Does Meth Cause Acne?
When people think about Crystal Methamphetamine, they may think of “tweaking,” or tattooed, winter-hat wearing 20-year-olds dancing to electronic music at 4 a.m. Maybe they just think of the TV series Breaking Bad. But the drug has comprehensive effects on a person’s life—one of the reasons it is so dangerous and ill-advised—and one effect is acne.
How Meth Can Cause Acne
In short, the answer is yes, crystal meth will cause acne for many of its users. Read this heartbreaking testimony here. It does so in a few ways. We’ll identify these right now, then get into greater detail later.
- Oily Skin- Meth users experience a large elevation in body temp. This causes oily skin, and one reason for that is increased perspiration.
- Dehydration- Yes, dehydrated skin can lead to acne, partly because acne comes from imbalances of any kind. Dehydrated skin in meth users comes from poor nutrition. Meth users find that certain foods just aren’t appetizing, and they often eat far too little. They also often go long periods of time without drinking water. This results in dehydration, and eventually, dehydrated skin.
- Too much skin picking- The vast majority of people addicted to meth pick at their skin, due to feelings of extreme itchiness. This causes deep wounds that won’t heal, which in turn lead to enhanced biofilm of bacteria. As we’ll describe below, this is what feeds the growth of acne.
These are the main ways that abuse of meth can result in acne. We’ll elaborate on all of these below. First, to fully understand this complex question, we will give some background on crystal meth. More on its various harmful effects here. Then we’ll go over acne and the various ways it is formed.
Intro to Crystal Meth
If you’re researching this topic, you know that “meth” is short for crystal methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant. Crystal is one form of methamphetamine, and is a synthetic product that can be made only in labs. Most often, its base is pseudoephedrine.
Meth can be smoked, snorted, or even injected. Users feel an intense euphoria, and often energy and focus. Of course, as these feelings are harder to achieve, the user takes more and more.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, longterm heavy use of methamphetamine causes serious health problems, including:
- Extreme weight loss
Shortterm effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Increased blood pressure/body temp.
- Irregular/rapid heartbeat
You can see, then, that crystal methamphetamine causes drastic changes in a person’s physiology. That is really the heart of the problem, because changes or imbalances are the life’s blood of acne.
Therefore, let’s now turn to a more thorough discussion of how acne works, since this will shed light on the question regarding its relationship with meth.
How Acne is Born
There are a lot of misconceptions about how acne comes to be. A lot of people think that teenagers—and only teenagers—get acne. And a lot of people don’t even think about why teenagers get acne. Well, among teenagers, the cause is hormone imbalances. However, it’s important to consider what those imbalances do, that in turn lead to acne. That’s because those triggers can come from reasons other than puberty, and indeed, people at any age can get acne.
In short, you can’t have acne without Sebum. Sebum is an oil that naturally occurs in the body, and is meant to cool the skin. However, excesses of sebum cause acne, which is why everyone talks about acne being all about oily skin.
Now, when you have some sort of hormone imbalance or other imbalances in your system, your immune system goes into hyperdrive to try to fix this. In so doing, it creates extra sebum. So this is the link to teenagers, who have perpetual hormonal imbalances. Later we’ll examine specifically how meth use can lead to excess sebum.
A big culprit in acne is dry skin. Now, this seems strange to a lot of people. It’s such a common idea that only oily skin can cause acne. Well, that’s actually kind of true. But dry skin causes oily skin, so, in a sense it causes acne.
Here’s how this works. In short, your system is thrown into an
by dry skin. The immune system, as above, wants to correct this imbalance, so it produces too much oil, and then we’re looking at exactly what we saw with the sebum above. So, we’ve seen two ways that imbalances can cause too much oil, hormonal imbalances and imbalances in skin moisture.
There is one particular type of bacteria that causes acne, and it’s called Propionibacterium acnes. Let’s call it P. acnes from now on. So, P. acnes thrives in an environment of sebum. It can break down the sebum and use it as food.
Obviously, that means instead of having bacteria, you have excess bacteria. So, you have this bacteria blowing up and then getting trapped in your pores. Imagine these pores having these substances pressing against their edges—that amounts to inflammation. Inflammation means big, red dots of acne.
Crystal Meth Causes These Triggers
So now that we’ve discussed some physiological problems caused by meth, plus the triggers of acne, we now have a foundation to build on. We can now put everything together and go through, step-by-step, the various ways that abuse of crystal meth can grow acne.
High Body Temperature Causes Oily Skin
One frightening effect of meth is that it can, according to narconon.org, raise body temperatures to dangerous levels. Medline Plus tells us that meth use can elevate the body’s temp enough that the user passes out. To be clear, these sources say these extreme events are due to heavy use.
