Crystal meth brings a plethora of health problems to its regular users, including decreasing the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. Recent studies have suggested that when users inject crystal meth, the drug accumulates in certain parts of the body; namely the lungs. In a study that examined the relationship between injecting crystal meth and susceptibility to infection, researchers found that users are more likely to become seriously ill from a fungal infection that can cause life-threatening meningitis.
Conducted by Long Island University-Post and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, this study used mice to view how immune systems fought off the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans in animals that had been injected with crystal meth versus a control group (Associated Press). Researchers proceeded to inject one group of mice with crystal meth over the course of three weeks, and then exposed all the mice – both those in the control and experimental groups – to the fungus. In humans, the fungal infection usually infects the lungs first, but can cross the blood-brain barrier and then cause meningitis. In the mice, researchers found that crystal meth significantly affected how fast the infected mice died; at the end of the study, 100% of the mice that they had injected with crystal meth were dead as compared to 50% of the control group (Associated Press). Researchers found that the fungus colonized more heavily in meth-using mice, both in the brain and in the lungs. This suggested that crystal meth can cause the blood-brain barrier to become more porous, allowing potentially fatal pathogens, like this fungal infection, into the central nervous system (Associated Press).
This fungal infection is rare, but still accounts for nearly 625,000 deaths in America every year (Akpan). Most healthy individuals have immune systems that are strong enough to fight it off, but individuals that have compromised immune systems, particularly those with HIV/AIDS, are more likely to develop a fatal case of meningitis from this fungal infection. However, this study suggests that people who inject crystal meth also have severely compromised immune systems when it comes to this fungal infection. This is a potentially huge problem as thirteen million Americans have abused crystal meth in their lives and in 2010, approximately 353,000 people were regular users (American Society for Microbiology). This study not only shows that if crystal meth users contract this fungal infection, they will likely get meningitis; it also suggests that crystal meth users who inject are at a greater risk for getting a number of respiratory and autoimmune infections.
People who inject crystal meth face a great number of health risks – from infected needles to risky behavior, and now a depleted immune system. This fungal infection, which usually doesn’t even become symptomatic in healthy individuals, can cause a deadly form of meningitis in crystal meth users. While people are aware of the commonplace risks associated with injecting any drug – including crystal meth – they are not necessarily aware of how much it increases their probability of contracting this life threatening condition.
Akpan, Nsikan. “Crystal Meth Makes Brain Susceptible To Deadly Harm Via Bacterial Lung Infection.” 30 July 2013. Medical Daily. Web. 31 July 2013.
American Society for Microbiology. “Susceptibility to deadly fungal infection increased by methamphetamine.” 31 July 2013. Medical News Today. Web. 31 July 2013.
Associated Press. “Meth increases susceptibility to deadly fungal infection.” n.d. ScienceBlog. Web. 31 July 2013.
Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Research, Substance Abuse · Tags: albert einstein college of medicine, autoimmune infections, blood-brain barrier, Crystal Meth, death, fungal infection, fungus, health problems, Immune System, immunity, inject, intravenous drug use, IV Drug Users, long island university, meningitis, meth, methamphetamine, respiratory infections, Speed