Substance Abuse

The Faces of Meth: How Crystal Meth Can Change Your Physical Appearance

The secretive nature of addiction makes it extremely easy to hide it from friends and family. However, there is one addiction – crystal meth - that no matter how hard you try to hide it, people will notice.

It is easy to identify meth users because their physical appearance dramatically changes during the course of their addiction. In fact, their physical appearance changes so drastically that it isn’t uncommon for friends and family who knew them before their meth addiction to not recognize them.

Most of the changes to the physical appearance of meth users happen to the face. That is why the changes to appearance are sometimes referred to as meth face, meth mouth, or the faces of meth.

The longer a person suffers with a meth addiction, the more damage that occurs to a person’s physical appearance as well as their overall health and mental well-being. Without the help of a reputable substance abuse treatment program, the effects of meth may be irreversible and potentially deadly.

By learning about the distinctive changes that occur to a person’s physical appearance with a meth addiction, you may be able to notice if someone close to you is suffering from a substance abuse disorder and you can get them the help.

See How Meth Addiction Changes People by Viewing Mugshots

Examples of how meth addiction changes a person’s physical appearance can be seen by looking at various mugshots. The mug shots show the drastic changes that occur as a person continues to use meth.

Over the years, many law enforcement agencies and schools all across the United States have launched a drug prevention program known as Faces of Meth. This program uses mug shots of known meth users to show the drastic changes that occur. It is believed that seeing the changes that occur with meth use it can help individuals understand the dangers of addiction and hopefully reach out to a substance abuse treatment program for help.

Examples of the Effects of Meth on Physical Appearances

How meth effects a person’s physical appearance varies depending upon frequency of usage, length of the addiction, genetics and previous health history.

The following are some examples of the changes that occur to a person’s physical appearance as a result of meth addiction:

  • Dry, cracked lips – the lips may appear slightly chapped or can be so cracked that they bleed
  • Sores that develop on the lips or around the mouth area
  • Extreme dental problems such as damaged or broken teeth, missing teeth, discoloration of the teeth, tooth decay, numerous cavities, gum infections or infections of the mouth, and gum disease – the dental problems are often so severe that they are sometimes referred to as meth mouth
  • Appearance of red spots that look similar to acne – spots can vary in size from small pinpricks to huge open sores
  • Large open wounds on the face
  • Scarring caused by chronic open wounds and infections
  • Dilated pupils
  • Skin around the eyes appears darkened and sunken-in
  • Skin that appears dull or dry
  • Appearing older than your given age
  • Appearance of wrinkles
  • Changes to skin color

Why Does Meth Cause So Many Changes to a Person’s Physical Appearance?

It is believed that a combination of factors that occur when a person suffers from a meth addiction causes the physical changes to their appearance. These factors include engaging in specific behaviors, neglecting personal hygiene, the internal effects of meth on the body, and malnourishment.

Some of the things that may cause changes to your physical appearance when you have a meth addiction include:

  • Picking or itching the skin – meth users commonly experience hallucinations, known as formication, that involve bugs crawling or moving on their skin. They will constantly itch, scratch or pick at the skin to make the feeling stop which causes open sores to develop and sometimes become infected.
  • Wounds are slower to heal because meth will stay in your system – the slower wounds heal the greater your chance for them to become infected
  • Neglect of personal dental hygiene such as brushing and flossing
  • Dry mouth or excessive teeth grinding can cause dental problems
  • Deposits of small crystals can accumulate in the eyes if meth users snort it regularly – crystal deposits can accumulate and cause a number of vision problems
  • Blood tissues and vessels can become so damaged that injuries and damage are slow, or unable, to heal
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Malnourishment and dehydration can change the appearance of your skin and cause numerous problems with your mouth, teeth and overall health

Is the Damage Caused by Crystal Meth Use Permanent?

The good news about the changes that occur to your physical appearance as a result of a meth addiction is they usually aren’t permanent. However, you need to do one thing – quit using crystal meth.

Many of the changes that occur, such as the development of mouth ulcers and sores, skin damage, and the appearance of sunken eyes, will go away once you stop using crystal meth. The changes might not occur right away because the drugs stay in your system for a while, but eventually you will notice your physical appearance is improving.

The changes that don’t go away or improve naturally after you stop using crystal meth, such as missing or severely damaged teeth, permanent scarring, and eye damage, can often be treated with the help of medical professionals. Dermatologists, eye doctors and dentists can help you improve your appearance, but only after you have sought treatment for your meth addiction.

Getting help for your meth addiction is extremely important if you don’t want the damage to your physical appearance to become permanent. If you continue to use crystal meth, not only will your physical appearance continue to decline, but the damage will become more severe and may be permanent.

How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?

Since you won’t see any changes to your physical appearance until crystal meth has completely been removed from your system, you may be asking yourself “how long does meth stay in your system”. The answer is surprising.

Meth can stay in your system for up to 10 days or longer. Meth can be detected with blood testing or a saliva test for up to 10 days after your last usage. Urine tests are less accurate. Meth can be detected on urine tests usually for only 5 days after usage. That doesn’t mean it has completely left your system, it just means that it only stays in your urine for up to 5 days.

How long meth will stay in your system will vary depending upon your health and the severity of your substance abuse disorder. The more severe your meth addiction, the longer it will take to leave your system.

Unfortunately, because it takes so long for meth to leave your system, it is extremely difficult to stop using on your own. Many meth users who try to stop on their own start to experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings. In order to find relief from painful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, the individual often starts using crystal meth again. The constant cycle of trying to stop and then using again is why meth is one of the most highly addictive drugs.

Seek Help from a Reputable Substance Abuse Treatment Center for Your Meth Addiction

It is not only extremely difficult to overcome a meth addiction on your own, it is dangerous. Meth, which is a stimulant, directly impacts your cardiovascular system, central nervous system, and respiratory system. The abrupt removal of meth that occurs when you stop using can cause serious problems that could be life threatening.

To avoid potential problems, The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends an individual seek help from a substance abuse treatment center, such as Chapman House Behavioral Health Centers, which provides medically assisted detox. Medically assisted detox is not only safe, but it is extremely effective.

In addition to undergoing medically assisted detox, it is recommended that you enter a long term inpatient substance abuse treatment program. These programs which can last anywhere from 30 days to 90 days or more will help you learn valuable skills that help you not only overcome your addiction, but allow you to remain sober when you re-enter the community.

You aren’t alone in overcoming your meth addiction. Reach out to Chapman House Behavioral Health to see how we can help you not only safely detox from crystal meth, but beat your addiction and find sobriety.


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