Drug and Alcohol

Meth Eyes: The Harmful Effects of Methamphetamines on the Eyes

Ever hear of meth eyes? It's a dangerous (and perhaps permanent) complication of meth abuse. Learn more about meth eyes in our blog.

What are Meth Eyes?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 16, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

"Meth eyes" describes the physiological impacts of consuming meth or methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a stimulant with an intense addictive potential that influences the brain and spinal cord. The substance can elicit various mental and physical effects, including pupil dilation, fast eye blinks, and a characteristic form of pupils known as "meth eyes."

Meth eyes are distinguished by narrowed pupils that might persist for a few hours following meth consumption. This can cause the eyes to seem watery or shiny and the whites in the eyes seem bloodshot. Meth usage can also induce fast gazes, giving the eyes a restless or twitching appearance.

Furthermore, continued meth usage can result in different bodily symptoms such as losing weight, dental difficulties, and blisters on the skin. The stimulant meth is a highly habit-forming substance with severe long-term physiological implications.

Should you or a close one contract methamphetamine addiction, several drug rehabilitation programs can assist you. They are committed to delivering the most complete and personalized medically supervised detox program. Continue reading to learn more about the ocular consequences of meth abuse. 

Meth By the Numbers:

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 2.5 million people aged twelve or older in 2021 reported taking methamphetamine in the previous 12 months.

What are Meth Eyes?

When a person consumes meth frequently they start to portray an unusual appearance in and around their eyes. This is commonly termed "meth eyes." The particular aspects of meth eyes differ based on various elements, involving the quantity of meth ingested, the person's bodily and psychological wellness, and the rate and length of consumption.

Meth has some general effects on the eyes, including:

Meth Eyes: Pinpoint or Enlarged Pupils

The constant use of meth can widen pupils, and they stay dilated for a few hours.

Meth Eyes: Fast Eye Movements

Meth usage can produce fast eye movements, such as blinking or twitching, giving the eyes a nervous appearance.

Meth Eyes: Glassy Eyes

The effects of meth on the brain and spinal column may cause the eyes to seem glossy or watery.

Meth Eyes: Bloodshot Eyes

The white portion of the eyes might seem blood-red due to blood vessel compression triggered by meth usage. 

In general, meth eyes may portray the image of a hyper-alert or disturbed individual. Other physical indications for ongoing meth use include skin rashes, decreased body weight, and tooth decay.

How Can You Tell if a Person Has Meth Eyes?

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a potent and very addictive substance that influences the central nervous system. Meth consumption can cause several emotional and behavioral implications that can either last for a brief or longer period.

The following are some of the consequences of methamphetamine on the human body and eyes:

  • Eye problems as listed above

  • Meth mouth: Severe dental damage due to poor hygiene, teeth grinding, and dry mouth

  • Meth sores: Skin problems due to skin picking

  • Aggression

  • Hallucinations

  • Extreme weight loss

  • Psychosis

  • Sleep disruption

  • Confusion

  • Mood swings

Meth Eyes: What Are the Temporary & Permanent Consequences of Meth Use?

Methamphetamine or meth consumption may have various short and long-lasting impacts on the eyes and pupil walls. Pupil dilatation, red eyes, and fast eye gaze are some of the immediate consequences of methamphetamine on the eyes and pupils. These impacts can impair vision and render focusing on surroundings harder. 

Meth may also decrease tears in the eye, resulting in inflammation and itching. Continuous impacts from meth usage on the eyes may involve ruptured blood vessels, which may give rise to various eye disorders such as cataracts, vision loss, and glaucoma. Meth usage can also have an impact on the well-being of the body, adding to vision difficulties.

Meth Eyes: Pupil Enlargement

Regarding the short-term consequence of the substance on the human system, methamphetamine consumption can produce pupil dilation difficulties. Meth usage may trigger pupils to widen and dilate for a few hours, despite strong light. This dilatation can result in light sensitization, making it challenging to concentrate on things and rendering it more difficult to accomplish daily tasks that need visual concentration.

