What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word meth? If you are like most people, it would probably be "illicit drug," or "club drug," etc. But that’s to be expected. Meth is a common street drug that never misses on parties, clubs, and even among peers. According to the National Institute on Drugs abuse, 1.6 million Americans used meth in 2017. But when is meth prescribed as a medical treatment? Does this happen often?
There actually is more to methamphetamine than it being a substance of abuse. In fact, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule II stimulant that makes it legally available through a non-refillable prescription. Meth is prescribed as a medical treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) and weight-loss. We'll dive into these and more treatments later on in this article, but first, let's make sure we are on the same page.
Meth is a strong and highly-addictive, white, odorless, and bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It is used as a stimulant and affects the body's central nervous system. According to the NIDA, meth was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine. The drug was originally applied in bronchial inhalers and nasal decongestants.
Meth, like amphetamine, stirs a range of effects. It increases activity and talkativeness, reduces appetite, and triggers euphoria or a pleasurable sense of well-being. But unlike amphetamine, greater amounts of meth get into the brain. This makes it a more potent stimulant. It also produces longer-lasting and more dangerous effects on the central nervous system than amphetamine at comparable doses. That explains why many people misuse the drug.
It's important to note that there are variations of meth. Crystal methamphetamine – a street version of the drug meth – is more potent. It is a common "club drug" that's hard to miss in rave parties and night clubs. Crystal meth also goes by other names like glass, ice, blade, chalk, black beauties, etc. Meth users will smoke it with a small glass pipe or swallow, snort or inject it into a vein.
Crystal meth is simply a poison that acts as a stimulant at first, but then it begins to destroy the body, systematically. It is linked to severe physical and mental health conditions like aggression, memory loss, psychotic behavior, and potential brain and heart damage. Again, the drug burns up the body's resources, causing a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug.
If an individual continues to use crystal meth, they expose themselves to a wide range of mental and physical damage. A common example of this is meth mouth. Meth users often present with severe tooth decay, fracture or loss, and a host of other teeth and gums issues. One Clinical Oral Investigation study revealed that meth users had higher levels of periodontal disease and gingival bleeding. For most users, this damage is often irreparable even after recovering from their substance use disorder.
Meth was originally used as a respiratory stimulator and nasal decongestant. It was then used to keep the army alert and their enhance mood and endurance during the Second World War. But later, it became apparent that meth was highly addictive. In the 70s, it was added to the Schedule II list of controlled substances. Meth is illegal, save for when a doctor prescribes it to a very limited number of medical conditions. These include obesity, ADHD, and narcolepsy (off-label).
Stimulants are the first course of prescription drugs for ADHD treatment. Studies show that stimulants, like Adderall can improve ADHD symptoms in about 70-80% of people. Central nervous system stimulant medications work by increasing the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine hormones in the brain. This, in turn, boosts concentration and lowers fatigue that's common with ADHD. Amphetamines and methamphetamine are good examples of stimulants used for ADHD treatment. Stimulants like meth increase attention and reduce restlessness in people who are:
Methamphetamine is an integral part of a complete ADHD treatment program. It's meant to be used along with other treatments like counseling. However, this drug is available only with a health care provider's prescription and is non-refillable. Meaning, a patient has to get a new prescription each time they need this medicine.
Along with ADHD treatment, doctors will occasionally give obese patients prescription methamphetamine for weight loss. While the drug can curb appetite, its effects on the nervous system and metabolism also seem to weigh in on its weight loss abilities. But because of the drug's addictive nature, there's an increased risk of addiction. So when physicians prescribe it, it's usually only for a short period. Methamphetamine is issued alongside other interventions like exercise and diet.
As mentioned earlier, only a doctor can prescribe this drug to patients. The doctor will weigh the pros and cons of using the drug and determine whether or not it's safe. Patients should inform the doctor about:
Doctors consider a lot of things before prescribing methamphetamine. But despite this, there's always an addiction risk when someone abuses the drug or takes drugs prescribed for another person.
For example, a patient may notice that the original dose no longer works. So they increase their dosage, creating tolerance that leads to addiction. Or the patient finds they no longer need the drug. But once they stop, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms that often compel them to take more of the drug.
Common side effects that are linked to prescription meth include:
A patient should contact a doctor as soon as they notice one or more of these side effects.
Meth addiction is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat. But treatment programs exist to help patients with addiction problems quit using and go back to leading a healthy life. Treatments can also help patients struggling with withdrawal symptoms. Recovery from meth needs a holistic treatment plan that includes detox, counseling and therapy.
