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  • Methamphetamine (meth) is a dangerous central nervous system stimulant often associated with premature aging, skin sores, and dental decay. Obsessive skin-picking is a common behavior among meth addicts, which can cause open wounds, infections, and abscesses. 

    If you suspect a loved one has meth sores or infections, encourage them to seek medical care as soon as possible. Addiction treatment is the most effective preventative measure against potentially irreversible skin effects caused by meth. 

    How Meth Affects Your Face & Skin

    The faces of meth users often appear aged, dull, and full of sores from burns or picking. Chronic use can cause a weakened immune system and constricted blood vessels. Your skin starts to lose elasticity, making you appear much older. 

    Effects on the skin include:

    • accelerated aging 
    • dry, dull skin 
    • acne
    • sores and scabs
    • infections
    • itchy skin

    Causes Of Meth Sores & Scabs

    Heavy meth abuse can cause acne, intense itching, and hallucinations of bugs crawling on or under the skin. This causes compulsive itching and picking at the skin, especially on the face and extremities. Sores will likely develop and may look like red bumps, a rash, blisters, or irritated skin. 

    When the sores become infected, they may get darker in color and fill with pus. Scabs will form as the sores start to heal but continued picking slows the healing process and may cause permanent scarring. 

    Causes of meth sores include:

    Meth Mites

    Meth-induced psychosis can cause tactile hallucinations of bugs crawling on or under the skin. These imaginary bugs are called “meth mites.” Meth mites cause users to compulsively pick at their skin, causing sores. 


    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, intense itching is a side effect of meth use. Chronic itching, which can be exacerbated by meth mites, can cause open wounds and sores. 

    Meth Pipe Burns

    People who smoke crystal meth (a form of methamphetamine) may use glass bowl pipes. If the pipe is hot or cracked, it can cause burns and lesions on the lips and around the mouth. Sharing a pipe that may have traces of blood from open sores can spread infections.

    Meth Mouth

    Along with effects on the skin, meth can have disastrous effects on your mouth and teeth. Dry mouth caused by meth eventually leads to tooth decay. Meth mouth is characterized by stained, blackened, and rotting teeth that easily fall out. 

    You may also experience sores, ulcers, and infections on your lips and inside your mouth from smoking crystal meth.  

    Meth Face Before And After Pictures

    Health Effects Of Meth Sores

    Even more dangerous than the cosmetic effects of meth is the high risk of infection. Meth users are more at risk for infection because of poor hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, and weakened immune system. 

    Meth sores can lead to the following dangerous infections:


    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are more likely to occur in people who use meth than in non-drug users. 

    The infection starts as painful red bumps that become abscessed and require medical care to be drained. 


    Abscesses are pus filled sores caused by a bacterial infection. They usually appear red, raised, and are painful to touch. Abscesses can be treated with antibiotics and by draining the infected area.


    Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that appears red and swollen. Untreated meth sores can develop into cellulitis, which is a bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis is common but can cause dangerous health complications if left untreated.  

    Treatment For Meth Sores

    The most effective way to prevent damaging skin effects is meth addiction treatment. However, disinfecting wounds and proper hygiene helps prevent bacteria from infecting open sores. Healthcare professionals can properly treat your wounds and give you antibiotics for infections. 

    Although some of meth’s effects on the skin are irreversible, the following may help sores heal faster:

    • healthy diet
    • proper hygiene
    • adequate sleep
    • vitamin E 
    • hydration
    • drug abstinence

    Meth Addiction Treatment

    Adjusting to life without methamphetamines can be challenging, especially after years of heavy use. Although there are no medications to treat meth addiction, behavioral therapy is extremely effective. 

    Many residential drug rehab programs offer behavioral therapy as well as group therapy and healthy activities. 

    If you would like more information on addiction treatment, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Davis Sugar, M.D.
    on January 31, 2023
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