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Meth Face

Will the face you fell in love with still exist in another five years?

When your loved one is living with a meth use disorder, this isn’t just a question – it can be a very real fear. Research finds that nearly one in four people who take methamphetamine regularly have broken or loose teeth, with 28% expressing serious concerns about their appearance.

At Clean Recovery Centers, we know how difficult this can be. You want your partner to be healthy, safe, and a part of the future your family deserves. That’s why we provide a three-phase approach to treatment that not only gets them back on the path to recovery, but helps them stay there. 

An important part of that process is education. So today, we’re going to talk about a condition known as “meth face”.

meth face clean recovery centers

meth's impact on the faceMeth’s Impact on the Face

While there are many negative long-term side effects of methamphetamine, one of the most prominent is in the way it changes the face, sometimes referred to as “meth face”. Meth can cause lesions or sores, a result of long-term methamphetamine use disorder. Since meth suppresses the ability to heal, this skin damage can worsen with time, leading to permanent scarring.

Meth may also lead to premature aging, with increased wrinkles or a sunken appearance. In some instances, it can lead to a lopsided appearance, with some research suggesting it significantly changes face symmetry. Those who take methamphetamine can develop intestinal problems, leading to malnutrition. When this is paired with meth’s stimulant properties, severe weight loss can drastically alter the shape of the face.

Perhaps most prominently, meth can lead to permanent mouth and dental damage, or even tooth loss. In addition to serious health consequences, this can significantly change and damage your loved one’s face.

Why Does Meth Affect the Face?

Meth affects the face through a variety of mechanisms, not all of them fully understood.

One large factor is the hydrochloric acid released by methamphetamine. This acid can dissolve both gum, mouth, and tooth enamel, resulting in widespread dental damage. Additionally, meth reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth, allowing any bacteria to develop and spread. When your loved one takes meth, it often leads to teeth grinding, increasing any damage to already-weakened teeth.

This can damage the skin, especially around the lips and nose. Burns from hot pipes can also cause sores around the mouth. Meth also constricts blood vessels, frequently resulting in itchy, dry skin patches of skin. As these patches are scratched, minor cuts or scrapes can develop. Further, meth may result in hallucinations, with individuals picking or scratching at their skin. When this damage is combined with meth’s impact on the immune system, it often results in painful sores and lesions across the face.

Premature aging is understood to a lesser extent. Some evidence suggests that premature aging may be the result of damage to DNA and chromosomes, but more research is needed. Equally uncertain is the exact reason methamphetamine impacts the digestive system, as these systems can be incredibly complex and individual.

What Are Meth Sores?

Meth sores often appear as small cuts or scabs on the skin. Lesions may also appear as small bumps, looking like a rash or red discoloration. They can appear on the skin, the face, or even inside the mouth. While not directly threatening, meth’s impact on the immune system can lead to infection, and these initially minor sores may result in permanent scarring.

What Causes Meth Sores?

The specific causes of meth sores generally fall into two categories. In both cases, meth reduces the body’s ability to properly heal and recover, causing sores to appear and worsen over time.

First, the physical consequences of meth. One side effect of this substance use is that of dry and itchy skin – your loved one may scratch and pick at their skin, even unconsciously, leading to small cuts or sores. Meth is often smoked, and this can lead to burns across the lips and mouth. Additionally, meth releases powerful acids, and these can cause damage to the mouth, throat, and skin.

Secondly, the psychological consequences of meth. Methamphetamine sometimes results in tactile hallucinations or a sense of “bugs crawling on the skin”. In many cases, this leads individuals to poke and scratch at their skin to relieve this sensation, either creating new sores or preventing old ones from healing.

What Are the Risks of Meth Sores?

The primary health risk of sores is that of infection. Meth reduces the body’s immune response, and open wounds of any kind can allow bacteria to grow unchecked. Further, the substance use can prevent your loved one from recognizing that the damage is growing worse over time, as their high allows them to ignore any building pain.

Other risks include social isolation or work consequences. Many who develop meth sores become self-conscious over their appearance, leading to increased feelings of isolation or depression. In some instances, job opportunities may be closed off due to disfigurement or stigma.

Meth Mouth and Meth Teeth

The most well-known consequence of methamphetamine is the long-term effect it has on someone’s teeth – a condition commonly referred to as “meth mouth”.

Symptoms often begin relatively small. Stained teeth, bad breath, and perhaps a few sores or achy gums. While the damage at this stage is unlikely to be permanent, this can quickly change. Gum disease or cavities can form, with teeth cracking and chipping as the damage builds up. Tooth loss is not uncommon.

Many who develop these conditions will eventually need major dental surgery and care. In addition to the benefits of having a healthy and confident smile, there can be serious health consequences if left untreated. Infections can easily develop in cracked and damaged teeth, and gum disease can lead to life-threatening conditions.

Are There Other Symptoms of Meth Face?

While problems with teeth and sores may be more prominent, other symptoms often arise in a long-term methamphetamine use disorder.

Meth Eyes

A condition known as “meth eyes”, this is characterized by dilated pupils that can remain for hours or days after the last dose of methamphetamine. This is often accompanied by jerky or rapid eye movement, and occasionally bulging or sunken eyes, a result of altered blood flow and facial structure. Outside of the physical changes, research suggests that permanent and devastating vision loss can occur if a meth use disorder remains untreated; the direct result of eye damage from methamphetamine.

Dry or Cracked Lips

A subset of “meth mouth”, your partner may experience extremely dry or cracked lips as a result of taking meth. While this can happen for a variety of reasons, it largely comes from meth’s impact on saliva, where it significantly dries out the mouth. This can lead to cracked or bleeding lips, which can take far longer to heal and run the risk of infection.

Looking for Meth Addiction Rehab in Northwest Florida?

While it can seem like this damage is inevitable, this is not the case. Substance use disorder is not an inescapable cycle, and it’s not the result of a failure on you or your loved one’s part. Substance use is an illness. Recovery is possible, and treatment is available.

Finding a treatment partner that’s right for you is the first step toward getting your life back, and effective rehab for meth addiction is available. Remember, you aren’t weak for needing help – you’re strong for seeking it.

At Clean Recovery Centers, we know that life can be complicated. Whether you’ve hit rock bottom or just need new tools and skills to get back on track, our expert therapists and staff are here for you. We address substance use disorders at any stage of treatment, and will work by your side to develop the recovery plan that’s right for you. Healing isn’t always easy, but recovery is always possible. To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one on the first step toward reclaiming your future, connect with us today at 888-330-2532.

Get clean. Live clean. Stay clean. 


Q: Can meth face be reversed?

A: Yes, most of the effects of “meth face” can be repaired or reversed. However, this will vary depending on the amount of damage.

Q: How long does meth face take to develop?

A: The timeline will depend on the individual, as well as the extent of the methamphetamine use disorder. Some symptoms, such as sores and lesions, can appear almost immediately. Others, like premature aging or tooth decay, can take far longer.

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