Meth users have a range of symptoms that are commonly seen in people with other substance abuse disorders. They experience high blood pressure, increased heart rate, as well as strong delusions and paranoia. Like other drug addicts, they may also suffer from memory loss, brain damage, stroke, mental health disorders, among other issues with long term use. However, meth users have a few signs that are specific to the drug, like meth mouth, which we will explore in this article.
Methamphetamine is one of the most commonly abused synthetic drugs in the world. In the US alone, 5% of the population, or 12.3 million people, have used meth at least once in their lifetime. Another 600,000 Americans use it every week. But you shouldn’t mistake its popularity for something good.
Meth is a dangerously addictive drug that can cause severe addiction and mental and physical health issues.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise because meth is made from strong industrial chemicals corrosive to the body. Again, it comes in a wide variety of forms – including tablets, powder, or crystals. This makes it easier for users to smoke, inject, sniff/snort, eat, or swallow depending on their environment and preferences.
Unlike other drugs such as cocaine and heroin, its cravings are way more intense. Meth users will go on a “run” where they keep on ingesting the drug for long periods until they overdose or run out of their supply. So, the signs will be evident within a few weeks of use.
Meth addiction is difficult to hide because it causes open skin sores and eats away at the teeth. The harshness of meth’s chemical makeup makes it corrosive to both soft and hard tissue. The acid in the drug eats away the user’s tooth enamel, causing rapid decay. It also corrodes the gum, causing it to bleed and pull away from the tooth. Dental issues associated with meth abuse are referred to as meth teeth or meth mouth.
Meth can be devastating to one’s dental health. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, it’s use can cause extensive tooth decay, dry mouth, gum disease, and cracked teeth that affect the smile of users and their ability to chew. Meth mouth describes the visible effects of oral disease in a user due to rampant tooth decay and gum disease that happens with the drug use.
When someone ingests or smokes meth, they will rot their gums, teeth, and surrounding tissues. In most cases, they will experience painful dental abscesses and oral sores and even lose their teeth, and parts of their lips or mouth like tonsils, and tongue. Of the 571 meth users in the JADA’s 2015 study:
According to the American Dental Association, the pattern of cavities found in meth users is similar to those in baby teeth. Meth abusers are twice as likely to have cavities, twice as likely to have at least two decayed, missing or filled teeth, and four times as likely to have ever developed cavities compared to the general population.
One of the few ways meth affects the teeth is through hyposalivation (or dry mouth). Saliva is usually the first line of defense in fighting harmful bacteria in the mouth. The enzymes in saliva buffer acids and moisturize the mouth, keeping it in a homeostasis state. But meth use affects salivary glands, preventing the production of saliva, resulting in dry mouth.
Although studies and debates regarding meth use and tooth decay are still ongoing, one theory suggests that meth narrows blood vessels in salivary glands, inhibiting saliva flow. Other theories argue that drug abuse affects the parts of the brain that controls the salivary glands. Either way, meth, by itself, contains some level of acidity which directly affects the teeth.
Additionally, meth users drink lots of fizzy drinks to combat the effects of very dry mouth. But with little to no saliva in the mouth, that only creates an even better environment for bacteria to thrive.
To make matters worse, meth users grind or clench their teeth due to drug-induced nervousness, anxiety, and physical stimulation. Add that to already decaying or corroding enamel, as the situation gets out of hand.
And when all the focus is on acquiring and consuming the drug, methamphetamine users are less likely to practice good dental hygiene like flossing or brushing. Most of them won’t take care of their overall body, let alone oral health. And since the meth high lasts up to 12 hours, that’s a long enough time for acids to erode the teeth.
People who struggle with meth addiction and its effects may benefit from addiction treatment. Treatment programs exist to help those who abuse meth to quit and lead normal healthy lives. Most of them offer holistic treatments to address the underlying problem along with the side effects of using, like meth mouth, or skin sores, etc. However, like most conditions, it’s always best to catch the addiction early, before things have gotten out of hand.
Meth mouth is incurable if the damage is widespread. This is why the importance of early treatment can never be overstated. Gum diseases and tooth decay, for instance, are highly treatable when caught early. But it might prove a challenge when the damage is severe. When untreated for prolonged periods, the patient may need extractions, dentures, and implants to reconstruct the damage.
The use of meth is linked to a range of severe health issues and irreversible mental and physical damage. Effects like bone and tooth loss, scarring, heart issues, organ failure, and permanent memory loss are common among meth users. Studies even show that long term use of meth can induce changes similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s therefore essential for the patients to go enroll to reputable treatment centers for medical detox and rehabilitation. Treatments can help fight the addiction, and resulting problems.
