You might remember taking a drug misuse and prevention class in middle school or high school. Popular programs in the United States include D.A.R.E., an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. This curriculum has been widely taught in schools in an attempt to warn school-age children about the dangers of drug use.
In more recent years, D.A.R.E. has come under some criticism for giving the impression that everyone who even tries drugs or alcohol will wind up with a severe addiction. Criticism has been especially levied against the idea of alcohol and marijuana as gateway drugs: drugs that lead to devastating addiction.
Modern research has shown that not everybody who tries a substance or even uses a drug like marijuana recreationally will wind up with a substance use disorder. For a very small fraction of people, this may be true. Meth is considered one of the harder and more dangerous substances that so-called “gateway drugs” can lead to.
Throughout its curriculum, some D.A.R.E. programs show the effects of substance use on the body through photos, shared testimony, and videos. Some of you might remember the pictures of people with bloodshot eyes, unfocused gazes, and sores on their arms and face.
Meth sores are an unfortunate but real side effect of meth use that can affect many people. Today, we will take a look at what meth sores are and how treatment can help.
What Is Meth?
Meth, also known by its longer name of methamphetamine, is a very powerful stimulant. A stimulant is a specific category of drugs that has direct effects on your body’s central nervous system.
Stimulants can result in heightened or sped up bodily functions such as increased heart rate, inflated body temperature and anxiety, more tension, nausea, and seizures in extreme cases. Some stimulants are legally prescribed and can be very helpful for treating certain conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. One of the most well known legally prescribed stimulants is Adderall, a drug used to help those with ADHD improve their ability to focus.
While there are some legal stimulants, there are also illegal stimulants. Meth falls into this category of illegal substances. Meth usually comes in the form of a white powder or blue or white looking crystals, also known as crystal meth. There are a variety of ways in which meth can be taken, including:
- Smoked (typical with crystal meth)
- Taking it in a pill form
- Snorting (typical with meth’s powder form)
- Injection into a vein (once the powder is dissolved in water)
Because meth ramps up your body’s systems, it originally began as a drug used in World War II. The Japanese first distributed meth amidst their soldiers in order to help keep them alert and awake during battle. Soon after, the United States followed suit in distributing meth to their soldiers. Meth snowballed after World War II, eventually making its way to the general public in both Japan, the United States, and across the world.
At first, meth was not a controlled substance and there were few restrictions on the drug. However, as meth addiction and dependency began being observed, the Food and Drug Administration stepped in to place heavy restrictions on it, declaring it a Schedule II drug. This category means that it has a high potential to be misused and can be highly addictive.
People may enjoy the feeling they get from using meth and continue using in an attempt to experience the same feelings that allow them to disconnect from reality and feel better. Over time, turning to meth as a support or rescue from reality can morph into an addiction.
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Continuous meth use has many negative physical side effects. Potential effects include meth mouth, a decaying of teeth and gums, and meth sores, irritating bumps that can become infected.
Meth treatment is available and can help you or someone you know live a healthier, better life. At Vertava Health of Ohio, we want to help you see and live that better future through effective, individualized addiction treatment.
What Are Meth Sores?
Meth sores are areas of open wounds that may appear on a person’s face, mouth, chest, and arms. Although many people might just think of sores on the face or lips, they can actually appear anywhere on the body, though they are more typical on the face.
These sores are a side effect of repeated meth use. A one-time or occasional use of meth is not likely to result in the development of these sores, but consistent use over time will result in meth sores in the user. The sores appear red and may be mistaken for acne, an allergic reaction, a bug bite, or a rash.
Sores are not necessarily always infected, but as is typical with habitual drug misuse, users tend to pay less attention to personal hygiene or nutrition. As hygiene, proper cleanliness, and nutrition is neglected, the likelihood of the meth sores becoming infected rises. Infected sores invite bacteria into the body and can lead to complications, especially if the bacteria reach the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.