However, not only is heavy use common among meth users, but it is built into the way crystal works. The reason meth gets users so high is that is unleashes a flood of dopamine into their systems. This is the “pleasure” chemical. The problem is that the makeup of the chemical causes it to corrode terminals in neurons. This means that the user begins to have trouble feeling pleasure at all—their pleasure receptors are broken. Their response is to take more methamphetamine.
Now, when a meth user’s temperature rises, s/he sweats more, and this causes oily skin, which in turn is how meth causes acne.
But what would happen if a crystal meth user managed to avoid the terrible experience of heightened body temp? Well, as a way that meth can indirectly lead to acne, it’s just true that meth users can neglect personal hygiene, and that’s a fine way to get oily skin.
How Meth Causes Dry Skin
A minute ago we looked at the way in which dry skin can cause acne. Though it might seem like a paradox, the dryness of the skin calls out for a remedy, and that remedy comes from excessive oil. Now, what does meth have to do with dry skin?
Didn’t we just say it made one’s skin oily? Can’t we make up our minds? Well, a dehydrated person has dehydrated skin, so let’s take a look at how meth can contribute to dehydration.
First off, crystal meth use is very likely to lead to dehydration. The major cause of this is very simple: lack of fluids. We’ve already seen that a loss of appetite comes with meth use, the user being turned off to certain foods. A similar—but equally damaging—problem is a lack of consuming water or other fluids. This, naturally, leads to dehydration. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that if the partying meth user is drinking alcohol, including beer, that doesn’t help. It makes the user even more dehydrated. The reason for this is that alcohol reduces the hormone that is responsible for re-absorbing water. That’s why, of course, people pee so much while drinking.
What happens to a body with too little fluid is that when it needs fluid—to power all of its functions—and it doesn’t have enough, it will draw it from cells. This is very dangerous, since that diminishes the functioning of all cells in the body. In the short term—before serious longterm damage is done—is that the person suffering this dehydration and fluid-deprived cells feels fatigued. A meth user will only crave more meth when fatigued.
The other major factor in dehydration from crystal meth is that, as mentioned earlier, body temp rises. As we’ve seen before, that causes intense perspiration. So far so good. But the problem is, if a meth user is not drinking fluids, profuse sweating will eat up precious fluids that the meth user can’t afford to lose.
So, this means that excessive sweat really does a number on a crystal meth abuser. First, the excessive sweat causes oily skin, as we explored above. That can lead to acne. While this is happening, prolonged meth use then leads to dehydration, with perspiration making it worse. Then, it gets to the point that the addict can no longer produce perspiration. Then, all the dehydration and lack of perspiration makes it too dry. At this point, the oiliness may be taken over by the dryness.
It’s important to point out that dehydrated skin is not really the same as dry skin. Dry skin can occur in anyone, since it’s actually a skin type. There are many products that can help with dry skin, and people who have it use them successfully all the time. But dehydrated skin is a different matter altogether. Not only is the surface of the skin much dryer than what people call “dry skin,” but it has underlying causes severe enough that they need powerful remedies. If you or one of your loved ones has taken meth over a period of time and in large doses, here’s how to tell if he/she has dehydrated skin.
- Cracking or peeling- These are symptoms of very dry skin that does not have enough water in its cells. It’s not a lack of oil, but water, and it goes well beyond a skin type.
- Flaking skin- If you notice little flakes of dead skin, often on a person’s arms, and most unfortunately on one’s face, this is a sign that something is wrong.
Meth Sores are not Acne
A lot of people have heard a particular stereotype about meth abusers, one that often is true. Movies and TV shows or literature depicting meth users often shows them itching furiously at their skin. This is caused to what are called the illusion of meth mites. These are imaginary tiny bugs that meth users feel crawling all over them—it’s a hallucination that affects heavy users.
It can be a bit confusing, since meth sores begin as small red dots that can look like pimples. In fact, the reason some people ask whether or not meth causes acne comes from this confusion—some people say acne that may be present in a meth user is actually sores from these mites. However, they are not. It’s fairly easy to tell, since meth sores, after they reach maturity, are march larger and darker than pimples.
Another tell-tale sign of meth sores is that they can’t be popped. That is actually a serious problem and a serious factor in the misery of meth sores. It causes users to perpetually dig at these sores, often causing them to be infected and swell (which is another indicator that you’re looking at something more severe than acne). They then don’t heal,and require serious medical attention. This is relevant, because if you are reading this article thinking that a loved one who uses crystal meth and you think he or she has acne, yet the red blots are really meth sores, the steps you need to take are more urgent than if they were acne.
