The Devastating Effects of Meth on The Immune System
Using meth can cause serious physical harm even in the short term, but this damage can become more severe as abuse continues. So, what are the effects of meth on your health?
When a person develops a tolerance to meth, the dose they used to take may not create the effect they seek. Because of this, many individuals will increase their dose, which could push them closer to addiction. The more a person uses meth, the greater the likelihood that they will become dependent.
Once a person is dependent, their body will likely struggle to function normally when not taking the drug. Should a person suddenly stop taking meth, or quit cold turkey, they may go into withdrawal.
The effects of meth on the immune system can also be extensive, especially over a prolonged period of abuse. Specifics will vary from person to person.
If you are struggling with this dangerous drug, call us today at (385) 327-7418 to help you find a recovery program that will fit your needs. Together, we can work to get you on the path to recovery.
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH
If you have been asking yourself “what are the effects of meth on my body,” you have come to the right place. Jump to a section below to find out more, and be sure to reach out to our experts if you have questions.
Meth and the Body
When an individual who chronically abuses meth stops taking the drug or significantly decreases their dose, they may develop any or all of the following signs and symptoms:
- intense cravings
- decreased appetite
- insomnia despite exhaustion
- headache from dehydration
- muscle pain, especially in the jaw from clenching
A person who is trying to quit without proper support will likely resume using meth as a way of alleviating withdrawal symptoms. However, you can make all the difference for someone close to you who is suffering. Offer emotional support, and encourage them to find treatment.
Other meth effects include meth mites, meth sores, meth mouth, and other specific health concerns. Meth mites, or “crank bugs,” refers to a type of hallucination common in long-term meth users. A person may feel as if they have insects crawling on or burrowing beneath their skin. This causes them to pick at their skin obsessively, creating the sores that are one of the most recognized signs of meth addiction. Most times, these sores will not heal due to a weakened immune system and poor blood flow.
Meth mouth refers to the extremely dry condition of the mouth for meth addiction sufferers. Lack of saliva production leads to tooth decay, which in turn is exacerbated by the tendency of users to frequently grind their teeth. Eventually, teeth will be visibly brown and broken.
While these are the most visible effects of meth, there are many others including organ issues and immune system deficiencies. The effects of this drug can be truly devastating.
Effects on the Organs
So, what are the effects of meth on the organs? As a stimulant, meth abuse places great strain on the heart and cardiovascular system. This effect of meth could cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure (hypertension).
However, meth also entails more serious cardiac risks. People who abuse meth have a higher risk of heart failure. Additional cardiac dangers include an infection of the heart called endocarditis.
Endocarditis occurs primarily in IV meth users. Bacteria can enter a person’s bloodstream from a dirty needle or failure to properly sterilize the injection site. This effect of meth can also lead to infection at the injection site itself, which will develop into an abscess without proper care.
The most common infection that affects people who inject drugs is cellulitis. Cellulitis causes pain and swelling in the skin and the tissue underneath. These symptoms will spread over the affected limb. If untreated, the bacteria causing cellulitis can get into the bloodstream and cause sepsis.
Other varieties of organ damage caused by meth abuse can include kidney damage, liver damage, and lung disease.
Effects on the Immune System
Research conducted to answer the question “how do drugs affect the immune system” found that meth exposure results in altered T cell cycle entry and progression in animals. This finding means that meth interferes with the production of the cells that carry out the body’s immune response. Therefore, meth has a strong negative effect on the immune system.
A study on how meth affects the human immune system began with how the drug adversely changes users’ behaviors, putting meth users at high risk for getting infectious diseases. The effects of meth on the immune system may be the reason for the rapid development of AIDS in meth users.
In some cases, the progression from HIV to AIDS takes only a few months. This drug dramatically impacts disease, and with nearly 35 million people using meth worldwide, this impact would be disastrous to ignore.
There is an urgent need for innovative meth treatment interventions to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases.
Through drug abuse treatment and community-based outreach programs, drug abusers can change their HIV risk behaviors. Targeted outreach and awareness programs can reduce the prevalence of drug abuse and drug-related risk behaviors, such as needle-sharing and unsafe sexual practices. This will greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission.
Cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions are the most effective treatments for meth addiction currently. Until then use of meth is drastically lessened. Its impact on our society will, unfortunately, continue to be severe.
Scientists through Loftis Lab are developing a drug to help meth withdrawal during detox and recovery. New research has shown that the immunological effects of meth are tied to many of the other problems it creates. Changes in the immune system contribute to the memory problems linked to addiction. Patients also get sick more easily in general.
While most drugs target addiction work on brain chemicals, Loftis Lab focuses on the immune system. Their goal is to figure out a way to help meth users by treating some of the underlying causes of their cognitive and mood symptoms. The goal is to develop a treatment that will alleviate withdrawal symptoms better during early recovery. If withdrawal symptoms are minimized, this will allow individuals to stick with their treatment programs.
Meth and HIV
A recent study done on gay male meth abusers found high susceptibility to HIV, due to weakened immune systems from chronic meth abuse. This research is critical for understanding the effects meth has on the immune system.
Not only does the drug affect the immune system in reducing inhibitions and fueling high-risk behavior, but there is mounting evidence that meth use actually predisposes users to HIV infection. Meth is increasingly responsible for the HIV epidemic as it is somehow suppressing the immune system and increasing viral loads.
Knowing what kind of direct impact the drug may have on the virus has gained a sense of urgency in recent months. Experts fear that more and more people, particularly gay men, are relying on the stimulating effects of meth to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. In New York, a rare strain of HIV has appeared and is believed to be linked to meth.
A Direct Link
A long-term study of more than 4,000 gay men sexually active with more than one partner recently found that the odds of contracting HIV climb substantially while using crystal meth. About a quarter of the men surveyed said that they had used crystal meth in the six months before the start of the study. They were all HIV-negative when it began. By the end of the study, 2.1 percent of the men had become infected.
Unprotected sex with multiple partners is thus strongly associated with infection. Furthermore, the men who were taking crystal meth were twice as likely to contract HIV. Meth, as mentioned earlier, suppresses killer T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights off pathogens.
In those who are already infected, meth may make the effects of the virus worse. Studies have found that it can interfere with HIV medications and set off a surge in viral loads, accelerating the progression of the disease and making a person more infectious to others.
It should be clear that when discussing what drugs affect the immune system, meth should be near the top of the list. Individuals suffering from meth addiction will get sick more easily and will most likely have inflammation in the brain.
Meth can alter and destroy white blood cells and other cells responsible for keeping the body’s immune system intact. Thus, a person abusing meth is going to have a harder time-fighting infections, as well as being more likely to develop serious diseases. These include HIV, hepatitis, lung disease, emphysema, and many more. The longer the abuse continues, the higher the odds of having some of these serious health issues. Furthermore, central nervous system issues are inevitable with chronic, long-term meth use.
With all this information, the most devastating part is that most of the more severe issues are irreversible. Once you have reached this stage, there is no turning back the clock. Stop now before things get any worse — or better yet, before any of this happens at all!
Call us today at (385) 327-7418 so we can help guide you to treatment for your meth dependency and all the health issues that come with it. You deserve to be healthy and happy. Get help now!
To speak with someone about your situation and get a free consultation, call us today at (385) 327-7418.