replacements. Saliva production is cut short by meth use which leads to a drier mouth. Without the saliva to act as a protective shield, natural acids in your mouth will begin to eat into your teeth and gums, breaking them down and rotting them away.
Repeated meth use can also affect your appetite. You might develop a poor or decreased appetite but still crave sugary foods or drinks. Drinking lots of sugary drinks in combination with reduced saliva production only accelerates the breakdown of teeth and gums.
As we mentioned earlier, individuals who often use meth might not have the best personal hygiene practices. A lack of good dental hygiene, alongside tooth and gum decay, allows sores to form in the mouth.
If a meth user typically smokes crystal meth as a manner of use, the burns from the pipe can also cause sores in or around the mouth.
Meth Sores on the Face
The face is another common region of the body where meth sores develop. Meth is a substance that can be dissolved in water or alcohol. This means that meth is what we call a water-soluble drug. Some users dissolve meth in water and inject the solution into a vein in order to achieve the high.
Meth that a user has injected into themselves can be sweated out. Sweat that forms around the face’s hairline will come into contact with the skin of the face. The toxic meth that gets sweated out of an individual’s pores can damage the skin and cause sores to form.
These sores look like acne or a kind of allergic reaction. Picking at the sores, a common occurrence, can also worsen them and lead to potential infection.
All About Meth Mites
Now, we’ve talked about some common places for sores, but what about the hallucinations that can cause sores? What is that about?
Formication is an important word to know here. Formication refers to the urge or compulsion to pick at the skin. This is a known side effect of prolonged meth use and many chronic users will pick at their own skin.
Meth use can cause dry patches of skin. These patches of skin can become uncomfortable and an individual might feel compelled to scratch or pick at them. The skin might appear red or look similar to acne or a rash.
Some meth users will experience hallucinations of meth mites. These individuals will experience a crawling sensation across their skin that makes them believe some kind of bug is crawling around on or underneath their skin. The sensation is most commonly experienced on the face and neck.
In an effort to relieve the sensation or get rid of the perceived bugs, people will pick at the skin. This skin picking can become an obsessive behavior and render the skin scaly, dry, irritated, and covered in sores.
The more someone continues to pick at sores, the longer it will take to heal, and there is an increased risk of infection.
Seeking Help For Meth Addiction
If you or a loved one is suffering from Meth addiction, contact Pathways Recovery right away. We will work with you, your physician, and your family to determine a treatment plan that covers Meth addiction.
Pathways Recovery is a prestigious detox treatment center that services the greater area of Sacramento. Here at Pathways Recovery, we know how hard it is to start the road to recovery from drug addiction and alcohol addiction while having compassion and patience for those recovering. We have many services to cater to each individual in regards to their lifestyle and budget. Our detox treatment center is made to make everyone feel safe and at home with many of our services, including meth addiction treatment.
Call us today at 916-735-8377 for further information on our services and see which one fits for you or a loved one. Don't think you are alone; we are here to help you on your road to recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do meth sores look like?
These sores are usually small round-looking patches of skin that appear red or irritated. Meth sores can look similar to acne and are sometimes mistaken for pimples or a rash.
How to treat meth sores on the face?
Sores that aren’t infected will eventually heal on their own and can be helped with good hygiene practices. If they are infected, seek medical attention. A doctor may need to help combat infection with antibiotics or other means.
Why do meth users get sores?
Some users will develop sores when the toxic substance of meth is released from pores as a user sweats. This will irritate the skin and cause sores.
Sores can also appear around the mouth area as a result of burns due to smoking meth or due to poor dental hygiene and a reduction of saliva, an effect of meth use.
Other times, dry skin or hallucinations of meth mites crawling across the skin will compel a person to pick obsessively at the skin, resulting in sores.