Before & After Meth Addiction

Written by Gerard Bullen

Editor: Editorial Team

Medically Reviewer: Evan Leonard, MS, MMS, PA-C

Last updated: May 11, 2022

Photo that shows a girl before and after she start to be addict to meth

What do meth mouth, meth skin, meth scars, meth sores, meth face, and meth teeth all have in common?

You guessed it – METH.

However, meth users aren’t all the same.

Not everyone who uses, or is addicted to the drug, has extreme before and after meth pictures that show a dramatic transformation.

For many, the damage done to the body is nowhere as devastating as the psychological and internal damage that’s invisible to the human eye.

Since we can’t show you before and after pictures of meth users’ emotions, memory, mood, and feelings, we settled for pictures.

Before we get to the shocking photos, let’s cover a few basics.

meth crystals in a ziplock bagMethamphetamine also known as crystal meth

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressant.

It is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schedule II drugs are defined as those with a high potential for abuse. When used, they can potentially lead to severe psychological and/or physical dependence. In other words, Schedule II drugs like meth are considered to be very dangerous.

Despite its dangers, methamphetamine is available as an FDA approved prescription medication used to treat obesity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Sold under the brand name Desoxyn®! If someone is found with medical methamphetamine, they must have a prescription in their own name.

But that’s if and when it’s legally prescribed!

In the United States, it is illegal to manufacture, possess, transport, or sell illicit methamphetamine (non-prescription). Any of these actions are considered criminal offences and are punishable by fines, incarceration, family separation, and other measures.

Meth Rewires The Brain

Whether it’s used legally or illicitly, Methamphetamine is an extremely powerful, dangerous, and addictive drug that changes the way the brain works over time. Due to its potency, users can quickly develop a dependency on the drug.

Once dependent or addicted to meth, stopping or decreasing consumption can be extremely difficult and painful. Referred to as withdrawal, the debilitating feeling of sickness is one of the main reasons users find it so difficult to quit using meth – especially quitting cold turkey.

The good news is that recovery from a meth addiction is POSSIBLE! Just read Dejah Marie Hall and Jason Wickline’s recovery stories featured in this post.

Check out this video of 41 before & after pictures of meth addicts

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth usually comes in a white powder form that can be made into a pill or hardened into a shiny rock known as a crystal.

In addition to the white powder, meth also comes in other colors including brown, gray-yellow, orange, and pink.

Crystal Meth

The most common form of illegal methamphetamine is called crystal methamphetamine or simply crystal meth.

It gets its name from its crystalline appearance.

Crystal meth looks like clear crystal chunks or shiny blue-white rocks that resemble ice or glass.

meth looks like ice or glassMethamphetamine is also known as crystal meth looks like ice or glass

How is Meth Taken?

Meth can be taken in many different ways.

Some users snort or eat the powder, while others mix it with a liquid and inject it into their bodies. Another common method of using meth is smoking the crystal version using a small glass pipe.

Even though the drug is used by virtually all ages, it is most commonly taken as a “club drug” by younger adults either partying in nightclubs or at raves.

The Flash & The Crash: How Methamphetamine Affects Your Brain and Body

When someone uses meth they feel an intense rush of energy and good feelings – A euphoria referred to as “the flash”.

When meth enters the body it causes a release of dopamine, the chemical key that unlocks pleasure in the human brain. Simply put, dopamine is a natural chemical that causes us to feel good. The more dopamine that’s released in the brain, the more pleasure we feel.

Research shows that meth use results in about 3.5 times more pleasure than what’s felt from cocaine use and about 6 times what our brain can naturally feel on its own.

This initial feeling of pleasure is what causes many users to become trapped or addicted to meth. They begin to chase the euphoria, trying to reproduce the pleasurable feelings by consuming the drug again and again.

Group of men smoking meth

The irony is that every time a user takes the drug, they feel less pleasure from the same dose. They’re forced to increase the amount they consume in order to feel the same effects they once did with a smaller dosage. This is referred to as developing a tolerance to the drug.

What makes Meth even more appealing is that the high lasts significantly longer than the high from other drugs. However, there is a general rule that can be applied to all drug use – “The higher the climb, the harder the fall.

As the drug wears off and the flash begins to fade, the good feelings are quickly replaced by anxiety, fear, anger, and edginess – commonly known as “the crash”. Studies show that extensive meth use can cause permanent changes to the brain and make it extremely difficult for users to experience pleasure – with or without the drug.

The flash

Recovering from A Meth Addiction

Due to its powerful and long-lasting effects on the brain, when someone is addicted to meth, they are said to have a serious Substance Use Disorder (SUD). As such, overcoming an addiction to Methamphetamine is far from easy but it’s entirely possible.

