Teens Ask: What Does Meth Do to You?
Many parents and teens may wonder about the effects of methamphetamine, also called meth. Because meth is known for its near-immediate effects, it appeals to people who want a quick high. However, the drug can also have serious long-term effects — even months after you stop misusing it.
The Deceptive Pleasure of Meth
Meth causes you to experience what many call a rush of euphoric feelings shortly after ingesting it. More specifically, the drug facilitates a rapid release of dopamine, the brain chemical that is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure.
Here’s the catch. Regular meth misuse also hinders the release of dopamine during naturally-occurring situations, such as when you listen to music or enjoy delicious food. As a result, you may keep coming back to meth to rediscover those pleasurable emotions that you can no longer feel during your day-to-day life.
In addition to changing the molecular structure of the brain, meth also has a short-term impact on the body. Your body temperature, respiration and blood pressure rise, and your heart rate increases significantly — and may even become irregular. You feel wide awake, excited, attentive and alert, and the drug can also curtail your appetite.
Meth’s Scary Side Effects
As with many illicit substances, long-term use of meth can have a deleterious effect on you. Common side effects include:
- Heavy mood swings
- Sleeping problems
- Confusion or distractedness
- Anxiety or depression
- Substantial weight loss
- Severe dental damage
- Skin sores from repeated scratching
- Violent or overly-aggressive behaviors
- Memory troubles
- Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
- Diminished motor skills
Naturally, the severity of these symptoms tends to grow the more dependent you become on meth.
The Unwelcome Longevity of Meth
Another frightening aspect of meth is the toll it can take on your body and brain long after you discontinue its use. This contrasts with some other substances whose effects largely vanish once you abstain from their use and your body completes a detoxification process.
A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology revealed that adolescents who quit using meth still experienced a variety of symptoms even after four to 11 months of abstinence. They reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, and they struggled with their executive function skills such as attention focusing, multitasking and following instructions.
You may also have difficulty maintaining balanced cortisol levels in your body. This hormone is responsible for regulating a number of bodily functions and systems, and too much cortisol can lead to:
- Excessive thirst
- High blood pressure
- Sudden weight gain
- Irritability or mood swings
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced sex drive or irregular menstruation
Meth tends to overstimulate the cortisol-producing process in your body. Even after several months of meth-free living, your cortisol levels often spike in response to a sudden social stressor.
Finally, thousands of people suffer from fatal meth-related overdoses every year in the United States. Some die from hyperthermia when their body temperature climbs too high too fast. Others succumb to fatal strokes or heart attacks due to constricted blood vessels and skyrocketing heart rate and blood pressure.
Meth is considered to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances for teens largely because it’s one of the most addictive drugs out there (on par with heroin). It’s not unheard of for regular teen drug misuse to occur even after one or two encounters with meth.
Here’s the takeaway. You might think that you are invincible and can handle anything – even meth. But the reality is that meth is powerful enough to wreck your life long after your initial experimentation with the drug. In short, the long-term anguish just isn’t worth the short-term high.
If you are finding it hard to stop misusing meth or you know someone else who is, contact Next Generation Village today to learn about treatment options that can help.
Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.