How Meth Affects the Female Body

2 min read · 4 sections
New studies are showing that there is another serious outcome of meth use, and it is particularly damaging to women at a greater rate than men.

Articles in the media show that use of crystal meth by young adult females has seen a steady increase in recent years.1 Also increasing is the number of young women facing depression. Meth provides an easy way to cope with these unwanted feelings as it provides a euphoric sensation and decreases inhibitions – but this long-term abuse often leads to dangerous behaviors like unwise sexual activity, random partners, and a stronger possibility of unprotected sex.

How Does Meth Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine causes the amount of the dopamine (a naturally occurring chemical affecting pleasure, attention, learning, and movement) in the brain to increase dramatically.

This quick and short-lasting boost to dopamine levels causes the user to seek more of the substance to further enhance the effects. But tolerance to these pleasurable sensations builds, and so too does the need for more of the drug, furthering use, and probable addiction.

Women and the Adverse Effects of Meth Use

Most people have heard about the common adverse effects caused by methamphetamine use: rotting teeth and gums, premature aging, loosening of inhibitions, exposure to STDs, and the like.

However, meth use has a greater impact on women.

In a study published by the RSNA, researchers found that “…women with stimulant dependence had a significantly lower gray matter volume (GMV) in the frontal lobe (orbitofrontal cortex, medial frontal gyrus, superior frontal gyrus), limbic regions (insula, amygdala, cingulate gyrus), temporal lobe (temporal pole, uncus, parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, occipitotemporal gyri, superior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus), and inferior parietal lobule.”2

Simply put, this means that the study showed a marked reduction in gray matter volume (GMV) found in the brains of women who had used meth.

Neuroplasticity and Women

Neuroplasticity acts to affect changes related to cognitive abilities, motor tasking, learning, memory, and more as children develop into adulthood.

In females, the activity of this neuroplasticity is complex and sex-specific. Changes happen in different areas of the brain than males, at different times, and in differing degrees.

For example, take changes that affect mood. Studies have shown that during puberty, females experience an increase in incidence of depression, caused by changes to the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), which is a person’s central stress response system. “In females, there is an increased response of the HPA axis with advancing puberty, while in males, the response is decreased, possibly associated with increased testosterone levels. Schizophrenia is another disorder whose incidence rises markedly during adolescence and whose presentation shows significant sex differences.”4

Some researchers suspect that use of meth causes an actual shrinking of gray matter, which can lead to developmental issues and rocky recovery from later life stressors. Most agree that methamphetamine use causes permanent damage to the neural network, effectively interrupting messages transmitted by the brain’s neurons.

Get Help for Meth Addiction

The female body is already loaded with its own complexities. Female teenagers, particularly, who don’t use meth are already faced with complex and confusing physical and mental issues, especially those that relate to their emotional and sexual development. By introducing a chemical that works on the intricacies of the brain that control key developmental components, women who use meth place themselves at risk for developing serious physical and mental disadvantages that may last their lifetimes.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, there is help. American Addiction Centers’ nationwide network of treatment centers offers comprehensive addiction-focused healthcare to help get you on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve.

Call our admissions navigators today at to learn more about your treatment options. They can help you verify your insurance and start the admissions process, too. Recovery is possible, so don’t wait. Give us a call today.


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