Like treatment for any other mental health disorder, professional treatment for a substance use disorder can give an addict the opportunity to regain control of their lives

This euphoric rush, this “flash” – a state of extreme and absolute pleasure – is why the drug has been known to be instantly addictive for many users. Yes, instant.

Used just once, it can create an undeniable, unquenchable desire to use it again.

In fact, it is so addictive, that drug users are driven to continue its dangerous and destructive use despite knowing and seeing the worsening, ravaging effects on their physical and mental health

The Serious Physical Side Effects of Meth Abuse

In addition to the short and long-term psychological effects of meth abuse, the drug can also have severe effects on the user’s physical appearance and overall health.

Meth can cause what’s commonly referred to as meth mouth, where the user’s teeth begin to rot and break apart. It also causes a loss in appetite which can lead to dramatic weight loss.

Users report their skin becoming very itchy, which leads to sores and scabs from continuous and uncontrollable scratching.

Meth use also causes the development of distinct facial sores and a sallow complexion, as shown in the image below:

Pictures of Meth Addiction

Facial Changes of 2 Crystal Meth Addicts Before Meth and Over a 5 and 10-year Period

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

However, perhaps its most destructive effect on human health is invisible to the naked eye. The brain damage inflicted on an individual by the use and abuse of methamphetamine is extensive and, sometimes, permanent.

1. Brain Damage from Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine is toxic to brain cells. What that means is that when someone uses meth, over time it changes both the structure of the brain and the way it functions. This leads to difficulty with memory, managing emotions, thinking/decision making, and mood regulation.  Studies show that chronic users experience increased anxiety and psychosis, profound paranoia, and an increased risk of both stroke and Parkinson’s Disease.

These changes in the brain may explain why meth addiction is difficult to treat, and why many recovering meth addicts end up relapsing.

Recurring Psychosis

The psychotic symptoms can often last for months, and in some cases years, after an addict stops using.

Studies show that high-stress levels can trigger the recurrence of meth-related psychosis.  The recurring psychosis experienced by ex-meth addicts is characterized by paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions.

One of the most common examples of a meth-induced psychosis is meth bugs! This occurs when users feel like there are bugs crawling under their skin. 

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2. Methamphetamine Dental Damage

Perhaps the most visible sign of chronic meth abuse is meth mouth, a condition characterized by severe tooth decay and gum disease.

The extensive tooth decay is attributed not only to poor nutritional choices but also to the fact that meth use causes both psychological and physiological changes which results in dry mouth and extended periods of bad oral hygiene.

As shown in the photos below, teeth can become rotten, stained, blackened, and deteriorated. In some cases, they become so crumbly and deteriorated that they cannot be fixed and must be removed.

Meth is also quite acidic. The acid and dry mouth erodes tooth enamel and leaves extensive carious lesions (cavities) – among other problems. If left untreated it can even result in trismus, more commonly known as lockjaw.

Meth mouth pictures

Meth Mouth – Real Meth Teeth Images

Photo left: Meth mouth in short-term user | Photo right: Meth mouth in long-term user

Source: U.S. Depart of Justice Archive – Meth Awareness

Addicts tend to be inherently anxious because of their drug use, and meth addicts are no different.

Severe anxiety in meth users can cause bruxism – Constant grinding of teeth and jaw-clenching. With the teeth already being fragile, the constant grinding speeds up the damage and degeneration.

In fact, one NIDA study of over 500 meth users found that:

  • 96% had carious lesions or cavities
  • 58% had untreated tooth decay, compared with 27% of the general U.S. population
  • Only 23% were able to keep all of their natural teeth, compared to 48% of the population
  • 40% said they were self-conscious or embarrassed because of their dire dental issue

meth users

3. Meth Skin Damage

Another profoundly negative effect of meth use is the destruction of both blood vessels and muscle tissues in the user’s body. Nowhere is this more visible than on the skin.

Repeated meth use causes users’ skin to be unable to heal itself as normal and causes it to look prematurely aged.

Meth before and after picture

Methamphetamine-Induced Skin Damage aka Meth Skin

The destruction of blood vessels and muscle tissue in the face prematurely ages the user.  These photos show the skin’s deterioration over only 2.5 years.

Source: Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon / Faces of Meth, 2005

What Does Meth Skin Look Like?

Meth users are highly susceptible to acne on their face and other parts of their body. The acne often develops into sores and meth scars that can take a long time to heal.

Additionally, the skin will usually lose its elasticity, making meth users appear far older than they actually are.

Meth use leaves the skin feeling itchy and dry skin. The dryness, plus the “meth bugs” sensation causes addicts to pick at their faces and other affected body parts. The subsequent wounds often leave permanent scars.

Lastly, this constant picking at the skin can actually become a behavioral disorder,  known as dermatillomania. The disorder is classified as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB).