Meth-produced pupil enlargement is provoked by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system or SNS, which is involved in the freeze-fawn response (acute stress response). Meth causes dopamine (a neurotransmitter) to be released in high quantities in the brain, raising blood pressure, pulse, and breathing. These alterations in biology may trigger pupils to widen.

While meth usage causes pupil dilation in the short term, long-term use of the substance may lead to long-term harm to the eyes, causing damage to artery walls, which is capable of causing eye disorders such as cataracts, dry eyes, and loss of vision.

Meth Eyes: Impaired Vision

Methamphetamine usage can result in decreased vision as a temporary or permanent consequence of the substance. Short-term consumption of meth can produce pupil dilation, resulting in light vulnerability, difficulties concentrating on items, and impaired vision. Methamphetamine can also result in eyesores and decreased tear production, causing pain and irritation.

The consumption of meth can also reduce blood supply to the occipital nerve, resulting in enlargement of the second cranial nerve (CN II) and visual loss. Using meth can also worsen underlying eye disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, resulting in additional vision loss, according to the NCBI.

Meth Eyes: Ischemic Retinopathy

Ischemic retinopathy is a disease induced by the extensive use of methamphetamine. It is an uncommon disorder indicated by the production of colorful deposits that grow in the layer of photoreceptors and glial cells within the eyes. 

The precise process by which methamphetamine usage induces crystalline retinopathy is unknown; however, it is believed to be associated with meth's adverse impacts on the arteries in the eye's retina. As per the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), methamphetamine may compress and tighten blood vessels, resulting in decreased blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the eyeball. This is the main reason for the occurrence of crystalline plaques or deposits. 

Crystalline or ischemic retinopathy might lead to ocular impairments like hazy or contorted vision and total blindness in severe instances. This ailment is generally identified via a detailed eye check-up that involves a dilated eye test and various visual examinations like heparinized saline. 

Although the detrimental impacts of ischemic retinopathy are unchangeable, stopping meth use and treating linked health concerns like diabetes and high blood pressure can help decrease the condition's growth and avoid future eye damage. 

Meth Eyes: Rapid Eye Movement

Meth consumption might result in swift eye movements as a temporary side effect of the substance. Fast-eye blinking, or REM sleep, is distinguished by rapid eye movement, heightened neural activity, and intense dreaming. On the other hand, eye disorientation produced by meth use is irrelevant to falling asleep. It happens while an individual is conscious and consuming the substance.

REM or Rapid Eye Movement caused by extreme meth use can produce rapid and uncontrollable eye movement, causing it hard to concentrate on things or read. The strain on the eyes, migraines, and weariness might also result. In severe situations, meth-produced REM can result in nystagmus, a reflexive twitching of one's eyes that might impair spatial awareness and balance issues.

The precise procedure under which meth produces fast eye movements is still under observation. Nonetheless, it is believed to be associated with the influence of meth in the production of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for regulating rapid eye blinks. Meth abuse can create an overactivation of these methods, raising the probability of REM. 

Meth Eyes: Retinal Vascular Occlusive Disease

RVOD, or Retinal vascular occlusive disease, is a disease capable of developing due to meth usage. It is an uncommon but serious condition that damages the veins and arteries in the eye or retina, the photosensitive layer in the posterior part of the eye. RVOD is an acute illness that can induce abrupt, benign vision loss.

Meth usage can result in a decrease in blood or a contraction of the arterial walls in the body. This can reduce blood supply to the eye, resulting in ischemic damage or tissue destruction due to a shortage of nourishment and oxygen. RVOD may occur when a clot of red blood cells develops within the retinal tissues, obstructing blood from reaching a section of the retina.

RVOD can produce abrupt, painless loss of vision in one of the eyes, typically stated as an enclosure or shadow concealing a portion of the field of view. Additional signs include blurred eyesight, loss of perception of color, and delusions. RVOD may also cause enlargement of the optic nerve and retina, often diagnosed during a full eye exam.