Individuals who struggle with addiction suffer from psychological, emotional, behavioral, nutritional, and physical issues. They are also prone to a range of severe health conditions like damage to the skin, brain, heart, lungs, liver, and even teeth.
Although many people assume that dental health isn’t as critical as that of heart or other major organs, the link between addiction, dental illness, and life-threatening conditions is undeniable. Oral health issues, especially when left untreated, can lead to other more critical conditions.
A Review of Health Effects and Care by the National Institute of Health indicates that oral health issue is one of the most prevalent addiction-related comorbidities that need more attention by both policymakers and clinicians. Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) have more oral health problems than the general population but are less likely to receive care. This is because they spend most of their time intoxicated or trying to find more drugs. Dental visits or personal hygiene are often the least of their worries.
Drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana can cause teeth and gum problems. In most cases:
Many individuals who abuse drugs have some form of teeth deformity. Even the public health advertisement shows that meth abuse harms the teeth. But like most people, you may not have the slightest idea of how the damage happens, how quickly it occurs, or the type of drugs that affect the teeth. So, here’s a list of common drugs and how each one of them can affect your dental health.
Regular use of opioids and opiates can restrict the production of saliva and dry out oral tissues. Saliva naturally lubricates the mouth and keeps tissues moist. It also clears any leftovers from the gumline and between teeth. Most importantly, it regulates oral acids and bacteria that destroy enamel and cause decay. Again, opioids reduce pain, which makes it hard for users to detect changes in their gums and teeth. Studies reveal that some users apply opioids directly into the gums and teeth to dull dental pain. Unless it gets out of hand, they won’t seek professional help.
Club drugs like MDMA, ecstasy, K2, and molly cause users to grind their teeth, resulting in wear and tear of the enamel. In several studies, 93-99% of club drug users experienced a dry mouth. This dryness can persist for up to 48 hours after use – or even longer after a higher dose. Club drug users turn to soft drinks (which are acidic and sugar-rich) to relieve dry mouth, dehydration, and hyperthermia from vigorous dancing. Add that to reduced saliva secretion and buffering ability, and the rate of tooth enamel erosion will skyrocket. Again, club drug users report vomiting and nausea as a side effect, which could also increase erosion of the teeth.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a survey on 571 meth users revealed 96% had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth. Meth causes serious oral problems commonly described as “meth mouth,” – which presents as extensive gum disease and tooth decay. Once the harm begins, it is near impossible to reverse the effects and, in many cases, results in multiple tooth extractions. What’s more, meth rots teeth very quickly. Meth dries up the saliva, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities. It also causes users to grind their teeth due to stress. Additionally, meth makes one thirsty and leaves them craving for sweet drinks. Sugar feeds bacteria that harm tooth enamel – a process that’s aggravated when there’s no saliva.
Coke users experience an increased rate of tooth decay for a range of reasons: first, the powder is an acidic salt with a low pH (4.5). When applied to the oral or nasal route, it mixes with saliva and raises its acidity levels. This mixture is harmful to enamel as well as the hard dentin tissue underlying the enamel. Secondly, cocaine may cause transient chorea, a movement disorder that manifests in mouth and jaw-related muscle spasms that mimic a strange smile or grinding the teeth. Teeth grinding causes wear and tear and may result in damage to the jaw, surrounding gums, and the enamel.
Smoking cigarettes or marijuana cuts oxygen supply to the bloodstream causing infected gums not to heal. Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Smoking also leads to dry mouth. Marijuana use is associated with cannabinoid hyperemesis, a condition that causes vomiting. When one vomits regularly, he or she exposes the teeth to stomach acid that causes decay and cavities. Tobacco, on the other hand, can cause bad breath, gum disease, and damage. According to research, smoking may account for about 75% of periodontal disease in adults.
Substance use is detrimental to one’s overall health. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, it’s best to seek treatment and rehabilitation. Although some dental health concerns like enamel degradation, cancer, and tooth loss cannot be reversed, there’s still plenty that can be done to help restore a healthy mouth and smile. Rehabilitation facilities will also help treat addiction and any co-occurring disorders that contribute to user’s difficulty in maintaining their oral health.
The accelerated spread of the novel coronavirus has brought the global economy to a standstill. Predictions of potential impacts of the pandemic’s shock on the worldwide economy vary considerably. Yet many agree that the economy is facing the most severe challenge of the post-war era due to the sudden halt in economic activity in both developing and advanced countries.
