Methamphetamine is a very potent stimulant that has become so popular in recent years that it has become an epidemic. Originally discovered in 1893, methamphetamine was used for many years as an alertness aid and medication for various disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity. In recent years, however, it has become an incredibly commonly abused illegal drug in the form of crystal meth.

With its tendency to be extremely cheap, extremely potent, and extremely common, meth is becoming the drug of choice for many people prone to substance abuse disorders. There are estimates that 1 million or more people in the US may be living with the effects of meth use or meth addiction, with 1.9 million that may have used meth in the past year. 

What are Meth Sores?

You may have heard of meth sores in the news or elsewhere. Meth sores are open wounds or lesions on the skin of people who routinely abuse meth. They frequently appear on many parts of the body and can have physical and physiological causes. They can last long, often exacerbated by the user’s behavior. Their severity can depend on the underlying cause, any pre-existing health issues, and whether or not treatment is sought.

Meth sores will be relatively easy for your friends or loved ones to recognize. They may differ in appearance depending on their location, whether or not they are infected, and how long they have been there. They will appear on almost any skin surface, including but not limited to:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Genitals
  • Lips
  • Inside the mouth
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As mentioned, meth sores are caused by a combination of physical and psychological reasons. There are physical side effects to meth use that cause sensations and delusions of bugs crawling on the user’s skin, a sensation is known as “meth mites,” which is known in the medical community as formication. This causes them to scratch to “get the bugs off,” leading to a heavy degree of self-irritation of the skin. This irritation causes wounds to open due to scratching and picking. 

The poor diet and inadequate personal hygiene of the meth user can also contribute to the occurrence and severity of meth sores. This poor hygiene and meth toxins leaving via skin pores can also lead to acne breakouts. In addition, mouth sores can be caused by scratching and picking, tissue damage, and burns from smoking meth from a hot glass pipe.

The Danger of Developing Meth Sores

Meth use causes various other issues and damages the body and bodily systems. Since many meth users smoke their meth from hot glass pipes, there is significant damage done to the mouth’s tissues. This not only contributes to the sores but also a condition known as “meth mouth,” a weakened immune system, and more.

Meth mouth happens when the preferred method of taking meth is from smoking it. The users smoke meth in a plain glass pipe or even a broken light bulb and inhale the incredibly hot smoke. This smoke causes burn damage to the tissues of the lips, tongue, and mucous membranes in the mouth. It also reduces to nearly zero the amount of saliva the mouth produces, causing the user to compensate with sugary soda.

Since meth users often ignore dental hygiene, and meth smoke is highly acidic and corrosive, meth mouth also causes significant damage to the teeth. This damage is from rot and decay and the damage done by the user constantly clenching their jaw. The early signs include decay, gum disease, cavities, and sores. If left untreated while meth use continues unabated, teeth will blacken, fall out, and break easily.

The Harm Done by Meth Sores: What Meth Does to Your Mind & Body

Meth makes the user feel great in the extreme short term. It increases dopamine and causes an intense high. Following that high, though, is a physical crash that can leave the user depressed, irritable, and even unconscious for long periods. Meth users are also at extreme risk of death due to heart disease at much younger ages than are typical.

Other physical damage done by meth includes high blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, high heart rate, and high cholesterol. Ongoing meth abuse also leads to kidney damage, likely the result of having to process the toxins found in meth constantly.

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Short-term psychological side effects can include damage to problem-solving skills, memory, and critical thinking. In addition, extended use can kill dopamine cells, making you unable to feel pleasure. Other long-term use effects include psychosis and extreme paranoia. 

Treatment for Meth Sores & Addiction to Meth

People dealing with meth addiction may be wondering what they can do about their meth sores and meth addiction. The first step in recovery is to reach out for help. This can be to a family member, a friend, a medical professional, or a treatment professional. Talking about the meth abuse in a frank and open manner can be just what the user needs to convince them to seek treatment.

Once the user understands the need for therapy and treatment, the overall chances of success are greatly increased. Not only that, but by working with an intense inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment facility, the user can both treat the physical addiction and the psychological reason that may drive them to seek out substance use. This gives them the best chance at a successful recovery in the future.

Because inpatient rehab eliminates all outside distractions and temptations to return to drug abuse, it is also the most effective way to ensure an individual suffering from an addiction to meth gets the adequate support and help they need on their recovery journey. Kicking a meth addiction to the curb is no easy feat, especially when done alone. It is highly recommended that one not try to quit on their own, as dangerous withdrawal symptoms can occur. To get the help one needs and deserves, it is, therefore, imperative that they reach out for help immediately, especially before the possibility of a fatality comes into play. 

Time is imperative. Reach out today if you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to meth so that you can be set on a path to a better tomorrow right now. 


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Kashyap N. How Meth Use Affects The Body. WebMD. Accessed June 26, 2022.
  2. Rusyniak DE. Neurologic manifestations of chronic methamphetamine abuse. Neurol Clin. 2011;29(3):641-655. doi:10.1016/j.ncl.2011.05.004
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed June 26, 2022

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