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What Causes Meth Face?

woman with meth sore

Methamphetamine, aka meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that is known by several slang names including crank, chalk, ice, and bump.

It can have serious long-term side effects and change a person’s physical health, mental well-being, behavior, and physical appearance. Because methamphetamine can be so damaging, it is important to get someone help sooner rather than later. Our drug rehab center in Philadelphia can help people quit these addictions before it is too late.

While sometimes spotting a drug addiction in your loved one can be problematic, methamphetamine addicts are often easy to spot. While many drugs lead to some changes in overall physical appearance, methamphetamine often leads to some of the most alarming transformations. Before and after photos of meth users’ faces are usually drastically different, leading to the term meth face.

What Is Meth Face?

Meth face is the name for the decline in physical appearance in the face of many meth addicts, especially those who have a prolonged history of abuse. Meth face usually includes dental problems, skin issues, sores, false aging, and an overall deterioration of the face.

The negative effects of meth on the face typically get worse with heavier and more frequent use. When meth use stops, many of these effects can be reversed, but these changes often take time, effort, and professional help.

What Are Meth Sores?

Long-term use of meth causes sores on the face and body for many users. These meth face sores can range drastically in appearance depending on how long they have been there, if they are infected, and the user’s hygiene habits. Meth sores may take the form of everything from small dots to large blisters or scabs that have become infected. On the face specifically, meth causes acne-like blemishes.

What Is Meth Mouth?

Meth mouth is noticeable damage to the mouth and surrounding skin as well as the collection of dental problems from methamphetamine abuse. A meth user’s mouth may be dry, cracked, and have sores on it. Dental problems from meth mouth can include yellow teeth, tooth decay, cavities, missing teeth, broken teeth, gum infections, and gum disease. With time these problems get worse. One study found that 96% of meth users had cavities and 58% had tooth decay that was untreated.1

What Causes Meth Face?

Meth face is caused by a combination of mechanisms of how the body metabolizes methamphetamine as well as several behavioral factors as a result. Changes in appearance in different parts of the face will also be attributed to different causes. Some contributing factors to the causes of meth face are hallucinations, itching, neglect in hygiene, malnourishment, burning of the mouth, and the internal effects of methamphetamine.

Meth Sores

Meth sores are the result of meth psychosis. Some meth users will experience a specific hallucination called formication that leads them to believe that there are bugs, also known as meth mites, crawling on top of or underneath their skin. These hallucinations can cause meth users to itch uncontrollably to the point that they may develop meth scars or even skin infections from picking at open wounds. Because meth also causes internal damage, these meth sores often take a long time to heal. While exact numbers are not known, between 26 to 46% of people addicted to meth are believed to have experienced meth psychosis which may include formication.2

Meth Mouth

There are several different possible causes of meth mouth. Many researchers believe some of the problems associated with meth mouth are a result of dry mouth and teeth grinding, common side effect of methamphetamine abuse, but perhaps the leading cause is the addict’s general neglect of dental hygiene.

Meth Eyes

Someone under the influence of methamphetamine may have dilated pupils, but long-term abuse may also lead to lasting changes and problems. A meth addict’s face may have sunken eyes from damage to the skin surrounding the eyes. If snorted regularly, methamphetamine can cause crystalline deposits in the retina and other damage to the eye that may not only be noticeable but could also lead to vision problems.3

Aged Appearance

Along with unsightly sores, meth users often appear much older than they actually are. This false aging is thought to be a result of many factors including the general decline in facial appearance, poor hygiene habits, dental problems, sunken eyes, and damage to the skin.

Sunken eyes are a natural sign of aging, but drug abuse can speed up this process and make the results more announced. Frequent meth users will often notice a decline in their skin’s radiance and elasticity as well. This damage can lead to coloration changes and wrinkles that make the individual appear older. Because methamphetamine can also cause destruction of blood tissues and vessels, the body can’t repair itself as easily and this damage is harder to reverse.4

How to Clear Up Meth Face?

Although the causes of meth face vary and result in different changes, much of the damage that meth does to your face is reversible or can at least be prevented from getting worse. The first step to clearing up meth face is to quit using methamphetamine. Because this drug is so addictive, this can be hard to do on your own. Our Philly meth addiction treatment center can help.

Once use stops, some of these changes may go away on their own, but this process could take time. Patients can take additional steps for improving the damage meth causes to their face after treatment. Moisturizers can help replenish dehydrated skin and medicated creams can help treat any remaining meth sores. Regular brushing and flossing can also help with discolored teeth. For more serious damage, professional assistance is often necessary. Dentist, dermatologists, and eye doctors can better assess the problems and provide necessary treatments, medications, and/or procedures.

To learn more about our various different types of addiction treatment or for more guidance for yourself or a loved one, do not wait to reach out. Contact our team at Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia by calling 888-280-4763.


Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.