Five months into the pandemic and businesses of all shapes and sizes are either shaping up or shipping out. The lockdown regulations have seen more and more companies change the way they do business. However, there is an industry that’s taking a massive hit with the travel ban and border regulations – illegal drug trade.
The COVID-19 pandemic is dealing heavy blows on the illicit drug trade – or at least for now. The closure of all ports of entry and travel restrictions has made it difficult for drug cartels to ship their products across borders. That’s not the only problem. There’s also a significant disruption in the supply chains. As it turns out, drug traffickers depend on chemicals produced in China to make profitable drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine. But with everything that’s happening, they have a hard time accessing these drug supplies.
The extensive disruption is causing shortages of illicit drugs in the US and UK, according to a United Nations report released on April 1. For instance, meth supply has decreased in most parts of the US, causing its price to skyrocket. Heroin and cocaine have seen the same uptick in price. These could be attributed to the shift in demand and supply equilibrium. The report further revealed that illicit drug trade is still thriving in other countries including, Australia and parts of Asia amid the pandemic.
As mentioned earlier, most drug traffickers get their synthetic drug supply (like crystal meth) from countries like China. But the air travel restrictions and flight cancellations are disrupting the normal operations.
The opiate seizures in the Indian Ocean show the impact that Coronavirus is having on the heroin business, considering these drugs are often trafficked by land.
Then there’s cocaine, which is mostly trafficked along maritime routes. The drugs have been detected in the European ports in the past few months.
Marijuana seems to be the only drug that hasn’t been widely affected by the virus since it’s grown and produced near places where it’s bought and sold. Still, smugglers aren’t very willing to ship marijuana across borders or regions under lockdown.
The supply and distribution of most illicit drugs (especially those that rely on ingredients sourced from China, Afghanistan, Colombia, etc.) are restricted as countries close their borders to control the deadly Coronavirus. Several reports show a reduction in supplies of synthetic marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
A post on Forbes speculates that the Covid-19 lockdown is putting darknet drug cartels out of business. It further states that the lockdown is hitting pubs, clubs, bars, and other drug-taking hotspots, but darknet dealers accept bitcoin as payment too. Bitcoin, which allows users to purchase illicit drugs, stolen goods, and even guns, has seen a significant drop in spending since the onset of the virus.
Again, with the transit routes through South America having shut down, drug trafficking cartels are unable to cross the Southwest border. There has also been a dramatic reduction in the foot and car traffic to and from Mexico, a major source of America’s heroin. Not to mention the stay-at-home orders and increased law enforcement (police presence) that discourages both buyers and dealers from meeting in public.
The report from the UNODC highlights the potential effects the pandemic may have on drug production in countries like Afghanistan, which cultivates about 90% of the global illicit opium. With March to June being the critical months for the opium harvest in the country, this year’s yields could go to waste if laborers won’t be willing (or able) to travel to where the poppies are grown.
Those who manage to access illicit drugs like cocaine are panic-buying so that they don’t run out of stock should the supply run out. An anonymous drug dealer told The Guardian that they do not expect any more cocaine shipments from abroad for six weeks. He said, “I sell cocaine and cannabis to suppliers in the north of England. I have 20 guys on the street servicing about 200 regular clients. But right now, we have two major concerns: sourcing drugs and making enough cash. With the looming shortage, my customers are buying ridiculous amounts of cannabis.”
Of course, as you would expect, people won’t behave rationally, whether it’s about buying sanitizers or marijuana. What we have seen happen with essential goods is a depiction of what’s happening in the drug world. Whenever possible, some users stock up on their drug of choice, leading to supply issues. Stockpiling might cause users to consume more drugs than usual. And when they exhaust their stock, and cannot get more, they could end up with withdrawal syndrome.
Inevitably, they’ll try alternative drug which exposes them to harm because they may not be used to the drug or know the safe doses. The same applies to the group that cannot stock up because of different reasons – like lack of money. They also will turn to substitutes, like diazepam, fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and so on. This shortage is increasing the number of IV (injection) users who are sharing needles to share what’s available. This exposes them to the risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and Coronavirus itself.
The UN warns that the Covid-19 pandemic may present new opportunities to some cartels. Indications reveal that drug smugglers are adapting their strategies, with some having started to take advantage of the situation to boost their image among the population by offering solutions to the vulnerable. This prompted the Trump administration to launch a war on drugs to combat drug trafficking amid Coronavirus pandemic. In the briefing, the president said the country must not let the drug kingpins and smugglers exploit the Corona outbreak to threaten American lives. He added that the US Southern Command would increase surveillance and seizures and disruption of the drug shipment.
