What Are Meth Sores?

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on November 12, 2021.

Methamphetamine, also called meth, is an addiction-causing stimulant that puts significant strain on the inside and outside of the body. Meth boosts dopamine levels in the brain, creating a temporary high that is extremely addictive. To achieve the same euphoric state, users often risk their health and safety to get more drugs.

All forms of meth, including crystal, powdered and liquid, cause life-threatening side effects. One of the most stigmatizing signs of meth use is intense itching that leads to skin sores and scabs. Addiction is a draining disease on your health, money, relationships and even your physical appearance.

But there is hope for a better future.

With the support of a meth rehabilitation center, you can start healing from the inside out. This guide will explain how meth sores occur and how to treat them with the help of Diamond House Detox.

What Are Meth Sores?

Meth users experience a powerful rush of positive emotions. They feel energetic and confident, which masks the stress and pain that they're trying to escape. They become so fixated on reaching the same high that they are willing to accept the devastating consequences of using methamphetamines.

One negative side effect of using meth is skin lesions. Over time, people who frequently use meth will develop open wounds all over their bodies. They'll get scabs on their face and sores on their arms from drugs. Skin wounds are so common amongst people who use meth that they are called meth sores. They rarely heal until after the user has received treatment to resolve their addiction.

Meth sores can cause severe skin infections and discomfort. While they're not life-threatening themselves, meth use is high-risk and often fatal.

What Do Meth Sores Look Like?

The severity of meth sores will vary from one person to another, depending on their health and duration of addiction. The round drug lesions appear swollen and red, similar to irritated acne or a rash. Meth sores are an obvious sign that you or a loved one is struggling with substance use problems. They can appear across the entire body, including the arms, legs, face, neck and mouth.

What Causes Meth Sores?

A combination of mental and physical side effects from using meth cause sores to appear. People who use meth may develop drug sores for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Meth mites: Meth users report feeling like bugs are crawling on their skin. This common symptom is known as meth mites or formication in the medical industry. People will use their nails to try to scratch these imaginary bugs away.
  • Skin picking: Meth skin picking is a well-known behavior that many users develop. As a result, their skin becomes broken and irritated. When the impulse to pick returns, they may reopen their wounds, causing scars and preventing them from healing properly.
  • Poor hygiene: Meth users are often too tired or focused on getting drugs to maintain good hygiene. Without proper cleaning, meth sores will continue to worsen. A small scratch may turn into an infected sore. The infection can spread to other parts of the body in extreme cases, leading to serious health complications.
  • Burns: For users that smoke meth, the hot glass pipe can burn the sensitive skin around their mouth. Over time, the burns will collect on their lips and gums.
  • Toxic sweat: Using meth raises the body temperature, which causes excess sweating called hyperhidrosis. The excess sweat is uncomfortable and contaminated with meth, spreading toxins across the skin. Without proper hygiene, the contaminated sweat can damage the skin and cause acne. The sores that form may become larger and infected from skin picking.
  • Slow healing: Using meth negatively impacts the immune system. It increases inflammation and slows healing, so meth sores often become more severe. Without treatment, meth scabs often last much longer.

Other Skin Damage From Meth Use

Meth is highly toxic and has a significant impact on your physical appearance. Meth addiction can lead to skin sores and many other side effects, such as:

  • Dry mouth: Smoking meth dries up the saliva that protects your teeth and keeps your mouth moist. Without saliva, the highly acidic smoke will cause gum disease, mouth ulcers and tooth decay.
  • Wrinkles: Meth constricts the blood vessels that deliver blood to your skin and the rest of your body. The lack of blood flow makes it harder for your body to heal. Constricted blood vessels also decrease the elasticity of the skin, causing premature wrinkles and sagging.
  • Gray skin: The lack of circulation from extended meth use causes the skin to break down. As a result, your skin may appear gray and leathery.
  • Sunken face: Meth users often experience a loss of appetite and eat very little. Damage to the delicate skin around the eyes and weight loss from malnutrition causes the eyes and cheeks to appear sunken in.
  • Infection: Meth injections and open wounds increase the risk of developing severe skin infections. Soft-tissue infections (SSTIs) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus MRSA are common amongst meth users. Without proper treatment, minor wounds can transform into large, painful abscesses.

How Can You Take Care of Your Skin After Meth Addiction?

While doctors can treat your wounds temporarily, overcoming meth addiction will allow your skin to heal completely. Eliminating meth will end the harmful side effects that cause meth sores in the first place. Flushing out the toxic drugs will give your meth scabs a chance to recover. Joining a meth rehab will provide you with the medical support to heal your body and mind.

The first step toward recovery is to remove the drug from your system. A meth rehabilitation center will provide a safe environment for detoxification. A team of medical professionals will help manage your withdrawal symptoms, making the process as comfortable as possible. Once the detox is complete, your skin can finally start to heal.

Additionally, your blood vessels will open up and supply your skin with the necessary cells to recover. Any symptoms of meth mites will disappear and eliminate the urge to scratch at your skin. You can help your body recover by:

  • Keeping your skin moisturized.
  • Applying acne treatments.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Maintaining proper hygiene.
  • Taking antibiotics if needed.

Contact Us for Meth Rehab Services in Northern California and Sacramento.

At Diamond House Detox, our team of compassionate clinicians and counselors will provide the support you need to overcome meth addiction. With in-house medical providers, we provide individualized treatment to meet your needs throughout recovery. Our treatment plans also address any underlying mental health symptoms to give you the best chance for success.

We provide a relaxed environment with private rooms so you can focus on healing. Receiving treatment for your addiction will help you look and feel healthier. Contacts us today to start your journey toward a drug-free life.

Linked Sources:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse
  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/methamphetamine-overdose-deaths-rise-sharply-nationwide
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148451/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290678/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375784/

Other Sources:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  2. https://www.infiniterecovery.com/substance-abuse/meth-sores/
  3. https://pathwaysrecovery.com/blog/meth-sores/
  4. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/qa/how-does-crystal-meth-make-you-feel
  5. https://www.floridarehab.com/drugs/meth/related/meth-sores/
  6. https://skywoodrecovery.com/methampletamine/crystal-meth-treatment-and-your-skin/
  7. https://www.aspenridgerecoverycenters.com/skin-problems-for-drug-abusers-and-alcoholics/
  8. https://www.banyantreatmentcenter.com/2019/08/01/what-causes-meth-face-philadelphia/
  9. https://www.palmpartners.com/your-face-on-drugs-meth/
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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