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  • Meth & Urinary Retention | The Effects Of Meth On The Urinary Tract

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    Meth & Urinary Retention | The Effects Of Meth On The Urinary Tract

    Meth affects the urinary tract by interrupting communication between nerves and muscles necessary for urination. The result—urinary retention—can have serious health consequences that are worsened by methamphetamine abuse.

    Methamphetamine (meth) is a stimulant drug that may be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obesity. More commonly, it’s an illicit drug of abuse found on the street. 

    Does Meth Cause Urinary Retention?

    How meth affects your central nervous system can lead to neurogenic bladder, a condition in which the nerves don’t communicate or work together. Transient urinary retention (a temporary condition caused by drug use) is a common result.

    Regular methamphetamine use can also cause urinary retention by dehydrating you. Your body needs fluids to wash out toxins. If you’re not drinking enough water, your body will retain fluids.

    There are two types of urinary retention:

    • Acute urinary retention means you’re unable to urinate when you need to. This condition may appear suddenly and is uncomfortable, if not painful. You’ll need a suprapubic catheter to drain your bladder until you resolve the source of the problem.
    • Chronic urinary retention means you can urinate but never fully empty your urinary bladder (a process called “voiding”). This condition can cause constant discomfort.

    Symptoms Of Urinary Retention

    Urinary retention can cause you to go to the bathroom constantly. You’ll never have the satisfying sensation of an empty bladder, but you may have a nagging feeling that you have to urinate again and again. Some people head straight back to the bathroom after leaving it. 

    While urinary retention prevents your bladder from completely emptying, it doesn’t necessarily hold all the urine in. Incontinence (leaking urine) is a common symptom of this condition, especially when it’s left untreated.

    Hesitancy (difficulty starting a urine stream) is also a symptom of urinary retention.

    How Does Meth Affect The Urinary Tract?

    Methamphetamine interrupts communication between the urethra and the detrusor (bladder muscle), so you can’t always urinate when you want to. The drug also increases the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine. 

    These hormones stimulate the adrenergic (adrenaline) nervous system, which increases the strength of spinal reflex muscles that control the urethra. They target alpha-1 receptors in the internal urethral sphincter.

    The urethra is the tube through which urine travels out of the body. When the muscles around it are strengthened and the receptors activated, it contracts and is harder to relax. 

    The bladder neck (where urine enters the urethra) may also contract, making it more difficult to release urine.

    Complications Of Urinary Retention

    Urinary retention isn’t just uncomfortable—it can damage other parts of your body. 

    Complications of urinary retention include:

    • Urinary tract infection: Urine removes toxins and bacteria from the body. Retaining urine can increase the bacteria population, leading to infection in the urinary tract. If the infection spreads to your kidneys, it can cause severe issues.
    • Kidney damage: The kidneys process urine before releasing it into the bladder. Urinary retention can cause urine to flow back into the kidneys, which may become so full they press on other organs. The pressure harms the kidneys and can lead to renal failure or chronic kidney disease.
    • Bladder damage: If you have acute urinary retention, your bladder will stretch to hold as much urine as it can. If untreated for too long, the muscles won’t bounce back and will be unable to work as they should.
    • Painful urination (dysuria): A small 2019 study in Hong Kong found that 6.7 percent of participants who used meth suffered from painful urination, making it harder to relax and empty the bladder.
    • High blood pressure: A full bladder raises blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure (also a side effect of meth abuse) can lead to cardiovascular problems and increase the risk of a stroke. 

    Untreated urinary retention is dangerous, and methamphetamine abuse can keep you from healing. There are many case reports of young adults who go to the emergency department to have their bladders drained, only to continue meth abuse and develop urinary retention again.

    Meth isn’t the only drug that causes urinary dysfunction. Ketamine, amphetamine, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), and other drugs of abuse can produce lower urinary tract symptoms.

    Methamphetamine Abuse

    Many people abuse methamphetamine because it produces euphoria and increases energy. Some use the drug to lose weight. But meth is a highly addictive substance. Taking it without a prescription is likely to cause health problems like urinary retention.

    If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Addiction is a devastating disease that can take over your life. But we’re here for you.

    At Ark Behavioral Health, we offer personalized meth treatment programs that combine evidence-based therapies for whole-person healing. You are unique, and your recovery should be, too. Reach out to a treatment specialist today to learn more.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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