We all know that drug and substance abuse can cause major health complications to the body’s vital organs, particularly the kidneys, liver, stomach, and bladder. But what most of us don’t know is that prolonged use can also hurt the body’s largest organ – the skin.
Substance abuse is associated with different short- and long-term effects. These effects vary depending on various aspects, like the type of substance, amount, and duration of intake and route of administration. The body size, general health, and concurrent use with other substances also play a part. In this article, we will focus more on show drug use affects the skin.
Drug and alcohol use can change a person’s look as fast as it does their behavior. While some drugs take relatively longer to rear their ugly effects on the skin, others do so within the shortest time. But either way, one thing is for sure, those with substance disorders “wear” addiction just as much as addiction wears them down.
If you are wondering about the correlation between drug misuse and skin problems, you should know that substance use and nutritional deficiencies go hand in hand. Drug-seeking behavior overrides healthy dietary considerations, disrupting the intake of the recommended daily nutrients. But that’s not all that there is to this problem.
There’s the issue of the liver working twice as hard as it needs to, to digest the ingested substance. This, in turn, affects its ability to process food optimally. Alcohol, too, plays a hand in limiting the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. The suppression of the immune system is another risk factor for skin infections and worsening conditions like psoriasis.
The disruption of adequate nutrient intake and the poor uptake due to digestion and absorption issues may result in vitamin deficiencies that may cause skin disorders. Just as an example, fat-soluble vitamin A is essential for good skin health. It not only prevents inflammation but also creates and repairs skin cells. Lack of vitamin A may lead to dry skin, poor wound healing, acne, and breakouts. Vitamins B1, B3, and B6 along with zinc are also essential for healthy skin – all of which may be insufficient or lacking in someone abusing drugs or alcohol.
Other reasons why people who struggle with addiction develop skin problems include:
But as we mentioned earlier, these drugs have different effects on the skin. So, the skin effects from meth use may vary from that of alcohol and so on. To give you a clear picture of how these substances affect the skin differently, let’s look at the drugs in detail.
Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, as it’s commonly known, has the most notorious effects on the skin. In fact, even its short-term use can hurt the skin. That’s why you can identify meth users right away; they will have meth sores, scars, and scabs on their faces. And the effects of meth seem to linger, long after someone has quit using. Most of the people who use meth will also have meth mouth, which is characterized by extensive gum disease and tooth decay that causes teeth to crumble, blacken or fall out.
Alcohol misuse is linked to a wide range of health problems, especially skin changes. Since its lipid- and water-soluble, it penetrates through all the body tissues and affects the most vital functions. The most common skin manifestations of alcohol abuse include pruritus, jaundice, urticarial reactions, wrinkling, dry skin, and red skin. Alcohol also causes flare-ups of skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea.
Drug misuse, particularly those that involve intravenous or other injectable administration, usually leaves behind linear scars or track marks along the injected veins. Over time, this vein becomes abnormally dark (hyperpigmented). If the drug is administered right below the skin surface, one may have deep, round scars in the area. Skin and soft tissue bacterial infections (due to extravasation, skin popping, necrosis, and increased numbers of bacteria on the skin) are common in injectable drugs.
Most of these drugs -morphine, amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin - are administered intravenously in different parts of the body like the elbow pit, neck, or arms. When someone abuses these drugs for a long time, the previous injection sites may close up, forcing them to start injecting themselves through the groin, toes, fingers, or foot. In this case, the patients will have needle tracks at these sites. Other common skin conditions from illicit drug use include impetigo, cellulitis, and abscess formation.
Some users prefer to snort coke (insufflation). This group is prone to infections and inflammation of the nose’s external structure. Sniffing cocaine can affect the nose in different ways, causing damage to the cilia. Crusted skin in the nasal passage and sores in the mucous membrane of the nose are also common effects.
Skin reactions are common side effects of prescription drugs, especially those containing stimulants. The effects can only worsen if these drugs are abused. And while people react differently to these drugs, most of them often present with skin disorders like hives, rashes, and hypersensitivity.
The cases of substance abuse and addiction are ever-rising. According to one wound educator, there are more overdoses and skin and wound issues than never before. He believes that there needs to be less judgment and more education because not everyone who misuses drugs does so because of a poor choice. Some abuse can result from self-medication, unmanaged mental health issue, or family genetics.
Patients are advised to get medical assistance to help address their skin problems. They can also embrace lifestyle changes to avoid making the situation worse. However, since addiction is a mental disease, these individuals should go through addiction treatment. Luckily, several programs are designed to help those struggling with drug addiction and may help them attain sobriety and ditch the bad habits.