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Meth Use Effects and Your Teen

By

Updated June 11, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Crystal Meth Picture
© DEA

Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) survey in 2010, 1.2% 8th grade teens, 1.6% 10th grade teens and 1.0% 12th grade teens reported abusing methamphetamines at least once during the year prior to the survey. While these rates seem much lower than other teen social drugs like tobacco, alcohol or marijuana, they are more alarming as meth can harm irrecoverably or kill a teenager with its first use and every single use thereafter. It is imperative that parents who feel their teen may be using meth need to get help in dealing with the situation immediately.

While I will go on to explain the effects of teen meth use in this article and how it will affect your family – using both the short term effects of meth and the long term effects of meth so that you can look for the signs of use in your home - I want to be very clear about this drug: There is no coming back to your normal family routine once a teen gets addicted until they get the help they need. And meth is highly addictive! While there is always help for teens who abuse drugs, the damage meth can do to the central nervous system is not reversible. This is why it is essential for parents to try not to handle this problem on your own. Seek professional help as soon as you suspect the use of meth in your teen.

Teen Meth Use Short Term Signs and Effects

You can tell if your teen has been using meth and is on a high if they are showing these signs:
  • Agitation.
  • Excited speech.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Increased physical activity levels.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Occasional episodes of sudden and violent behavior.
  • Intense paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • A tendency to compulsively clean and groom.
  • A tendency to repetitively sort and disassemble objects.
Effects of a meth high on a teen can also include:
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular collapse and death.
  • Prolonged insomnia.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Hyperthermia - An extreme rise in body temperature, which can cause organ damage.
  • Convulsions.

Signs of the Effects of Teen Meth Use Your Dentist Will See

Even among young or short-term users of methamphetamines there will be problems with their teeth that your teen's dentist will be able to see as meth causes a phenomena termed 'meth mouth' in the media. Although the causes of meth mouth are not fully understood, here is the best explanation of it that I have found from PBS.org:
"When meth is ingested, it causes the user's blood vessels to shrink, limiting the steady blood supply that the mouth needs in order to stay healthy. With repeated shrinking, these vessels die and the oral tissues decay. Similarly, meth use leads to "dry mouth" (xerostomia), and without enough saliva to neutralize the mouth's harsh acids, those acids eat away at the tooth and gums, causing weak spots that are susceptible to cavities. The cavities are then exacerbated by behavior common in users on a meth high: a strong desire for sugary foods and drinks, compulsive tooth grinding, and the general neglect of regular brushing and flossing."

Every Day Issues of Meth Use

There will be no more every day issues and problems with your teen and their friends or school as they will, within a small amount of time, not care about anything but their addiction to meth. Dealing with late curfews or chores not being done are issues parents of a teen meth users wish they could be dealing with instead of the violent outbursts or agitation that represents the child they love. Getting your teen off of this drug is of paramount importance. Building their future after they have kicked this habit is tough, but not impossible.

Teen Meth Use Long Term Effects

Over time, meth use causes many more harmful effects. By this time, parents should be able to notice the changes in their teen's daily behavior and looks. Tissue damage will make the teen appear much older than their years. Also, acne appears, sores take longer to heal, and the skin loses its luster and elasticity. Some users are covered in small sores, the result of obsessive skin-picking brought on by the hallucination of having bugs crawling beneath the skin, a disorder known as formication.

More long term effects of teen meth use include:

  • Lowered resistance to illness.
  • Various types of organ damage.
  • Stroke.
  • Loses the ability to feel pleasure.
  • HIV/AIDS (users who inject and share needles).
  • Severe impairment in memory, judgment and motor coordination.
  • Mood disturbances.
  • Weight loss or anorexia.

Do not ignore the effects of meth use on your teen. If your teen is using this drug, the problems it causes will not go away without help. Your teen or young adult will need your support to overcome the obstacle of meth abuse. Seek help as soon as you possibly can.

Sources:
PBS.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Focus Adolescent Services

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