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Methamphetamine: Implications for the Dental Team

Course Number: 332

Other Effects

The potent crystal meth is particularly prevalent among men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM is the term used to categorize males who engage in sexual activity with other males, regardless of how they identify themselves. This term focuses on behavior rather than cultural or social self-identification. Users report an amplified libido, increased sexual stamina and reduction of inhibitions.41 As a result, there is an increased incidence of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, primarily due to sharing of needles and unprotected and rougher sex. Antibiotic resistant forms of sexually transmitted infections and more virulent forms of AIDS are being observed in meth users.

Heavy metal (lead and mercury) toxicity has been reported in meth users, especially those who receive treatment in emergency departments.

Methamphetamine use during pregnancy poses a significant risk to the developing fetus, including premature birth and low birth weight, possibly due to increased maternal cardiovascular stress; placental abruption (separation of the placental lining from the uterus) cerebral infarctions; and congenital anomalies such as cleft lip and palate and heart abnormalities.40,64 There is evidence of structural brain abnormalities that may be worse than Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.64 Meth clears from the newborn’s system after 5 days but the effects continue. Because meth disturbs the neurotransmitters that regulate the sleep cycle, exposed infants can sleep up to 23 hours a day in the early weeks of life. Feeding may be compromised as sucking and swallowing reflexes are weak. At approximately 4 weeks, these infants exhibit excessive irritability. The long-term effects of fetal exposure are less clear. There appears to be an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the school-aged years. Changes have been demonstrated in the caudate nucleus of the brain which is involved in learning and memory, motor control and reward and punishment.93