What Are Meth Sores?

What Are Meth Sores?

Chronic meth abuse can cause meth sores, which are uncomfortable, painful, and can lead to infection.

Meth tends to be cheap, easy to get, and potent, making it a common drug of choice for many people who are struggling with substance use disorders. Unfortunately, the side effects of meth are also known to be particularly dangerous. Meth sores are just one example of the harmful side effects of meth.

Related post: Meth Mouth: How Does Methamphetamine Affect Teeth?

What Is Meth?

Meth (methamphetamine) is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. People usually use meth by smoking it, swallowing it, snorting it, or dissolving the powder in water or alcohol and injecting it.

The high that meth produces comes on quickly and is short-lived. As a result, people who use it tend to take repeated doses of it in a “binge and crash” cycle. Some people may also give up food and sleep for days because they continually take meth every few hours.1

How Does Someone Get Addicted to Meth?

Meth rapidly increases the amount of dopamine that is naturally found in the brain, overloading the brain’s reward system. The sudden surge of dopamine produces pleasurable feelings which reinforce the behavior. Most often, people get addicted to meth because they enjoy the feeling they experienced the first time they tried it and they want to recreate that feeling. So they continue using it, always chasing after that first high they experienced. 

Eventually, with continued meth use, the body builds up a tolerance (meaning the person needs more meth to feel the desired effects). Repeated meth use affects the way the brain functions, making it more difficult to feel “normal” without the drug. Over time, someone who is addicted to meth will eventually feel like they need it to get through the day.2

How Does Meth Affect Skin?

There are many risks and side effects of long-term meth use. One of those effects is skin damage. As soon as someone starts using meth, their blood vessels will constrict, which decreases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the skin. As a result, the essential tissues of the body get less oxygen. 

Continued use of meth makes the blood vessels of the body even weaker. The lack of blood flow and circulatory constriction causes a lot of health problems, but it also makes it more difficult for the body to repair any damage to the skin.

People who use meth regularly will notice severe changes in the appearance of their skin, including:

  • A more gray appearance
  • More wrinkles
  • Skin sagging
  • Premature aging

Due to the way meth affects the appearance of the skin, it’s not uncommon for someone who uses meth to look much older than they actually are.

What Are Meth Sores?

Another unfortunate side effect of long-term meth use is lesions or sores, often called meth sores. They can appear on various areas of the body and may have a few different causes, such as:3 

  • Excessive itching and scratching – When a person’s blood vessels are constricted due to meth use, they can develop dry, scaly patches of skin. These often develop on the face or arms. Continually picking at these patches of irritated skin can worsen them, leading to open sores or infection.
  • Burns from drug paraphernalia – Sometimes people may develop mouth sores if they smoke crystal meth. Most often, meth is smoked through a pipe. But, the pipe can get very hot, which can burn a person’s mouth or lips when they smoke it. Not only are these burns painful, but they can also cause blistering, sores, or permanent scars.
  • Weak immune system from meth abuse – Consistent meth abuse can decrease the body’s ability to heal itself once a sore has developed. Since skin healing is likely to be much slower, a person who uses meth may have many sores that aren’t healed yet.
  • Meth psychosis – Chronic meth use can cause hallucinations, including believing bugs are crawling around under their skin. This can make a person scratch their skin intensely for a long time, which can cause sores.

What Do Meth Sores Look Like?

Meth sores might be found on several parts of a person’s body. Depending on where they develop, they might look different.

  • Meth face sores usually look like a red, bumpy acne breakout.
  • Meth mouth sores typically form around the outsides of the lips and mouth. They can look blistered or like old scars since they’re usually caused by burns from a crystal meth pipe.
  • Meth skin sores often look like dry and scaly patches of irritated skin, usually found on the face or arms.

How Meth Sores Affect Your Physical and Mental Health

In terms of a person’s physical health, meth sores can leave individuals vulnerable to infection, especially if their meth sores are open wounds and haven’t healed completely. If the infection goes untreated, it may enter the bloodstream which can become very dangerous, very fast. These sores can also be very painful and uncomfortable. Frequently picking at them can cause more irritation and contribute to the harmful germs that collect in the wound.

When it comes to an individual’s mental health, meth sores can contribute to low self-esteem. Meth psychosis (a period of feeling disconnected from reality) and hallucinations of bugs crawling under the skin can be extremely distressing and scary.4 The “crawling” sensation that’s felt under the skin is a common occurrence, and these “bugs” go by many names, including:

  • Meth bugs
  • Crank bugs
  • Ice mites
  • Meth mites

Chronic meth users are more likely to experience meth psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations than occasional users. In these instances, people may become extremely agitated, confused, or even violent, which can have harmful consequences for the person who’s addicted to meth, as well as the others around them.

What Kind of Treatment Is Available for Meth Sores and Meth Addiction?

The most effective way to treat meth sores (and prevent them from coming back) is to treat the meth addiction itself. In some cases, short-term medical treatment may be necessary for meth sores. For instance, if the sores are infected, a person should seek medical treatment right away. However, those sores are likely to re-develop if the person never addresses the underlying problem: meth addiction.

Effective treatment for meth addiction requires safe medical observation for meth withdrawal at a reputable detox center or some other clinical environment. Although a full detox program is not necessary for meth addiction, medical monitoring during withdrawal is the safest way to get sober.

Although meth withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, dopamine levels in the brain drop significantly when you stop using meth. As a result, it can be difficult to stay sober because many people feel very depressed, melancholy, and exhausted. Severe mood imbalances are common, but professional care can help you cope. 

After detox, research shows meth addiction is best treated with behavioral therapy and contingency management interventions.5 Most reputable meth addiction rehabs will provide at least three months of continuous treatment that includes evidence-based methods like:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • 12-Step support
  • Drug testing
  • Contingency management interventions

Recovering from meth addiction will not be easy and it will take time. However, with the right treatment and support, you can get sober!

Related post: Meth Addiction: What to Expect In Recovery

Start Recovering With Meth Detox Today

If you’re struggling with meth addiction, the meth addiction treatment professionals at Briarwood Detox Center are here to help you. Please call (512) 262-4426 or contact us online to learn more about our safe medical observation for meth addiction.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine 
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse 
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/meth 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027896/ 
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-treatments-are-effective-people-who-misuse-methamphetamine 

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