Methamphetamine users and addicts may lose their teeth abnormally quickly, a condition informally known as meth mouth. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth “is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in xerostomia (dry mouth), extended periods of poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of high-calorie, carbonated beverages and bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching). Some reports have also speculated that the acidic nature of the drug is a contributing factor.” Similar, though far less severe, symptoms have been reported in clinical use of regular amphetamine, where effects are not exacerbated by extended periods of poor oral hygiene.
Serious health and appearance problems can be caused by unsterilized needles, lack or ignoring of hygiene needs (more typical on chronic use), and obsessive skin-picking, which may lead to abscesses.
Increased risk of sexually transmitted disease
Men who use methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, and ketamine are twice as likely to have unprotected sex, according to British research. American psychologist Perry N. Halkitis performed an analysis using data collected from community-based participants among gay and bisexual men to examine the associations between methamphetamine use and sexual risk taking behaviors. Methamphetamine use was found to be related to higher frequencies of unprotected sexual intercourse in both HIV-positive and unknown casual partners. The association between methamphetamine use and unprotected acts were also more pronounced in HIV-positive participants. These findings suggested that methamphetamine use and engagement in unprotected anal intercourse are co-occurring risk behaviors that potentially heighten the risk of HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men. Methamphetamine allows users to engage in prolonged sexual activity, which may cause genital sores and abrasions. Methamphetamine can also cause sores and abrasions in the mouth via bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding), which can turn typically low-risk sex acts, such as oral sex, into high-risk sexual activity. As with the injection of any drug, if a group of users share a common needle without sterilization procedures, blood-borne diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis, can be transmitted. The level of needle sharing among methamphetamine users is similar to that among other drug injection users.
Use in pregnancy and breastfeeding
Methamphetamine passes through the placenta and is secreted into breast milk. Infants born to methamphetamine-abusing mothers were found to have a significantly smaller gestational age-adjusted head circumference and birth weight measurements. Methamphetamine exposure was also associated with neonatal withdrawal symptoms of agitation, vomiting and tachypnea. This withdrawal syndrome is relatively mild and only requires medical intervention in approximately 4% of cases.
Public health issues
Short-term exposure to high concentrations of chemical vapors that may exist in methamphetamine laboratories can cause severe health problems or even result in death. Exposure to these substances can occur from volatile air emissions, spills, fires, and explosions. Methamphetamine labs are often discovered when fire fighters respond to a blaze. Methamphetamine cooks, their families, and first responders are at highest risk of acute health effects from chemical exposure, including lung damage and chemical burns to the body. Following a seizure of a methamphetamine lab, there is often a low exposure risk to chemical residues, however this contamination should be sanitized. Chemical residues and lab wastes that are left behind at a former methamphetamine lab can result in health problems for people who use the property, therefore local health departments should thoroughly assess the property for hazards prior to allowing it to be re-inhabited, especially by children.