What are the Side Effects of Meth Use

Last Updated: April 26, 2024

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an extremely addictive stimulant and a common illicit drug. Unfortunately, rates of meth abuse, addiction and overdose deaths in the United States have been increasing over the past 10 years. If you suspect that someone you love is struggling with meth, it is important to be aware of the signs and side effects of meth abuse.

Immediate Effects of Meth Use

The immediate effect of meth is a sudden “rush” of euphoria. This is because the drug causes a surge in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which controls the sensation of pleasure in the brain and works on the brain’s reward centers.

How Long Do the Effects of Meth Last?

The initial euphoric rush from meth can last as long as 30 minutes. After the rush comes a longer-lasting high that can remain for 16 to 24 hours.

Short-Term Side Effects of Meth Use

Meth causes a wide variety of side effects, and many can occur even with short-term use. Side effects may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Wide pupils
  • Sleep problems
  • Nausea
  • Behavior problems, including bizarre behavior or violence
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyper-excitability
  • Irritability
  • Panic
  • Psychosis
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Death

What Is “Tweaking?”

Tweaking is a very dangerous stage of the meth experience. A tweak follows a stage of meth use called a binge, which is when the person has engaged in uncontrolled meth use for anywhere from three to 15 days. During the binge, a person experiences less and less of a high due to dopamine depletion in the brain. At the end of the binge — when tweaking begins — the person can no longer get high, no matter how much meth they use. The tweaking stage that occurs at this point has many symptoms, including:

  • Unpredictable violence and hostility
  • Hallucinations, including the feeling of bugs crawling all over
  • Intense itching
  • Self-mutilation

Effects of Long-Term Meth Use

Long-term meth use can wreak havoc on both the body and the mind. Besides the ongoing risk of addiction, abuse and overdose, meth can have lasting physical repercussions on a person. A person’s skin, teeth and brain can all suffer due to using meth over the long term.

Effects of Meth on The Body

Meth can permanently damage the body and its organs in several ways. Damage caused by meth can include:

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels
  • High blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Destruction of tissues in the nose (if snorted)
  • Breathing problems (if smoked)
  • Malnutrition and weight loss

Effects of Meth on Skin

Meth can also have a long-term impact on the skin. During the tweaking stage of meth use, people often scratch themselves or pick at their skin. This can lead to sores, which are sometimes referred to as “meth sores” or “meth mites.” If a person injects meth, they can also end up with infectious diseases and skin abscesses.

The cosmetic appearance of the skin also changes with meth use. People who take meth are prone to acne, wrinkles and excessive sweating. These combined effects can age the skin, making a meth user look much older than they really are.

Effects of Meth on Teeth

The impact of meth on the teeth is one of the most visible signs of meth abuse. Sometimes called “meth mouth,” the severe tooth decay that comes from meth use involves the destruction of tooth enamel and gum tissue. The cavities that form are often on the front teeth, which is generally a rare location for cavities — except among those who abuse meth.

Effects of Meth on Brain

Meth can cause devastating long-term consequences on the brain. These include both long-term behavior changes as well as changes to the brain itself. Behavioral and psychological changes linked to meth use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood disturbances
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations and delusions

The brain can also undergo severe structural damage after long-term meth use. This includes damage to the areas of the brain that produce dopamine and regulate emotion, memory and decision-making. Unfortunately, this impaired decision-making may put people in recovery from meth at a higher risk of relapse.

The Dangers and Risks of Long-Term Meth Use

Long-term meth use carries many risks beyond the direct damage caused by meth itself. Addiction and overdose are continuous dangers for people who use meth. In addition, infections are a risk for those who inject meth. This includes chronic, potentially deadly infections like HIV. This danger comes not only from sharing needles and syringes, but also from the fact that meth harms the immune system and makes it easier for the HIV virus to replicate.

Symptoms of Meth Overdose

A meth overdose can easily occur when a person takes too much of the drug. Meth overdoses can also be deadly: in 2020 alone, there were almost 24,000 meth-related overdoses in the United States.

Since it is impossible to know how much meth is present when you take the drug, you cannot accurately gauge how much meth you are actually taking. Further, there is a high risk that impurities or illicit substances may be hidden in meth. This includes fentanyl, a powerful drug that can easily cause an overdose on its own.

Meth overdose symptoms can include:

  • Aggression or paranoia
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Mania
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Organ failure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Death

A meth overdose is a medical emergency. If you suspect that a person is overdosing on meth, you should immediately call 911.

Getting Help for Meth Addiction in Orlando, FL

Meth addiction is dangerous, but it is also treatable. Early treatment is important for preventing both short- and long-term damage from meth use, and there are many options available. Addiction treatment facilities like Orlando Recovery Center offer a full continuum of care that ranges from medical detox and inpatient treatment to long-term aftercare. Our specialists will work with you every step of the way to help you begin the journey to a healthier, meth-free life in recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with meth abuse and addiction, Orlando Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about meth addiction treatment programs that can work well for you or your loved one.


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Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse.” 2020. Accessed July 11, 2022.

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U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Methamphetamine Overdose.” MedlinePlus, May 17, 2021. Accessed July 11, 2022.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA warns of methamphetamine and fentany[…]COVID-19 in New York.” January 26, 2021. Accessed July 11, 2022.

Carver, Cheryl. “Addiction Dermatology: Common Drug-Induc[…]nces that Cause Them.” Wound Source, February 16, 2022. Accessed July 11, 2022.

Dentalcare.com. “Oral Manifestations of Methamphetamine Abuse.” Accessed July 11, 2022.

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