As with many illicit drugs, methamphetamine use may start out as an occasional recreational activity, but once it takes hold of you, the effects can be profoundly damaging and even life-threatening. What’s more, the descent into crystal meth abuse is not always a clear path. Some people become hooked without even realizing that it is happening, and soon the addiction becomes nearly impossible to overcome without help.

Short-term crystal meth effects

The exhilarating high that crystal meth users get is just the beginning of the drug’s effects. Once the brief period of euphoria fades, users commonly experience depression, anxiety, hostility, and paranoia that last many times longer than the initial high. The immediate physical effects—such as convulsions, sweating, tremors, and difficulty breathing—can last for hours and become frightening. All in all, just one instance of crystal meth abuse can make the user dysfunctional for days.

That’s not to mention the fact that crystal meth abuse often causes people to act out in dangerous or self-destructive ways. People on crystal meth often get hallucinations and delusions, and these can become incredibly dangerous when combined with the additional side effects of anxiety and hostility. That’s why so many crystal meth users act violently; even if youare not a particularly hostile person in your normal life, crystal meth can cause you to act out in unexpected and disturbing ways.

Long-term effects

We tend to refer to the cumulative effects of continual crystal meth abuse as “long-term,” but in reality they can begin after just a short time. After a period of regular crystal meth abuse, many users report insomnia, persistent fatigue, poor appetite, and lingering emotional disturbances. Addiction can develop after just a week or two of regular use, and the withdrawal effects can be mentally and physically excruciating.

Over time, the long-term effects of crystal meth abuse become worse and worse. The cardiovascular effects are the most life-threatening to the addict. They include irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and blood-vessel irregularities that can contribute to stroke. Some of these effects are irreversible, and many serious crystal meth users continue to suffer cardiovascular problems even years after quitting. The effects can be almost equally damaging for the digestive and respiratory systems, as well.

In addition to the life-threatening effects of crystal meth abuse, there are the well-documented psychological and physical effects. Psychologically, long-term users can develop schizophrenia, clinical depression, and mood disorders. Some of these are not reversed through quitting and must be treated separately. Meanwhile, methamphetamine users tend to develop a distinct appearance characterized by rotting teeth, severe skin conditions such as acne, and skinniness bordering on anorexia.

If you use crystal meth and are beginning to suffer from these short-term or long-term effects, it is time to seek help before your addiction gets worse. Contact your doctor or a local treatment center to learn about your options.