It is no great surprise that methamphetamine is bad for your health. Multiple studies have shown that the drug attacks the body in a number of ways: from destroying organ performance to eroding dental hygiene to deteriorating neurological functioning, meth assaults the human body in a variety of extremely effective manners.

But even with all of this existing knowledge, it appears that recent studies have indicated yet another way in which meth is detrimental to those abusing the substance. There is mounting evidence that methamphetamine increases a person’s susceptibility to infection by crippling immune system functioning and facilitating disease transmission. While the physical dangers of meth have been shown for decades, understanding how the drug negatively impacts the immune system is newer to researchers but quickly proving to be just as detrimental as all previous knowledge concerning the illicit substance.1

So what does meth use do to the immune system? Before we get into those specifics, it’s important to understand some of the general effects methamphetamines can have on an individual, both short-term and long-term.

The Negative Effects of Meth and the Immune System

With the recent resurgence of meth use around the country, researchers have begun to focus on the effects methamphetamine has on the immune system and how habitual use dramatically affects the body’s ability to fend off disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

In particular, recent studies have shown methamphetamine to suppress killer T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights off pathogens. This negative impact on the T-cell memory population and T-cell activation have the ability to leave a meth addict unable to initiate a sufficient immune response to a number of infectious diseases.

Additionally, meth’s ability to dry out mucosal membranes and cause abrasions in the mouth and rectum might increase an addict’s vulnerability to debilitating infections without the ability to naturally fend off the experienced illness.

This is directly related to a meth addict’s increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and blood-borne pathogens due to their addictive behaviors and drug administration routes.3

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Short-Term Effects of Meth on the Body

Meth is one of the most potent and addictive drugs in our society. It can be smoked, injected, snorted or eaten. Meth primarily affects the central nervous system. When it reaches the brain, it immediately signals the release of an excess amount of dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure system. Dopamine also influences important daily behaviors such as movement, emotion and memory.

Once the brain is flooded with the “feel good” chemical, an intense, euphoric high that can last on average six to eight hours overtakes the body. In addition to this feeling of intense pleasure, here are other short-term effects of meth use:

  • Dilation of pupils
  • Hyperexcitability/increased alertness
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep patterns/decreased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Erratic, sometimes violent behavior

In extreme cases:

  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Death from high doses

Long-Term Effects of Meth on the Body

A meth addiction typically starts after the body has built a tolerance to the drug, necessitating a higher
dose to achieve the coveted high. Once addiction seizes control over the mind and body, multiple health concerns and consequences develop.

The Effects of Meth on the Heart

As a stimulant, meth wreaks havoc on the heart. Any time meth enters the body, your heart rate significantly increases. Users who consume meth excessively and/or over a long period of time have a high risk of developing heart palpitations (powerful, abnormal heartbeats that feel like pounding) and/or an arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat that feels like a skipped heartbeat).

Both are severe conditions that can cause an individual to collapse or enter cardiac arrest.

Meth also causes blood pressure to rise, which can lead to damaged arteries that block the blood flow to various organs in the body.

The Effects of Meth on the Lungs & Respiratory System

In a similar light, the stimulant effects of meth can cause an individual to experience rapid breathing, lightheadedness and fainting.

  • Smoking meth can cause the alveoli to bleed. The alveoli is the portion of the lungs responsible for gas exchange with the body’s blood supply. When this happens, a meth user will cough up blood.

Smoking meth can also destroy the small pulmonary blood vessels and lead to excess fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). As a result, a meth user can form a rare lung condition called pulmonary hypertension.

  • Snorting meth can cause a meth user to experience powerful coughs and severe respiratory damage such as:
    • Collapsed lungs
    • Air being released into the body from sources other than the lungs
    • Interstitial lung disease

The Effects of Meth on the Liver and GI Tract

For meth users who inject and share needles, the spread of blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C are commonly transmitted. Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can lead to bleeding, jaundice, cirrhosis and nervous system damage.

The GI tract is affected when blood vessels in the intestines become constricted and prevent blood flow to the bowel. This can kill bowel tissue, resulting in perforation of the intestinal wall and peritonitis, which is a likely fatal infection that leads to septic shock.

The Effects of Meth on Skin and Teeth

A signature of meth use is compulsive skin picking. Attributed to either delusions, psychosis or the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin, meth users tend to scratch their face and arms in a repetitive manner that leads to open sores. Without a chance to heal, these open sores are often prone to infection. Additionally, chronic meth use can cause:

  • Severe acne
  • Weakened or lost skin elasticity
  • The skin takes on a leathery texture
  • The appearance of rapid aging

Another trademark of long-term meth use has been dubbed “meth mouth.” Meth use causes/leads to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Weakened saliva production leads to the body’s inability to fend off cavity-causing bacteria
  • Compulsive grinding

In conjunction with poor oral hygiene, a meth mouth can quickly change into cracked teeth, severe tooth decay, tooth loss and gum erosion.

The Effects of Meth on the Musculoskeletal System

Long-term meth use can lead to an increase in deep tendon reflexes (hyper-reflexive) and cause serious muscle twitching and tremors.

Additionally, the abuse of meth can result in rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition that involves the rapid deterioration of muscle tissue. When this happens, the toxic contents of damaged cells can be released into the bloodstream. This causes severe muscle pain, intense changes in electrolyte levels and irreversible kidney failure if not treated in time.

Life-Changing Meth Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

You only get one life and one body. Make the most of yours by putting meth addiction behind you. Regardless of where your addiction has landed you, you can stop using meth and get your entire life back on track.

At Ranch Creek Recovery, your precise detox needs, successful recovery and sober re-entry into society is our top priority. At our holistic recovery center, our meth treatment program delivers all-encompassing methodologies of medical and physical treatment, psychology, holistic and experiential therapies and preparation to forge the drug-free future you desire.

Have questions?

CALL NOW: (877) 997-8931

Life-Changing, Holistic Meth Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

Undoing the damage of meth addiction can be messy, extremely uncomfortable and some of the hardest work you do in your life. But, in order to have a life worth living, your addiction must end.

Your mind and body need significant attention and care during meth addiction treatment.

At Ranch Creek Recovery, your successful recovery and sober re-entry into society is our utmost mission.

At our holistic recovery center, our meth treatment program delivers all-encompassing methodologies of medical and physical treatment, psychology, holistic and experiential therapies, and preparation to forge the drug-free future you desire.

Learn more about our meth addiction treatment program to start your journey toward detox and recovery.

Have questions? We’re here to help, call (877) 997-8931.


1 The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Impact of methamphetamine on infection and immunity. Accessed December 3, 2018.

2 PBS Frontline. How Meth Destroys the Body. Accessed December 3, 2018.

3 PLOS ONE. Methamphetamine Administration Targets Multiple Immune Subsets and Induces Phenotypic Alterations Suggestive of Immunosuppression. Accessed December 3, 2018.