Excessive Skin-Picking and Biofilm
However, while these sores are not acne, they can lead to it. This is the last of our ways that meth can cause acne. Remember, we just established that these sores, due to excessive skin-picking, can be left open and become infected.
Well, bacteria causes acne; acne is, as we saw above. Bacteria also has a slimy coating called biofilm. This is what makes it stick to the surface of skin. These biofilms basically cluster and coat the bacteria, actually protecting it. You can see what a mess one can get in, if bacteria can protect itself.
What this means is that the acne that forms from the skin picking causing infections is actually harder to fight. Fighting, in this case, means killing the bacteria with medicine. New research shows that a growth of a biofilm makes killing various bacteria, including P. Acnes, much harder.
Here’s why this is a problem related to meth. Use of methamphetamine “ enhances biofilm formation…” according to ,Dr. Luis Martinez, whose team conducted a study on the issue in 2015. So the same meth that creates the acne in the first place, also creates the little creatures that protect the bacteria that causes the acne.
Remedies for Acne Caused By Meth
If you’re here to find out if meth causes acne, what you really need to know is how to solve the problem.
It goes without saying that stopping the use of meth is the first, biggest, and most necessary step. As is obvious, and as we’ve shown, crystal meth is a life-threatening substance. What follows assumes that the meth user, whether he or she is you or a loved one, has stopped using, is in a rehabilitation program, or is in the process of stopping. The acne will persist for some time, and once the meth use is under control, it is now time to consider the problem of acne.
- Fix Dry Skin
Now, as we get into this section, it’s important to remember that oily skin can really be the end result of dry skin. Recall, very dry skin causes one’s body to generate way too much oil. Therefore, if a meth user over the age of 19 or 20 has acne and isn’t around environments that might cause oily skin (working in a fast food restaurant, for example), the oiliness is probably a result of this phenomenon. Again, if the meth user has redness (not just the acne), flaky skin, dry white patches (dead skin), you’re dealing with dry skin that has remained dry, and not oily skin caused by dry skin.
The first thing to do in this situation is to use a high-quality moisturizer. Some of them are specifically designed for acne. Look for something with either emollients or humectants or both. These often come in the form of good, natural oils that come from avocados, coconuts, etc. The acne sufferer should follow the directions on the package and keep up the moisturizing regularly, even after the acne clears.
- Kill the Bacteria
We’ve seen that acne is a bacteria. We’ve also seen that imbalances in the system can in turn cause too much oil, which in turn clogs pores. A clean gut is essential for fighting off acne. One of the most important things is to stop acne before it even starts, which includes killing off bacteria. Now, doing this might be easier than you think. One of the best avenues for fighting bacteria the way you need to is with Vitamin D.
Vitamin D isn’t just kind of good for you or part of a balanced diet, not when it comes to acne. Because meth is what causes the acne, as it applies to us, a vitamin is going to have to do some serious work, and that’s what Vitamin D does.
The value of Vitamin D is that it activates macrophages, one type of white blood cell. Macrophages are amazing to an unhealthy gut because they crawl along blood vessels, eating up infectious microorgansisms, cholesterol, and even dead cells. Not only that, but they transform these impurities into nutrients that feed the body. Well, among the microorganisms that macrophages pounce on are acen-causing bacteria.
Now, various Vitamin Bs are instrumental in killing acne as well. Vitamins B5, 6, and 7 help the body metabolize fat; this is big because that means that fat doesn’t go to sebaceous glands, thus leading to acne. More on this vitamin here.
Anti-oxidants are good in the fight against acne, since they cut down on inflammation, a big culprit in causing the awful red dots. Now, some anti-oxidants include N-Acetyl Cysteine and Alpha Lipoic Acid. These are found in “superfoods” like blueberries and broccoli, and in supplements. Some multivitamins also include them, so doing a search or looking out for them when shopping online should help.
But, keep in mind that Vitamin C is full of anti-oxidants too, so that’s a vitamin you should check out.
Other items that kill the bacteria include calendula, triclosan, isotretinoin (Accutane).
Just be careful that antibiotics can be dangerous when used incorrectly, so please use them only under the care of a doctor.
The question of whether meth causes acne really isn’t a question. As we’ve outlined, meth attacks the body in such a wide variety of ways that all lead to acne. It dries the kin and causes bacteria and causes hallucinations that promote skin-digging.
Now, one should also remember that a loss of sleep is also going to promote acne, and that is very common among meth users.
Some people do detect meth use in loved ones by spotting acne. Yet, by that time, there should be many other clear signs, such as intense changes in energy levels, irritability and stress, itching of skin, and twitching or “tweaking.”
The most important thing is to seek serious help for this addiction.