Dermatological treatment and other specialized medical care may be needed for an effective full recovery from meth sores.
What Do Meth Sores Look Like?
Meth sores can appear in a variety of places on a user’s body. We will examine some of the most common locations for meth sores to appear. Some meth sores are created through repeated itching and scratching at one location on the skin. Other meth sores are created through the method of using meth.
The variety of reasons a user has meth sores can include:
- Burns from paraphernalia (such as a pipe for crystal meth)
- Weak immune system from continued substance use
- Continuous picking at sores or irritated skin
Meth Face Sores
Meth, as we have previously noted, can be dissolved in water. This means that it is water-soluble. A frequent meth user can sweat meth out of their pores. By having this meth-laced sweat sit on the face, sores can appear and irritate the skin.
Meth sores on the face look very similar to an acne outbreak: red and bumpy. Users may find these spots uncomfortable and frequently pick at the sores, causing them to rupture and become open wounds. Open wounds are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and harmful germs. Continuous picking at sores can lead to infection and other complications.
Meth Mouth Sores
Meth sores can form around the mouth are usually caused through the use of crystal meth. Crystal meth is most commonly smoked through a pipe. During the process of smoking through a pipe, the pipe can become very hot and burn the lips and skin that surrounds the mouth.
These burns can also be painful and have the potential to be a hazard to a person’s health. Like many other kinds of burns, blistering skin can be highly uncomfortable and can result in some scarring or permanent marks. Burns and sores that fail to heal properly can pose a threat of infection.
Meth Skin Sores
Habitual meth use can restrict the flow of blood vessels. When blood vessels are constricted, the result can turn out as dry and scaly patches of skin on the face or arms. Like all the other places on the body where you can find meth sores, skin sores can be picked at. Picking at those patches of sores or irritated skin will only aggravate the sore and surrounding area, again causing that potential for infection and increased irritation.
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The term “meth psychosis” might sound a bit scary. After all “psychosis” sounds a lot like other kinds of unfavorable words like psycho or psychotic. Really, this word’s etymology refers to things that deal with the mind.
Like many words that deal with medical topics, the word psychosis comes from a combination of various Greek words. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the Greek word psykhē which means “mind” and the ending osis means “abnormal condition.” The Greek psykhosis means “a giving of life; animation;principle of life.”
The word itself isn’t meant to imply anything about anybody’s character or personality. Instead, it just refers to a mental state and potential illness. By understanding that certain illnesses take place in the mind, treatment can be developed and improved to help people who struggle with these illnesses.
A simple way of understanding psychosis is that it is an episode in which someone becomes disconnected from reality. People who use meth may experience psychotic symptoms. That means that users can become agitated, violent, or experience delusions.
Delusions are something that is contrary to reality. For example, let’s say Nicole suffers from delusions. One day she wears a purple shirt, but everywhere she goes, people tell her that her shirt is actually orange. Nicole is so surprised, since when she looks down at her shirt, she sees a purple shirt. She becomes stressed, because she’s not sure which version of reality is true. This is a simplistic example of what a delusion feels like.
According to a publication from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), estimates calculate that approximately 40% of those who use meth can experience psychotic symptoms and syndromes.
You can identify meth psychosis that is a result of using based on the following symptoms. This information is given by a manuscript from the U.S. HHS :
- Presence of prominent hallucinations or delusions
- Hallucinations or delusions develop during, or soon after, intoxication or withdrawal from a substance or medication known to cause psychotic symptoms
- Psychotic symptoms are not actually part of a psychotic disorder (such as schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder) that is not substance-induced (i.e., if psychotic symptom onset was prior to substance or medication use, or persists longer than one month after substance intoxication or withdrawal, then another psychotic disorder is likely
- Psychotic symptoms do not only occur during a delirium.
Meth Hallucinations: Meth Bugs And Meth Mites
Some people who regularly use meth will experience some hallucinatory side effects. One of the most common hallucinations is that a person sees some kind of bug and believes it’s moving around underneath their skin. This kind of hallucination is called formication. The delusion can involve both sight and touch.
