August 16, 2010
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
The Truth About Meth: A Devastating and Addictive Drug
On the street it’s known as meth, speed, ice, chalk, crank, fire, glass or crystal. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that wreaks havoc on the entire body, including the user’s oral health. Approximately 10 million Americans have tried methamphetamine, while more than 1.4 million are habitual users.
As the effects of methamphetamine use are devastating, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) wants to educate the public about this destructive drug.
An individual can become almost immediately addicted after their first use of the drug. Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that mirrors chemicals in the brain that transmit messages of gratification and euphoria. It releases large amounts of dopamine, creating an intense high or feeling of pleasure. It then damages and blocks dopamine transporters, which affect motor skills, memory, attention and the ability to feel pleasure. Eventually, it depletes the brain’s production of normal chemical messages that create pleasurable feelings.
Methamphetamine use can cause serious health problems, including permanent and irreversible brain damage, respiratory problems, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, strokes, high blood pressure, extensive tooth decay and even death.
The ill effects of methamphetamine use on the oral cavity is particularly profound,” said Dr. Brian M. Schwab, a PDA member and general dentist from Reading. “As health care professionals, we need to think outside the box and treat not only the patient’s dental needs but also address their social, psychological and emotional needs, so that an individual with addiction can access treatment. Dentists need to be a member of the addiction-treating team, not just repairing the effects on the dentition.”
The mouth of a methamphetamine user is often referred to as a “meth mouth,” because of the rampant tooth decay that occurs with the use of this drug. Methamphetamine use affects dental health in several ways, including:
- The teeth become blackened, stained and rotted, and crumble and fall apart. Many users also experience sore and bleeding gums.
- The acidic ingredients of methamphetamine can damage teeth. Ingredients can include battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner and over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine.
- Users of methamphetamine habitually grind and clench their teeth.
- Users can experience dry mouth as methamphetamine use dries up the protective saliva around the teeth.
- While high, users often crave sugary beverages, bathing the teeth in sugary acids.
- The high from methamphetamine typically lasts about 12 hours, during which time users are usually not brushing or flossing their teeth. This can lead to long periods of poor oral hygiene.
“Many people believe that
methamphetamine use is isolated to the inner cities and suburbs, but the
truth is that drug abuse reaches into every crevice of
Pennsylvania,” Dr. Schwab said. “A dentist anywhere can and
will encounter a patient who abuses methamphetamine, and we all need to
be well versed in its side effects and treatment protocols.”
About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.