Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive synthesized drug that is snorted, smoked or injected. Meth generates pleasurable, euphoric feelings in users, and has high abuse potential. According to a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.4% of people 12 and over report using meth in their lifetime. Meth use carries many severe psychological and physical side effects, including skin problems, increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, memory loss, anxiety, dental problems, hallucinations, heart attack, and stroke. One of the most visible side effects of meth addiction appears on a person’s skin in the form of wounds called meth sores. Knowing the characteristics, causes and treatments for meth sores can help individuals understand meth’s potential dangers and avoid meth addiction.
What are Meth Sores?
Individuals concerned about meth side effects may wonder, what are meth sores? Meth sores are open lesions or wounds that appear on the skin of individuals who regularly use meth. Sores from meth use appear in several different areas of the body and can have various physiological or physical causes. How long meth sores last depends on the cause, underlying health conditions and how rapidly treatment is sought.
What Do Meth Sores Look Like?
Individuals seeking to understand and identify meth sores in loved ones may wonder, what do meth sores look like? Meth sores can look different depending on their location, how long they have been present and whether the site is infected. Meth sores can appear on any skin surface, including the face, neck or arms. Meth skin sores, including meth face sores, can look like a rash, dots, acne, burns, bites, blisters or scabs. Meth sores can also appear in the mouth, a condition known as “meth mouth.” Meth mouth sores can look like canker or cold sores.
What Causes Meth Sores?
Understanding what causes meth sores is essential for those dealing with meth addiction. Meth skin sores can be caused by a combination of physical and psychological side effects. Individuals who use meth can experience delusions that bugs are crawling on or beneath their skin. This condition is known medically as formication. These delusions can lead to constant self-irritation of the skin via picking and scratching.
An unhealthy diet and poor hygiene can also contribute to meth skin sores. Meth sores around the mouth can be caused by the use of drug paraphernalia, such as smoking a hot pipe that burns delicate skin around the mouth. Meth sores within the mouth can be caused by a combination of poor diet, inadequate dental care, dry mouth, and teeth grinding.
Crystal meth face sores can include acne breakouts due to a combination of poor personal hygiene and toxins exiting through pores. Meth also constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the skin and slowing the healing of skin wounds such as meth acne sores.
Meth mites are a common side effect of persistent meth use. What are meth mites? Meth hallucinations can make individuals feel that they have insects crawling on top or beneath their skin, a sensation referred to as formication or meth mites. These sensations cause a person to consistently pick or scratch their skin to remove the imaginary bugs, leading to open sores. Meth sores and meth mite wounds can become infected if left untreated.
Weak Immune System
Side effects of continued meth use include a suppressed immune system. What does meth use do to the immune system? Although ongoing scientific studies are beginning to uncover crystal meth’s immune system changes, research shows that meth increases inflammation and limits the activity of immune cells. Suppressed immune function, in turn, slows healing of meth sores and makes these open wounds more susceptible to infection. Meth sicknesses also include skin infection with a dangerous antibiotic resistance bacterium called methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA).
Why does meth make you pick at your skin? Meth-induced anxiety, hallucinations, compulsions, and poor hygiene all contribute to skin picking. Formication, the sensation that bugs are crawling on or underneath the skin, commonly leads to skin picking. Once individuals begin to pick their skin, meth sores often become infected and do not heal quickly. Without treatment, skin picking can lead to scabs and scars.
Meth mouth sores are a common side effect of regular meth use. Several factors contribute to the development of meth mouth sores. Meth reduces the quantity of protective saliva around the teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Individuals who use meth also commonly have a poor diet that includes sugary soda, neglect their dental hygiene, grind their teeth and clench their jaws. Meth’s acidity also damages the protective layer of teeth. Although the early stages of meth mouth include dental decay, gum disease, cavities, and mouth sores, later symptoms include tooth blackening, rotting, and tooth loss.
Meth Sores Treatment
Individuals dealing with meth addiction may wonder how to cure meth sores. The best method to ensure meth sores heal correctly is to seeking treatment for meth abuse and addiction and completely stop meth use. Without prompt treatment, meth sores can lead to a severe infection or permanent scarring. Meth sores treatment also includes:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Ensuring proper personal and dental hygiene
- Avoiding picking, scratching or rubbing the sores
- Using over the counter acne treatments
- Using natural oils to soothe and moisturize the skin such as vitamin E
- Addressing underlying mental health conditions contributing to picking through therapy or medication
- Seeing a doctor if an infection is suspected; antibiotics may be prescribed if an infection is present
If you or a loved one are struggling with meth addiction, contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative who can help you explore addiction treatment programs. You deserve a future free from addiction; call today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine.” Accessed January 15, 2020.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is methamphetamine?.” Updated May 2019. Accessed January 15, 2020.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?.” Updated October 2019. Accessed January 15, 2020.
Salamanca, Sergio; Sorrentino, Edra; Nosanchuk, Joshua; Martinez, Luis. “Impact of Methamphetamine on Infection and Immunity.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, January 12, 2015. Accessed January 15, 2020.
Meth Project Foundation. “Deconstructing the Damage.” 2016. Accessed January 15, 2020.