Drugs & Health Blog

Meth Mouth and Crank Bugs: Meth-a-morphosis

Sara Bellum

The SBB has already told you about some of the nasty effects that methamphetamine can have on the body—remember that post about how scavengers won’t even eat the dead bodies of meth users?

Not only can meth mess up your body’s chemical structure and even cause problems with your heart and lungs, it also changes your appearance and behavior. Soon, meth users might not even look or act like themselves.

Bad news for teeth and skin

Ever heard of “meth mouth?” It isn’t pretty. Meth reduces the amount of protective saliva around the teeth. People who use the drug also tend to drink a lot of sugary soda, neglect personal hygiene, grind their teeth, and clench their jaws. The teeth of meth users can eventually fall out-even when doing something as normal as eating a sandwich. As if that’s not bad enough, meth can also cause skin problems-and we’re not just talking about regular zits.

Take a look at these pictures from the Department of Justice—but beware, they are disturbing!

Meth users’ skin can start to look like this because they frequently hallucinate—or strongly imagine—that they’ve got insects creeping on top of or underneath their skin. The person will pick or scratch, trying to get rid of the imaginary “crank bugs.” Soon, the face and arms are covered with open sores that could get infected.

No peace of mind

In addition to the “crank bug” hallucinations, long-term meth use leads to problems such as irritability, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, confusion, aggressive feelings, violent rages, and depression.

Users may become psychotic and experience paranoia, mood disturbances, and delusions. The paranoia may even make the person think about killing themselves or someone else.

For more information about how methamphetamine could harm your body and mind, read more in-depth information on NIDA DrugFacts.

Update: For the latest on meth mouth, read the blog post “Meth Mouth: Some Ugly Numbers.”

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Someone slipped meth into my drinking water and I eperienced all the symptoms of meth mouth. I wss also infected with scabies and demodex mites through contact with mites on paper and cardboard. One from a pharmacist with Rosacea and the other given deliberately on a book. This was biological warfare. It has been a nightmare to get rid of them. I advise constant hand washing edpecially when buying from a pharmavy, second hand nookstore or publuc amenities including buses etc. Also, keeping clothes in plastic bags. First line of treatment is permethrin shampoo, body lotion and Ivermectin for scabies and Demodex shampoo with cream for demodex. All affects scalp, teeth and jaw. Stop smoking, exercise and dry hair in the sun. Vitamin supplements B group snd zinc. Lots of fruit and vegetables. Be aware of psychological effects.
It's interesting to note, as an outsider (British) looking at this meth epidemic problem from across the pond, that crystal meth (or its earlier crude forms) have never taken off here or been popular drugs of choice. Here it's all recreational chemical drugs, or cocaine and heroin still for hardcore drug addicts, crystal meth is virtually unseen in UK. This leads me to the observation.. the US has much much tougher sentences on drugs use than UK, and is a much less tolerant and stricter society when it comes to recreational drug use. For example, whilst the US regularly carries out drug screening tests in workplaces and schools etc, in the UK that is unheard of. If you get caught with drugs in UK first offense, small quantity, it's no big deal. You're given a caution by police, a slap on the wrist. So in summary, could the US "war on drugs" and the zero tolerance approach towards drugs and mandatory prison sentences etc, actually be reinforcing a cycle of drug abuse and pushing many people towards Meth....thus basically the reason this whole Meth epidemic has arisen in US? Crystal meth is not a difficult drug to make, at home, if you're able to get hold of the right chemicals (which used to be quite easy from what I understand until the US gov clamped down). It's logical then, that would be quickly adopted as the drug of choice for its low cost and easy accessibility...add to that the armed criminal gangs and the money to made in US and you have a serious problem. Maybe the US gov should re-think its social policy on drugs more towards a medical problem, than a criminal problem? Unless crystal meth manufacturing can be eradicated completely? Even so, then you have other drugs eventually to replace it or the price will go high from importing it, and hence more violent crime arises. There's also all kinds of "legal highs" and "analogues" and newer amphetamine class drugs now pouring into Europe and the US from China and elsewhere. I don't think it's going to be easy to stop people using drugs in some form who are determined to get hold of them, especially in this new era of digital currency and the darknet. Maybe we should be dealing with the source of these drugs (cough China, and Latin America)? Whilst, also treating the users as addicts and people with underlying health problems...mandatory treatment rather than prison, and more investment in drug abuse healthcare. Certainly prevention of drug abuse with education, especially at this level with teenagers, is always a sensible investment and helpful.
I don't think meth users are imagining bugs, I think it might feel like bugs under there skin, but really is the body trying to get rid of the toxic chemicals they have put in there body. Its the detox system fighting the toxins.


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