Meth users who experience formication might see and feel the bugs crawling underneath the skin, or they might just feel a crawling sensation. The feeling can be so strong and compelling that a person will scratch intensely at the skin in an effort to remove the bugs and ease the sensation.
Because there are no bugs in reality, sores and other injuries can form on the skin. These kinds of wounds are often in the arms and sometimes in the face. Sores that develop pose the same risk of infection that we’ve mentioned before.
The bugs that meth users see have a variety of names. These names include:
- Meth bugs
- Meth mites
- Ice mites
- Crank bugs
Those who use meth more frequently are more likely to experience these instances of meth psychosis compared to those who occasionally use meth.
How Meth Sores Affect Your Health
With meth sores and meth-induced psychosis that leads to hallucination of meth mites, scratching and picking at the skin is extremely common. Unfortunately, all this irritation and damage to the skin and affected areas results in scabs all over the body. Scabs can result from picking at sores both on the arms, the face, and anywhere else sores have been irritated by exaggerated itching or picking.
Although we’ve repeated it several times, it’s worth repeating once more. Infection can easily set in with meth sores, and infection isn’t something you want to happen. Infected sores can cause pain and soreness; the skin may change color. If a severely infected sore goes untreated, there is a very real possibility of the infection entering the bloodstream.
Once harmful germs get into your bloodstream, they can easily travel around your body, making you sicker. Left unattended, spreading infection can be life-threatening and is highly dangerous.
Seek medical attention immediately if you have meth sores that are painful, swollen, dark-colored, and warm.
Treatment For Meth Sores
In order to prevent future sores, a user will need to take steps towards sobriety and a life free from meth use. Because meth use can cause users to pick at the sores on their skin, complete change and healing can’t truly begin until the root problem, meth addiction, is addressed.
Short term treatment of meth sores includes seeking medical attention, especially when sores are infected. Doctors can examine sores and prescribe antibiotics to fight infection if a patient needs it. Some sores may also need to be manually drained of pus. This is something that is best left to medical professionals to handle. They know the proper ways of draining sores to keep you safe! Other creams or medications can also be prescribed if you go see a doctor.
Without professional treatment, healing can take a lot longer. Habitual meth use can weaken your immune system and make the healing process even longer than usual. If the wound becomes infected, the healing will not only take longer, but your immune system may not be able to fight off the infection by itself.
To ensure you don’t have to deal with meth sores and their consequences again, you need to seek treatment for meth addiction. It will not be easy. It will be challenging, and you might mess up after going through a recovery program, but the decision you make to seek addiction treatment is one of the best things you can do to ensure your well-being and health.
At Vertava Health of Ohio, we recognize that seeking treatment for meth addiction isn’t an easy thing to do, but we are here to support you every step of the way. Our team of professionals is eager to help you through recovery treatment by providing you with personalized treatment plans. Together, we will get you to a better, healthier future. Contact us today at 888-481-7821.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do meth users have sores?
Meth users may have sores due to constant picking and scratching at their skin. Some users experience hallucinations of insects crawling under their skin and damage their skin by picking at the insects. Other times, meth users may expose their face to sores through meth expelled by sweating. Additionally, sores can form due to dry skin, a side effect of meth use, or through burns by a pipe used to smoke crystal meth.
Why does meth cause sores?
Picking and scratching at skin are some of the major ways in which sores form on the skin of meth users. Poor nutrition and self-hygiene can also contribute to the formation of sores. As individuals use more and more regularly, their self-hygiene and cleanliness tends to deteriorate.
How to treat meth sores on the face?
The best way to treat sores is to seek medical attention. Doctors can prescribe antibiotics to help fend off an active infection and can drain sores of pus if needed. If you don’t seek medical attention, sores may eventually heal on their own. However, the self-healing process will take longer, because meth users often have a weakened immune system.