Short-term and long-term methamphetamine use carry different kinds of risks, including stress or damage to the cardiovascular, nervous, gastrointestinal, and renal, systems.
Short-term use of methamphetamine can result in:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Higher heart rate and blood pressure
Long-term use of methamphetamine can result in:
- Damage to the liver and kidneys
- Heart damage
- In some cases, psychological effects like hallucinations, anxiety, depression, or paranoia
Prolonged methamphetamine use can cause people to believe they have bugs or parasites beneath their skin (parasitosis), which results in the picking of skin. Skin picking can result in infections, including infections with drug-resistant bacteria that can make people very ill. Long-term use can also lead to tooth decay.
The ways people use methamphetamine can also present different physical risks. Methamphetamine comes in several forms, and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested. If people inject methamphetamine and share needles or equipment, it can result in the spread of blood-borne diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C.
Overdose can result from methamphetamine use. Methamphetamine overdose is on the rise in the U.S., and in some states, methamphetamine is now at fault for more deaths than all opioids combined. Taking opioids with methamphetamine, and the higher potency of today’s methamphetamine, are cited as reasons for this rise.
Methamphetamine use can also be associated with sexual risk-taking such as not using protection or having multiple unprotected sexual partners. This can result in an increased risk for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). Inserting methamphetamine rectally can also induce small tears in the rectal tissue, which can lead to hemorrhoids or bleeding.
Methamphetamine use is highly stigmatized, and people who use methamphetamine may not reveal their use or any associated health problems to their partners or healthcare practitioner out of fear or shame. People who are members of marginalized groups, such as racial or ethnic minorities, sex workers or members of the LGBTQ+ community, may be further discouraged from seeking treatment due to the compounding of stigmas. Portrayal of people who use methamphetamine in the media as “violent” or “criminal” also further steers people from seeking treatment or healthcare.