Prolonged use of meth has severe psychological and physical effects on the user. In addition, individuals who produce meth and others who are exposed to meth lab sites or toxic waste products can suffer serious health consequences.
The major presenting problems for methamphetamine users are psychological:
Paranoia can progress from mild suspiciousness to a well-developed paranoid delusional condition with auditory hallucinations that often make users clinically indistinguishable from paranoid schizophrenics.
Usually, psychotic symptoms occur only during or following extended binges of meth use with long-term sleep deprivation. For some people, “delusional flashbacks” occur during extended periods of sobriety. The paranoia and irritability that result from chronic methamphetamine use can lead to domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect, shootings, and knifings.
Chronic use can also lead to persistent symptoms of depression and anxiety. Suicide attempts can occur, especially when an individual is coming down from an extended period of use.
A significant negative consequence of prolonged methamphetamine use is that during the first four to six months after stopping use of the drug − and for some people, even longer − there is a profound inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia). Many recovering methamphetamine users say, “If this is how it’s going to feel to be sober for the rest of my life, I can’t live like this.” These feelings are among the most critical contributing factors to relapse, so it is important to educate clients that for most people, this condition improves with extended sobriety.
Chronic use of methamphetamine changes the brain.
Regular methamphetamine use also can lead to numerous cardiovascular problems, including increased heart rate and blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Injecting methamphetamine puts the drug (which is usually made in nonsterile conditions) and any impurities directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the body’s defense systems. This can lead to an infection of the heart or hepatitis C infection. The rate of hepatitis C virus among a recently studied sample of methamphetamine injectors was 43.8 percent.
In addition, methamphetamine injectors often develop severe infections at injection sites. Rates of HIV are relatively low among heterosexual methamphetamine users at this time. However, studies report high-risk sexual behaviors among samples of methamphetamine- using heterosexual men, women and rural residents, so those rates may increase. The drug-related sexual practices of men who have sex with men (MSM) and use methamphetamine place them at high risk for HIV.