Can Meth Cause Lupus?

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Can Meth Cause Lupus?

Many people mistakenly believe that lupus and other chronic autoimmune disorders are linked to the abuse of illegal drugs. However, there are legal pharmaceutical medicines that may create a condition similar to systemic lupus. This is known as drug-induced lupus. Researchers have found that drugs cause 6% to 12% of all lupus cases.

Understanding the effects of meth on lupus is critical for developing effective treatments. Use this guide to explore lupus, including which drugs can induce the disease and how to treat it when suffering from a co-occurring addiction.

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system assaults healthy tissues and organs. Although there is no cure for lupus, several therapeutic approaches may successfully manage and reduce the symptoms associated with the condition.

Lupus-related inflammation can affect several parts of the body, including:

  • Skin
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Joints
  • Blood cells
  • Brain

Drug-induced lupus (DIL) refers to an autoimmune condition in which the administration of certain drugs triggers clinical characteristics resembling systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In 1954, researchers found a correlation between the use of hydralazine and lupus-like symptoms; today, over 100 pharmaceutical substances are recognized as possible causes of the disease. The list of drugs continues to grow each year as new biologic agents emerge.

Diagnosing lupus may be challenging since the symptoms overlap with those of other diseases. Lupus is most easily recognized by its most characteristic symptom, a butterfly-like rash that spreads over the face, particularly on the cheeks.

Several factors often influence a person’s inherent predisposition and susceptibility to lupus, including infections, certain medications, and even exposure to sunshine. Other factors that can increase the risk of lupus include:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop lupus.
  • Age: Lupus can impact people of any age, but it’s predominantly found in those aged 15 to 45 years. 
  • Race: Lupus has a higher prevalence in individuals of African American, Hispanic, and Asian American descent. 

Does Using Meth Lead to Lupus?

There is currently no empirical evidence indicating a causal relationship between methamphetamine use and the development of lupus. However, compelling data illustrate the adverse impact of meth on the immune system, and lupus is an autoimmune disorder.

How Does Meth Complicate Lupus?

The use of meth can lead to serious health issues, such as complications with the immune system, a higher prevalence of infections, and a reduced likelihood of effective withdrawal from harmful substances. Findings from research imply that meth use affects the transcriptomes of adaptive as well as innate immune cells and that there may be similarities between the transcriptomes of various immune cells. These findings shed light on the possible mechanisms by which meth harms immune cells.

In a laboratory setting, researchers observed that methamphetamine had varying effects on three different immune cell types, with the greatest impact seen as an increase in NK-cell apoptosis. At the mRNA level, changes in cholesterol metabolism in Jurkat cells, activation of the ERK1 and ERK2 cascades in NK-92 cells, and damage to the calcium transport channel in THP-1 cells were all found. Phospholipid metabolism also varied across the three cell types.

Meth use is particularly risky for those suffering from lupus. In addition to increasing vulnerability to communicable infections like HIV, meth’s ability to modify immunological cells gives the drug its lasting effects, which may take the form of neuropsychiatric problems. 

Researchers hope to conduct a deeper examination of immune-related signaling networks to one day understand how meth affects host immunity via neural and peripherical alterations. By learning how meth affects the adaptive and innate immune systems, we will soon understand how it can trigger premature aging and how it contributes to the amplification of disturbances that lead to age-related noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, and dementia.

Getting Treatment for Lupus and Meth Addiction

For those suffering from lupus and an addiction to meth, it’s imperative to treat both conditions simultaneously. You can do this by entering a treatment program that provides services for co-occurring disorders. 

Receiving treatment for an addiction to meth is crucial to your ability to successfully treat the disease of lupus. Meth use often makes it difficult to treat lupus because its symptoms hinder your ability to make rational decisions and partake in regular day-to-day activities, such as going to the doctor.

One study found that between 2011 and 2018, the overdose fatality rate was highest among non-Hispanic Blacks, who are already at a higher-than-average risk of developing lupus. Other symptoms of meth use that make it difficult to treat lupus are:

  • Changes in the structure and function of the brain 
  • Deficits in cognitive and motor abilities 
  • Increased distractibility
  • Confusion
  • Mood disturbances
  • Aggression and violence
  • Extreme dental issues
  • Severe weight loss
  • Symptoms of psychosis such as paranoia and hallucinations

You can use the information below to kickstart your treatment for lupus and meth addiction.

