Meth, also known as methamphetamine, crystal meth, or ice, is a powerful stimulant drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction. The drug is known to keep people awake for days at a time while leading to strange and paranoid behaviors. While many people associate meth users with weight loss, there are many additional side effects of meth addiction. Long-term meth abuse can significantly change a person’s appearance by causing sores on their arms, rapid aging, tooth decay, and, in some cases, extreme weight loss.
Stimulant drugs have historically been used to treat people struggling with obesity. Even though meth is an illegal drug, that doesn’t mean some people won’t use it to lose weight. On the other hand, some people get addicted to meth without the intention of weight loss. Instead, they abuse the drug long enough that their body begins experiencing long-term side effects.
Let’s take a look at the connection between meth abuse and weight loss and how the drug causes people to lose weight.
The Relationship Between Stimulants and Weight Loss
Stimulant medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are used to treat ADHD. Since these medications tend to make people less hungry, they are sometimes used to help people stop binge eating or promote weight loss.
Phentermine and bupropion are the only two stimulant medications that are currently approved by the FDA to treat obesity. However, the very first stimulant the FDA endorsed in 1947 for the treatment of obesity was methamphetamine.
Reasons Why Meth Makes People Lose Weight
Although each individual is different, meth abuse and weight loss are commonly connected. There are several reasons why meth makes people lose weight. These include:
- Reduced appetite
- Fat and muscle loss
- More calories burned
- Lack of self-care
Meth Reduces Appetite
Much of appetite is controlled by blood sugar levels and other physical cues. When the stomach is empty or the body needs food, the areas of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and the striatum are responsible for receiving messages of hunger. However, when dopamine levels are thrown off, the way neurons in the brain communicate changes.
In the case of meth, an excess of dopamine in the brain can decrease cravings for food. When people don’t have an appetite, they won’t feel the need to eat. Meth users may even forget to eat altogether because their brain isn’t receiving messages of hunger.
Meth Abuse Leads to Muscle Loss
When someone isn’t craving food, they will begin to eat less. When a person begins eating less, their body will turn to muscle and fat for the energy it needs to survive.
First, the body will feed off calories stored in fat to supply the body with energy. If a person has lost a significant amount of fat and continues not to eat, their body will start using muscle and stored protein to fuel the body. This leads to wasting away of muscle and, ultimately, weight loss. Muscle wasting can be dangerous, as it can lead to muscle weakness and other mobility issues.
Stimulants Increase the Number of Calories Burned
As a stimulant, meth increases the speed at which many bodily processes occur. Meth leads to an increase in heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, wakefulness, and body temperature. All of these processes require energy, so people who use meth may burn calories at a faster rate than people who do not.
People who abuse meth may also stay awake for hours or days at a time. People burn more calories when they are awake than they do when they are asleep. When combining the ability to reduce appetite and speed up the rate at which the body burns calories, it’s easy to see how meth makes people lose weight.
People Addicted to Meth May Not Prioritize Eating
If someone is addicted to meth they will experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t use the drug. Addiction drives drug users to repeatedly abuse substances even if they want to stop using. This can lead to a preoccupation with obtaining, using, and recovering from meth, causing a person to place their health and nutrition as a second priority.
Rather than eating and nourishing one’s body, someone who is addicted to meth may neglect self-care as they put getting high at the top of their priority list. In the long term, not eating, forgetting to eat, or not having enough money to eat as a result of meth addiction can lead to dramatic weight loss. Regular meth users may go several days at a time without eating a full meal.
Get Help for Meth Abuse, Addiction, and Weight Loss Today
Whether you are using meth with the intention of losing weight or you are beginning to experience the negative side effects of your drug use, it’s time to get help.
At PAX Riverbend we are dedicated to providing you with an individualized treatment plan that considers your beliefs, experiences, and unique recovery needs so you can receive the best possible care. Call now to get started on your road to recovery.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.