Health Concerns: Adults

Most of the general health effects that we know regarding exposure to methamphetamine are due to the illicit use of the drug or from the therapeutic use of the drug for weight control. In most cases, these exposures are elevated from the exposures that we would expect to see in an environmental contamination exposure, although they may be equivalent to a production exposure. Low-level chronic exposures, although they may be lower, may last significantly longer than illicit use exposures.

Acute Effects: The effect of methamphetamine that is sought after by the illicit user, is a state of euphoria and well being that is caused by the action of the drug upon the nervous system. Some individuals also use the drug as a form of weight control and as a stimulant that allows the user to remain awake for long periods of time. Other effects are increased alertness, and decreased appetite. In addition to these desirable effects, a number of undesirable effects have also been reported, especially from individuals using the drug on a regular basis. Paranoia is common in users as are a number of other central nervous system symptoms including erratic body movements, irritability, insomnia, confusion, anxiety, aggression, hypothermia and convulsions. (7)

Body temperature increases are also noted and convulsions and death may occur in high exposure situations. Acute intoxication may also result in dizziness, headache, dryness in the mouth, a metallic taste, teeth grinding, anorexia, chest pain, difficulty breathing, lung congestion, and respiratory failure.(8) Methamphetamine may also cause a number of gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. It may be irritating to the eyes and other mucous membranes. It may also cause an elevated rate of dental caries and gum disease. Psychologically, methamphetamine use may cause irritability, withdrawal and severe depression. Psychotic episodes may also occur to people using the drug as well as cerebral damage and hemorrhage.(8)

Cardiovascular System: Cardiovascular damage may also occur when adults are exposed to high levels of the drug. Irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and tachycardia have been shown to occur after high exposures. In some cases these exposures may result in degeneration of the heart muscle.(8)

Chronic Effects to Users: Chronic effects to long-term users of methamphetamine include severe dermatoses, personality changes, weight loss, poor concentration, personality changes, oral ulcers, fear, compulsive/repetitive behavior as well as a psychotic syndrome resembling schizophrenia. Delirium and disorientation may also occur after prolonged exposure and result in significant behavioral disruption. After prolonged use, some tolerance may occur requiring higher and higher doses to elicit the desired effect. Withdrawal may also result in mental depression, fatigue, vomiting, and nausea. (8)

Long Term Exposure: Human data on long-term exposure to children, especially, is not available at this time.