Among many negative impacts on human health, meth use affects the lungs in several ways. This is because methamphetamine is most commonly smoked.2 Before we explore this topic further, let’s cover some basics of meth, addiction, and meth addiction treatment.
Meth Origins and Background
Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a highly addictive and illegal drug. The number of people who use the stimulant has increased in recent years, as have overdose deaths, according to researchers at New York University.1 Using meth is toxic for multiple organs. Those organs include the heart, lungs, liver, and neurological system.
Meth was first created from ephedrine in 1893 by a Japanese chemist. In World War II, the first documented use was by the Germans to stave off tiredness, enhance performance, and prolong watchfulness.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the primary manufacturers and distributors of methamphetamine throughout the United States. There are American clandestine laboratories where “cooks” also produce and distribute the drug within their local communities.3
Using the drug releases dopamine, a chemical that causes a person to feel euphoric or aroused. While some people use meth to fight depression or fatigue, it has multiple health impacts, including severe weight loss, decaying teeth, memory loss, and violent behavior.
How Meth Use Affects the Lungs
Both regular and sporadic meth use affects the lungs negatively, causing severe injury to the lung tissue and vessels around the lungs that carry oxygen. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors overlook a substance use disorder because several health problems can cause respiratory distress.
Researchers have documented several illnesses and complications associated with using meth: 2
- Non-cardiac pulmonary edema is when a person experiences excess fluid in the lungs. Depending on the situation, mild to extreme difficulty breathing occurs. A person may also experience cough, pain in the chest, and fatigue.
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is an illness when fluid collects in the tiny air sacs, the alveoli, in the lungs. This fluid will prevent the lungs from filling with an appropriate amount of oxygen, which means less oxygen reaches your bloodstream. When this happens, the organs are deprived of oxygen and will fail to function correctly.
- Alveolar hemorrhage occurs when there is damage to the alveolar blood vessels. The alveoli vessels are where the lungs and the blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide during breathing in and out.
- Pneumonia is an infection that irritates the air sacs in either one or both lungs. Those air sacs may fill with fluid or pus and cause pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
- Pneumoconiosis occurs when inflammation in the lungs eventually leads to scar tissue. With time, breathing becomes difficult.
- Interstitial lung disease occurs when a person experiences long-term exposure to hazardous material. Symptoms can include a dry cough or shortness of breath.
- Emphysema is an illness that occurs when the alveoli are damaged and then rupture. Once the rupture occurs, tiny pockets then become one large air space. 4 The change reduces the surface area available for oxygen exchange.
Meth Use Can Affect the Lungs Via AIDS-Related Fungus
Meth use can adversely change a person’s behavior and increase the risk of contracting many infectious diseases, particularly illnesses that enter via the respiratory tract or skin.5
In a report published by the American Society of Microbiology, researchers studied meth use in lab rats. They found that the use of meth stimulated the growth of the AIDS-related fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. Furthermore, researchers showed meth expedited the biofilm formation within the lungs and disseminated the fungus to the central nervous system. The results were deadly.
Get Help with Recovery From Meth Use
At Desert Cove Recovery, we’re committed to harm reduction and a patient-centered approach to care for people who use methamphetamine. We know meth use affects the lungs in many ways, but it also has significant impacts on all parts of the body and the life of a person who uses it. Through our program, we will coordinate the management of mental illness, other medical diseases caused by meth use, and other substance use disorders you or a loved one may be experiencing.
Each person and each addiction is unique and requires a customized plan. We offer traditional and the latest treatment plans tailored to our clients’ needs. Contact us to get started on the road to recovery.