Face sores are a visible side effect of using the drug methamphetamine, known as crystal meth or meth. They typically happen because meth makes a person scratch and pick at their skin, but they can also result from the drug’s toxic effects. The sores can take weeks or months to heal and often leave scars.

Methamphetamine is a powerful and addictive stimulant that can cause significant damage to a person’s health and appearance.

In the short term, it causes increases in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Long-term use may lead to significant weight loss, paranoia, hallucinations, and mental health problems.

This article discusses meth face sores and other signs of meth use. It also looks at how people who use meth can find help and support.

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“Meth face” is a term that people use to describe the physical effects that meth use can have. A person’s appearance may become drastically different following chronic meth use.

The effects can include sores and lesions on the skin and premature aging.

Lesions are often the result of picking at the skin, a common side effect of meth use. The constant picking can lead to open sores that are susceptible to infection. The skin might appear discolored or have blemishes that resemble acne or a rash.

In addition, meth use can cause wrinkles, dark spots, and hardened skin.

Meth also affects face symmetry. A 2020 study looked at this phenomenon. The authors note that facial asymmetry increases slightly with age, regardless of drug use. However, people who use meth have exaggerated facial asymmetry.

Severe tooth decay and gum disease are other consequences of meth use. “Meth mouth” can cause the teeth to break or fall out, affecting a person’s oral health and their appearance.

A 2015 study involving 571 people using meth showed that 96% had cavities, 58% had tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth. People who use meth often have black, stained, and rotting teeth. The extensive damage is likely due to dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, and the acidic nature of the drug.

Weight loss and malnutrition can contribute to the sunken eyes and hollow cheeks that often appear in those using meth. Additionally, the toll on overall health can affect the facial appearance of these individuals.

Meth face sores are often the result of a person picking and scratching at the skin, which is a common side effect of meth use. The constant picking can lead to open sores that are susceptible to infection.

Meth is a water-soluble drug. Therefore, a person using the drug may sweat out toxic meth from their pores. Scientists have detected meth in sweat 2 hours after use, with traces remaining for more than a week following multiple doses. Sweat that contains meth toxins can damage the skin and cause sores to form.

Meth mites are imaginary bugs or insects that people using meth may “feel.” A person perceives these mites because of a tactile hallucination called formication. Feeling these crawling sensations without physical stimulation is a form of dysesthesia. Other sensations may include burning, tingling, numbness, and cold.

The crawling feeling occurs due to the combination of an increased body temperature, which leads to sweating and oily skin, and dehydration.

The sensation of meth mites is so overwhelming that individuals may begin to scratch intensely and pick at the skin in an attempt to relieve themselves of the bugs.

Experts believe that about 43% of individuals with methamphetamine use disorder experience psychotic symptoms, which include hallucinations that may involve meth mites.

Meth sores occur when imaginary meth mites prompt scratching and skin picking. Meth sores may also result from burns from meth paraphernalia, a weakened immune system, a lack of personal hygiene, and infection.

There is no specific treatment for meth sores other than general wound care.

If a person has open sores, it is important to keep them clean, dry, and free of debris to help prevent infection. They can also use a topical antibiotic cream to help kill bacteria and promote healing.

Anyone with meth sores should avoid scratching or picking at them, as doing so could introduce germs into the wounds.

Meth is a highly addictive drug that can have severe short- and long-term effects on a person’s physical and mental health.

Short-term effects may include:

  • increased breathing rate
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • elevated blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • heightened wakefulness and activity levels
  • decreased appetite

Besides the skin sensations and sores, some of the long-term risks and dangers of meth use include:

  • an increased risk of contracting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
  • significant weight loss
  • addiction
  • serious dental problems
  • anxiety and confusion
  • sleeping issues
  • violent behavior
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations

Additionally, continued meth use causes changes in the brain’s structure, function, and dopamine system. This can lead to problems with coordination, verbal learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.

Some changes may eventually reverse when a person stops using the drug, but others may be irreversible.

Support is available for people with meth use disorder. Asking for help is the start of the path to recovery.

Treatment for methamphetamine use disorder often includes behavioral therapy, counseling, and medication. In addition, various residential and outpatient programs are available, so it is important to find one that is right for the individual.

A good place to start is speaking with a doctor who can make a referral to a treatment center. People can also use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

Help is available

Seeking help for addiction may feel daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support.

If you believe that you or someone close to you is showing signs of addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:

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Meth face is a term that people use to describe the visible signs of methamphetamine use. These signs may include sores, skin infections, dry skin, facial asymmetry, premature aging, and a hollow, sunken appearance. Additionally, severe dental decay often characterizes meth use.

Meth face sores usually occur when a person who has taken meth intensely scratches and picks at the skin because they are experiencing hallucinations of mites crawling over them. Burns from meth paraphernalia or infection may also cause meth sores, as may sweat containing toxins from the drug.

Meth is a highly addictive drug that has severe short- and long-term effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Therefore, anyone finding it difficult to refrain from using the drug should seek help as soon as possible.