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Illicit Street Meth Manufacture

If you’ve ever watched an episode of the Netflix hit series Breaking Bad, you’re probably familiar with meth superlabs, kitchens, cooks, and explosions.

Many of the scenes in Breaking Bad where Jesse and Walt were cooking meth aren’t too far off from reality.

On a small scale, meth is literally cooked up in countless kitchens and basements across the United States.

One of its base ingredients pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in some over-the-counter cold medicines like Sudafed. However, due to tight controls in the U.S., it has become very difficult for meth manufacturers to get pseudoephedrine and pseudoephedrine-based products in bulk.

Most of the illicit meth sold in the U.S. is produced by criminal organizations in Mexico and trafficked into the country for sale.

Producing pure meth or crystal meth is rare, because additional chemicals, like antifreeze, drain cleaner, and battery acid, are often added to strengthen the potency of the finished product.

As “Breaking Bad” also showed, the chemicals used in meth manufacture are potentially explosive. The use and handling of such dangerous chemicals by a meth cook is a recipe for absolute disaster, as many of these cooks are disorientated and dysfunctional meth addicts themselves.

Meth lab accidents are common, often leaving the cook and other workers either severely burned, disfigured or dead.

Running a meth lab has other health hazards as well. For example, a typical “lab” or “kitchen” produces a significant amount of toxic waste. As the result of manufacture, 1lb of meth will create 5lbs of actual toxic waste, and whoever is exposed to this toxicity risks possibly fatal poisoning.

Common Meth Street Names

  • Beanies, Brown, Chalk, Crank, Chicken Feed, Cinnamon, Crink, Crypto
  • Fast, Getgo, Methlies Quik, Mexican Crank, Redneck Cocaine, Speed, Tick Tick
  • Tweak, Wash, Yaba

street names

Meth’s Pharmaceutical History

Meth was originally developed for medical purposes, like many other powerfully addictive recreational drugs.

Initially, it was produced in Japan by chemically adjusting amphetamine, for medicinal use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers.

However, the potent stimulant was also widely used during World War II to keep essential troops awake, alert, and ready to engage in battle.

Because of its euphoric properties, it was also given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots in high doses prior to their suicide missions. After the war ended, intravenous meth addiction became a major problem in Japan. Instead of now being used solely for military use, it was now made available to the public.

By the 1950s, it had become a non-medical stimulant commonly by U.S. college students, truck drivers, and even athletes. Meth use and abuse spread rapidly.

In 1970, the U.S. government had no other option but to make it illegal for most uses.

Obviously, as we have seen many times over, this usually does not affect a drug’s availability, as well as becomes another revenue stream for the Mexican drug cartels.

Real Life Meth Addiction Recovery Stories

Jason’s Story of Recovery from Meth Addiction

“Getting clean and sober didn’t promise me that I would be perfect every day, it just promised me that I would have a chance” – Jason Wickline.

If you were to meet 41-year-old Jason Wickline, a now happily married father, you’d probably find it hard to believe he was once a meth addict.

Today, he’s healthy and muscular – unrecognizable in comparison to when he was suffering from a severe addiction to meth.

Jason suffered tremendously from his addiction and lost custody of his young son in the process. He described himself then as no more than “an empty shell. I’m 5-foot-8, and I only weighed 120 pounds. I was a dead man.”

This is Jason Wickline’s story:

In 2015, Jason Wickline was arrested at his Mount Hope home, on charges of methamphetamine manufacturing. But this wasn’t his first time in handcuffs…he had already spent the past 15 years in and out of jail.

At the time of his arrest, Jason was a single dad, and a hopeless addict cooking meth just to support his habit.

Not only was he charged with meth manufacturing, but he was also hit with an additional child neglect charge that resulted in him losing custody of his 4-year-old son Krystian.

Jason explained, “As they were walking Krystian to the car, he turned around to look at me, and said, “Daddy, I love you, and I’ll never forget you.” He was 4 and thought he would never see me again. I was bawling my eyes out. I had no idea what was going to happen to my kid at that point.”

Jason Composite Meth Addict Before and After

Jason’s Arrest Photos

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Jason Wickline

Unfortunately, or some may say, fortunately, this was Jason’s true rock-bottom moment.

It was the pivotal point in his life when he realized that if he didn’t change, nothing else would.

If he didn’t stop using meth, he’d never regain custody of his son! His addiction would continue to destroy his life.

I knew my life was never going to be the same again. I knew that insanity I had been living in was finally over”, says Jason.

At his sentencing, the judge gave Jason a life-changing opportunity. He offered him the chance to go to a long-term addiction treatment program. Jason seized the opportunity, and to his credit, he kept his word and stayed in the program for 13 months.

The judge did however put Jason on a 30-month probation period, with strict and clear conditions – find adequate housing, and stay sober.

