The temporary physical and psychological effects from meth can turn into long-term, permanent effects that last a lifetime. For instance, meth dramatically affects a person's decision-making abilities. The temporary effect of increased libido leads meth users to engage in risky, unprotected sex. A recent study of 19,000 men in Los Angles showed that new HIV infections were three times higher among methamphetamine users than among nonusers.28 Also, HIV and other infectious diseases like hepatitis B and C are spread among injection drug users mainly by sharing syringes and needles. Multiple injections also scar the skin and the veins. Because of the eventual reversal of meth's effects, long-term meth-amphetamine use is associated with decreased sexual functioning and libido, at least in men.9, 11
Heavy use of meth lowers immune function (the body's ability to heal). Meth raises blood pressure, and over time weakens and destroys blood vessels. This cuts off blood flow to parts of the body. Crank bug sores often take a long time to heal, and meth users' skin in general loses it elasticity and shine. Chronic meth users tend to forget about basic self-care, such as brushing teeth, taking a shower, eating, sleeping, or wearing clean clothes. All of these combine to dramatically age the body, making a meth user look much older than he or she really is.7
The illegal manufacture of meth can also have health hazards. The chemicals involved can also damage internal organs and are known carcinogens. It is easy for a meth cooker to breathe the solvent fumes and gas by-products used in making meth. The damage to the lungs, skin, and eyes from chronic exposure to meth lab chemicals also can be instantaneous, causing blindness and respiratory illnesses.20
Meth's effects on the brain can also affect social functioning. Many chronic meth users drop out of school or employment altogether. It is impossible to keep up with classes or hold down a job when one is awake and high for days at a time and then, exhausted, needing to sleep for several days. Reports of teen meth users stealing from their families and friends are commonplace, injuring relationships and trust. And, of course, methamphetamine is illegal unless prescribed by a physician, and is punishable with heavy fines and prison.
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