Types of Meth Treatment

Different treatment centers concentrate on various aspects of patient care. These centers measure success differently and use different programs to help patients reach their recovery goals.

Always consider your treatment objectives carefully while choosing a rehabilitation program. After doing so, you’ll be in a better position to choose a rehab center that will help you reach your objectives.

Talking to a treatment provider is an excellent approach to learning about your choices and selecting a program that fits your needs. However, the choice is ultimately up to you.


The first step in any meth treatment program is detoxification. Some programs focus solely on detox, then send client to a different facility to continue their treatment. Other programs offer detox services along with their meth treatment programs. Meth withdrawal symptoms generally peak one to two days after usage stops and cease within seven days. However, for some users, less severe symptoms can persist up to two weeks. During detox, you can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Problems eating or losing weight
  • Dehydration
  • Pain, cramping, or spasming muscles
  • Headaches
  • Severe urge for meth
  • Fatigue
  • Problems breathing
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Depression and suicidal ideation

Once you complete the detox portion of meth treatment, you then have the option to participate in an intensive outpatient, outpatient, or inpatient/residential program. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other forms of therapy increase your chances of achieving a successful, long-term recovery. Here are some of the programs we offer at Defining Wellness Centers.

Intensive Outpatient

In an intensive outpatient program, you will spend anywhere from one to 12 months in treatment. You can reside at home during the evening and at night, but during the daytime, you’ll receive treatment services such as one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions.

Many intensive outpatient programs require patients to visit the treatment center at least three to five days a week for up to eight hours each day. Intensive outpatient programs are highly recommended for those with severe addiction issues.


As an alternative to intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient rehabilitation focuses on providing counseling to those struggling with substance abuse. This kind of therapy is different from inpatient rehabilitation in that it does not provide housing for patients and doesn’t require them to stay overnight.

During outpatient treatment, you’ll receive a variety of treatment services, including:

  • Case management
  • Therapy sessions (one-on-one and in groups)
  • Patient education
  • Crisis management
  • Aftercare

In outpatient treatment, you’ll come to the treatment center anywhere from one to three times a week for up to eight hours a day. This type of treatment is particularly helpful to those who have already completed an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. 


Inpatient, also referred to as residential, programs require patients to reside at the treatment facility for up to 18 months or longer. These programs are especially advantageous to those suffering from severe meth use disorders.

Inpatient programs are also recommended for those suffering from a co-occurring disorder or disease like lupus. Why? Because you’ll receive 24/7 supervision to ensure you don’t complicate your lupus treatment with relapses on meth. Many inpatient programs offer medication assistance, easily allowing you to treat your lupus and meth addiction at the same time under the direct care of medical professionals. 

Types of Lupus Treatment

The exact type of treatment that you’ll receive for lupus depends on several factors, including your symptoms and the effectiveness of your current treatment approaches. As symptoms begin to subside, your doctor may alter your treatment for lupus. The most common ways to treat lupus include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs): Options naproxen sodium and ibuprofen can help. You can get stronger NSAIDs with a doctor’s prescription. Potential risks associated with NSAID use include gastrointestinal bleeding, renal issues, and a greater risk of cardiovascular complications.
  • Treatments that prevent malaria: Malaria drugs like hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) may produce a positive effect on the immune system and reduce the likelihood of lupus flares. There is a small risk of retinal impairment although stomach distress is more common. When using these drugs, regular eye examinations are essential.
  • Corticosteroids: Anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone and other corticosteroids are effective in treating lupus-related swelling. Gaining weight, bruising easily, bone loss, high blood pressure, diabetes, and an increased risk of infection are all possible side effects.
  • Immunosuppressants: In severe forms of lupus, drugs that inhibit the immune system are often prescribed. Cancer, liver damage, infertility, and infections are just some of the possible negative side effects.
  • Biologics: Belimumab (Benlysta), given intravenously, is another option for alleviating lupus symptoms. Nausea, diarrhea, and infections are some of the possible side effects. Depressive symptoms might sometimes intensify.

Start Treatment Today for Lupus and Meth Addiction

Although meth doesn’t cause lupus, it can definitely worsen the immune system and complicate lupus symptoms. Getting treatment for a meth addiction is a vital step in being able to effectively treat the disease of lupus. If you’re ready to begin treatment for meth, contact our caring team of professionals at Defining Wellness Centers today.

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