Knowing full well there was simply no other way but to find a stable home in order to get his son back, he kept his word once more.

Today, Jason is truly a changed man and a living example of hope and recovery. He’s now happily married to his wife Shanna, and he’s regained custody of Krystian who is now 9 years old.

Jason says that he wants to make Krystian proud, and we’re certain that he will!

Like many recovering addicts, Jason is actively giving back to the recovery community. He regularly attends meetings and volunteers at addiction treatment programs.

Along with his wife Shanna, Jason also actively promotes the recovery website: www.morethanaddiction.org/.

Jason had to lose everything before finally deciding to beat his addiction and commit fully to recovery.

Jason Recovery Meth Addict

Jason and his family – Shana, his wife, and his young son, Krystian

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Jason Wickline

Dejah’s Story of Recovery from Meth & Heroin Addiction

To celebrate her 4-year anniversary of recovery from heroin and meth addiction, Dejah Hall (then 26 years old) posted a series of dramatic transformational photos on her Instagram.

Being an attractive woman, her post rapidly went viral, even more so when it was later re-posted on Facebook by the “Love What Matters” page.

Here are Dejah’s original Instagram photos:

DejahInst Recovering Meth Addiction photo

Dejah Marie’s Remarkable Transformation (Before and After Meth Addiction) – Celebrating 4 years in recovery from meth and heroin addiction 

(Left Photo: Dejah’s arrest photo | Right Photo: Dejah in 2016, 4 years into her addiction recovery)

Source: These photos have been used with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

From ages 17 to 22, Dejah struggled with an addiction to a variety of drugs.

Her history of drug use began at age 17 when she first took a prescription pill at a party. Stress and problems at home are what prompted her to take the medication.

She quickly became addicted to prescription meds and reports taking up to six pills at a time – every day until age 20 when she attempted to stop.

Ana B. Good The Big Sugarbush

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

Dejah started to receive medication-assisted treatment at a methadone clinic for her drug dependence. However, unfortunately, she missed 3 consecutive days of treatment and was kicked out of the program.

She then tried to quit the pills cold turkey but suffered from debilitating withdrawal symptoms that led her to try heroin as a way to stop the pain. After just her second hit of heroin, she fell in love with the high. Her addiction to heroin led her even further down the rabbit hole and she soon after tried meth. At one point in 2012, she was injecting both heroin and meth.

It may seem somewhat strange to pray to God, asking desperately for help, and then to be arrested within the space of a couple of hours, thinking that your prayers were actually answered, but that’s exactly what happened. Visiting her grandfather one day, he told her she was hurting him with her endless drug abuse. Dejah went into the bathroom, got down on her knees, and said her prayer.

After leaving her grandfather’s house, she was promptly arrested by local police on a number of outstanding felony warrants and was to spend the next 2-3 weeks in county jail, painfully going through a jail-induced withdrawal – without any medication whatsoever. As she says her self, “It was hell, but I am still alive.”

Dejah Marie Hall photo

Source: Reproduced with the kind permission of Dejah Marie Hall

Dejah is now a busy Mom, happy to be in a position to not only share her story, but also to offer the following advice to those who find themselves where she once did: “Get to NA or AA, get a sponsor, and work your Steps. [They] are stronger than any substance. Every day, I thank God that I am not where I once was. Sobriety is possible.”

SpringBoard Recovery

How SpringBoard Recovery Can Help Meth Addicts Recover?

If you’re using meth or crystal meth recreationally, there’s a distinct possibility that you’re already dependent or addicted.

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should get in touch with an addiction treatment professional:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizzy spells, or frequent headaches

SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, has treated many methamphetamine addicts and guided them successfully on the path to long-term, sustainable recovery.

We can help you, too, with our range of drug addiction treatment options – contact us today to find out more.

With much gratitude to Dejah and Jason for their kind permission in allowing SpringBoard Recovery to use the stories and pictures of their personal addiction recovery.

They did willingly so our readers can understand that you must never, ever give up hope, and recovery from meth addiction is not just possible – it is achievable.

Sources:


Author: Gerard Bullen
January 15, 2022

Gerard has been writing exclusively for the U.S. substance addiction treatment industry for many years, providing a range of medically-reviewed work, including white papers, long-form, and short-form content articles, and blog posts for accredited addiction treatment centers. A member of the American Medical Writers Association, Gerard’s specific focus is substance addiction (an area that has impacted Gerard’s personal life in several ways), and he is particularly drawn to the topics of professional, evidence-based treatment, new and alternative therapies, and enabling readers to find their own sustainable, long-term recovery. Gerard lives and works in Maryland, U.S., he’s happily married, and a proud father. His interests include hiking with the family, reading fiction (from the classics to virtually all of the current NYT bestseller list), American and British film classics, and his beloved dogs, Toby and Coco, both rescued from the local pound.

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