Methamphetamine use can lead to devastating effects on an individual’s health and overall well-being. Much of the damage produced by meth happens internally, but some of the most obvious harm can be seen on a person’s skin. People who use meth chronically are infamous for presenting with sores, scabs, and scars. These injuries are frequently attributed to hallucinations that make them believe they have insects crawling under or on their skin, also commonly referred to as “meth mites” or sometimes “meth bugs” or “crank bugs.”
Moreover, meth users often pick and scratch at their skin to try to remove the nonexistent bugs. However, several other factors may contribute to meth sores, including injection track marks, malnutrition, and bad hygiene.
What Causes Meth Mites?
Scientists have not identified a precise cause of meth hallucinations, but there are many plausible theories, such as the following:
Meth use can cause anxiety, agitation, paranoia, and itching. As such, people who abuse meth may begin to perceive the itching as caused by something under or on their skin.
Individuals who use meth may have unhealthy skin because of malnutrition, a lack of attention to hygiene, or ingestion of the toxic ingredients used to produce meth. When high, users may compulsively scratch or pick at their already weakened skin, causing irritations and sores.
Sleep deprivation and psychotic features of “tweaking” may cause a user to begin hallucinating and falsely believe that bugs are causing their current skin problems. Tweaking is a term used to describe erratic and bizarre behavior caused by excessive stimulant abuse.
Meth sores and scabs are characteristic signs of meth use or addiction. In general, people who abuse meth more frequently or for more prolonged periods are likely to develop more sores than others. In addition to being especially unsightly, meth sores can cause health issues if they become infected. Some meth sores can be effectively treated with disinfectants, but lesions that become infected will most likely require medical treatment.
What Do Meth Sores Look Like?
Meth sores will vary in presentation depending on the cause, the presence of infection, and how long they’ve been on an individual’s skin. However, these sores on the skin tend to appear as red dots, rashes, and cuts. On the face, meth sores often look similar to acne.
Sores also tend to develop around the lips or on inside the mouths of those who smoke crystal meth. These lesions can look like canker or cold sores, and they are also symptoms of what is commonly referred to as “meth mouth.”
Meth sores on other parts of the body may resemble chickenpox blisters that the person has scratched. When a sore becomes infected, it may look like a bad blister with a dark brown or black center. The blister may also be swollen and filled with pus.
Without treatment, an infection can spread. If a person with meth sores treats the sores properly and quits using meth, the wounds will begin to heal and scar, and some will slowly fade away.
Health Impact of Meth Sores
Meth sores have been linked to health risks comparable to those of other types of open wounds. If the sore isn’t cleaned and protected, bacteria can enter a person’s body and cause infections, and in some cases, this may be quite severe.
Mild infections can cause pain and discomfort, but if the infection spreads and becomes severe, it can also result in fever, fatigue, and diarrhea. Infections that are not addressed can be life-threatening—in the case of sepsis, death will occur if left untreated. Symptoms of worsening infection include soreness and redness around the afflicted area, as well as swelling and the presence of blood or pus in the wound.
Meth sores that are related to injection sites may also indicate the presence of a contractable disease. Meth users often suffer from weak and compromised immune systems, so any wound they incur may take longer to heal.
How to Treat Meth Sores
The easiest way to treat meth sores is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, wait for them to improve on their own, and prevent infection in the process. Clean the wounds with antiseptics or disinfectants or antiseptics, such as hydrogen peroxide, and then bandage them. Avoid picking or scratching, or in any way interfering with the wound’s healing process.
It goes without saying you should stop using meth immediately. Discontinuing the use of any habit-forming substance is much easier said than done, and those who are addicted to meth should seek professional help. Once you’ve quit using crystal meth once and for all and adopt a healthier lifestyle, your skin and overall health will improve.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offers outpatient detox and integrated programs in both partial-hospitalization and residential formats. These programs feature services clinically-proven to be vital to the recovery process, including psychotherapy, individual and group counseling, group support, aftercare planning, and more.
If you are suffering from a dependence upon meth or other substances, we urge you to contact us today! Find out how we can help you free yourself from the insidious disease of addiction and foster the healthy and enjoyable life you deserve!