There are millions of different germs, viruses, and diseases that our body has to fight off every day. While our skin, our biggest immune-defense organ, does a terrific job at keeping most things at bay, it’s not perfect. Small breaks in the skin, airborne germs, and our own stubborn nature of finding ways to put germs in our body can all make us ill. As a rehab in Orange County specializing in the long-term health of our patients, we like to understand exactly how the less obvious aspects of addiction can impact our physical health and our immune system. Methamphetamine, in particular, has a very complicated way of inhibiting our body’s defenses. As crystal meth is returning in society, it’s important to take a look at what meth is, and how it can impact our health.
Although it’s been known for a long time that meth can lead to a number of different comorbid diseases, the process behind it was never clear. As we said before, there are a number of different ways our bodies can get sick. The most obvious with meth addiction is that the drug can make us behave in risky, unhealthy, and life-jeopardizing ways. Meth not only increases libido but also limits inhibition, increasing the urge for sex while lowering the critical thinking that could normally keep someone safe. Men with HIV, for example, are more likely to engage in unprotected sex under the influence of methamphetamines. Both men and women are more likely to engage with multiple, unprotected sexual partners on meth. This and other risky behavior is the first way that methamphetamines break our natural immune-system membranes.
Adults using meth often experience tachycardia or drastically increased heart-rate, and children exposed to meth environments have shown similar symptoms. Other blood-related problems can occur with the use of crystal meth, and greater risk of infection can occur through open cuts, lesions, and punctures related to meth use. Meth is one of the rare addictions where users are often creating the drug in home labs, so severe burns, toxic inhalation, and meth-tainted skin and clothing is common. “Meth mouth” is a common phrase, describing the appearance of a meth addict’s oral cavity. The dry mouth caused by meth consumption, combined with unhealthy, sugary diet and little care for hygiene can create the perfect environment for tooth rot, open lesions in the mouth, and other injuries. This mix of poor hygiene, open wounds, blood disorders, and risk behavior all weaken our natural membrane against diseases, making meth users more likely to be exposed to pathogens.
Less visibly, meth use affects our body on an inter-cellular level. Called “killer T-Cells,” our body produces a number of cells that are designed to destroy cancer and pathogens attacking our body. The introduction of meth into our system can directly damage T-cells, which then impact then calcium levels within our cells, interrupting the function of mitochondria. The mitochondria, now overactive in their membranes and growing physically more massive, cause a series of reactions that in turn impair the killer T-cells. The potential effect is a feedback loop of damage that continues to strip away the immune system.
These various risk factors, all working together to strip away our bodies natural defenses against viruses and pathogens, all contribute to the growing death rate from meth addiction. Like many other drugs, meth can cause tremendous physical damage not just from direct use and overdose, but from a series of chain reactions that put is in dangerous circumstances. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, we urge you to visit our Orange County rehab and detox center or to call us directly at (714)782-3973.
If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, Experience Recovery can help. Our admissions line is open 24/7.