The University of Arizona

Health Consequences of Illicit Drug Use
Health Effects of Methamphetamine :
General Health Effects

MA use triggers the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which controls many functions of the brain and other organs including blood pressure, heart rate, mood and appetite.  In addition, the sympathetic nervous system controls the “fight or flight” response.[1]  By triggering the sympathetic nervous system, MA use may cause [2]:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Increased metabolism
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremor

Initially at least, MA can produce effects that many users find desirable; for example, an increase in energy, wakefulness, attention, self-confidence, and sexuality; a decrease in appetite; and a sense of euphoria.[2]  Although MA may increase energy and attention, there is little evidence to suggest that it is a “smart drug.”  Studies have found no evidence showing positive effects of methamphetamine on various cognitive tests or measures of intelligence.[3]

MA use can also produce insomnia, nausea, dizziness, anorexia, irritability, impulsivity, impaired judgment, irrational thoughts, suspiciousness/paranoia, and possibly a propensity towards violence.   Use of MA can also lead to stereotyped behavior called "punding," which is defined as ‘an organized goal-directed but nevertheless meaningless activity’ and as ‘an autonomic behavior with something of the compulsive factor.’  MA users, especially those who use the drug frequently and in high doses, may participate in various repetitive behaviors such as car washing, home cleaning, and dismantling and reassembling objects.[3]



  • (1) Weiss RD, Mirin SM, Bartel RL. Cocaine. 2 ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Press, Inc; 1994.
  • (2) Wolkoff DA. Methamphetamine abuse: an overview for health care professionals. Hawaii Medical Journal 1997 Feb;56(2):34-6.
  • (3) Iversen L. Speed, Ecstasy, Ritalin: The Science of Amphetamines. 1 ed. London, UK: Oxford University Press; 2006.