Although RVOD could be an urgent medical situation, treatment can reestablish vision if found early. RVOD remedial measures involve medicines to break down blood clots, radiotherapy to decrease swelling, or an operation to eliminate blood clots. But, in certain instances, RVOD can also result in blindness. 

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Meth Eyes: Long-Term Impacts on the Vision, Retina & Cornea

Meth consumption can permanently impair the retina, cornea, and full eyesight. 

The cornea represents the outer, transparent region of the eye. Extended use of methamphetamine can lead to cornea damage, causing keratoconus as a result. Keratoconus is a gradual weakening and expansion of the cornea. It can lead to hazy and blurry vision and eventually necessitate a corneal transplant operation. 

Recurrent use of meth can additionally result in retinal damage, the photosensitive tissue located in the posterior segment of the eye. Ongoing meth consumption can also manifest a disease known as MAR or methamphetamine-associated retinopathy, represented by the deterioration of the minute arteries and veins in the eye. MAR is also responsible for causing reduced visual capacity, reduced perception of colors, and blind points. 

What Are Additional Signs of Meth Misuse?

When an individual uses meth, they might exhibit the following physical and psychological signs:

Dry Mouth or Mouth Ulcers

Several meth addicts can dilute the substance in water before injecting it. It is particularly prevalent among experienced meth users. Because meth is soluble in water, it exits the body via the skin's pores, like sweat. 

Premature Aging

Meth is additionally linked with the occurrence of age-concerned disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, hearing loss, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. According to a recent study, methamphetamine might trigger cell degeneration and inflammation, leading to these issues.

Meth Mouth

This phrase is adopted when referring to the obvious signs of dental problems in a person who consumes meth since the drug causes extensive dental decay. Meth users might have discolored, blackened, damaged, or decaying teeth due to the drug's adverse effects and associated lifestyle variables.

Skin infections and Rashes

Acne blemishes are a widespread negative impact of methamphetamine on the skin's surface. Because acne is so visible, it is no surprise that many individuals have linked methamphetamine to acne eruptions. Individuals who consume meth, particularly those who overdose on it, do not feel the requirement to consume as much fluids as those who do not. As a result, their skin becomes dehydrated, resulting in meth sores.

How Can I Get Meth Addiction Treatment?

Meth addiction can take a harsh toll on your body, mind, and well-being. Fortunately, there is help available to those struggling with meth abuse and addiction.

If you or someone close to you has been using meth for an extended period of time, it’s important to understand that addiction treatment isn’t something that can be easily done on your own. The best course of action is to seek professional help from addiction treatment specialists.

When seeking meth addiction treatment, you have several options available, such as inpatient rehab programs and outpatient care. Inpatient rehab programs involve living at a rehabilitation facility while receiving the necessary medical and psychological care required to recover from meth abuse or addiction. This option is best suited for those with a severe addiction.

Outpatient drug rehab care, on the other hand, involves meeting with an addiction specialist and attending therapy sessions on a regular basis without having to live at the facility. This type of program may be more suitable if you have a milder form of addiction or if you’re already receiving treatment from another healthcare professional.

In addition to these two options, there are also group therapy programs available for those struggling with meth addiction. Through these types of programs, you’ll be able to meet and interact with other people who understand what you’re going through and can provide support as you work towards recovery.

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Meth Eyes Are a Sign of a Serious Problem. Meth Addiction is Treatable at The Edge Treatment Center

Meth eyes, the tell-tale signs of meth use, can be a sign that someone is struggling with addiction. If you or someone close to you have noticed this symptom, it’s important to get help as soon as possible before the problem gets any worse.

At The Edge Treatment Center, we provide comprehensive and compassionate treatment for those struggling with meth addiction. Our evidence-based treatment programs are designed to help you overcome your addiction and break the cycle of abuse. We offer a variety of services, such as individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and life skills training.

Our experienced professionals will work with you every step of the way to ensure that you get the care and support you need. We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time, and we’re here to help you get through it.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards recovery, contact The Edge Treatment Center today! Our caring team of professionals is standing by to answer any questions you may have and guide you on your journey to a healthier, happier life.

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