Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant with powerful effects that is a popular illicit substance. Many may use it recreationally until they become dependent or addicted, often with devastating results.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Meth is a common recreational drug sold illegally on the streets. It is a Schedule II drug, according to the DEA. Around 9.6 million people over the age of 12 have used meth at least once.[1] Meth goes by many names, including crank, crystal, black beauties, and yaba.

Side Effects of Methamphetamine

The most common side effects of methamphetamine include decreased appetite, increased respiration, increased blood pressure, hyperthermia and rapid heart rate.[2] As a stimulant, meth stimulates the central nervous system (CNS).

How are Methamphetamines Taken?

Meth is a crystalline or powder substance. It is commonly smoked, though sometimes injected, taken orally, or snorted to enact its effects instantly. This creates a powerful euphoria which often causes addiction and dependence.

Methamphetamine Quick Reference

Methamphetamine Quick Reference

Drug Category

Stimulant

Commercial & Street Names

Crank, black beauties, uppers, speed

DEA Schedule

Schedule II

Administration

Oral, snorting, smoking, injecting

Statistics on Methamphetamine Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Between 2015 and 2018, around 1.6 million people in the United States over 18 abused meth.[3] It is a more commonly misused recreational drug because it is inexpensive to acquire and has powerful stimulant properties.

Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

As a stimulant, meth increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Many users suffer panic attacks, psychosis, and hallucinations. Some may become violent, while others may engage in strange behavior. Its stimulant effects are so powerful that some users may have heart attacks.

Can You Overdose on Methamphetamines?

Yes, thousands overdose on this drug every year.[4] An overdose can occur when someone takes too much of the drug at once or mixes it with other substances. This can cause your heart to stop, respiratory depression, coma, and death.

Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Overdose

Common signs of meth overdose include heart attack, hypertensive crisis, seizures, and stroke. The person may be confused, psychotic, and sweating excessively.

What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on Meth:

Acting fast is key for the survival of anyone who has overdosed. Call 911 and stay with the person until paramedics take over. If the person isn’t breathing, perform CPR.

Dangers of Long-Term Methamphetamine Use

Those who use meth short-term experience strong feelings of euphoria. But after a while, that euphoria fades, and studies show that it might be difficult to experience pleasure naturally.[5] This may cause anxiety and depression. Meth also causes organ damage, especially to the lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys.

Methamphetamine Addiction and Abuse

Many people don’t realize they’re addicted to meth until it’s too late. They may use it recreationally until they find they can’t live without it. It is difficult to stop meth use due to the effects on the brain’s pleasure centers. As massive amounts of dopamine are released, the brain experiences intense euphoria, which increases the desire and cravings for more meth.

Signs of Addiction to Meth

Someone addicted to meth may develop unexplained money troubles or steal money from friends and loved ones to buy drugs. Others may become violent or display unusual behavior. Others may close themselves off and not talk to their loved ones for long periods. Physical indicators of meth addiction include poor dental hygiene and severe dental problems, often referred to as ‘meth mouth.’

Meth Addiction and Mental Health

Meth can take a serious toll on one’s mental health because of how it affects the brain. It stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers and disrupts the brain’s ability to produce its natural pleasure chemicals. A decreased ability to experience pleasure, known as anhedonia, often follows long-term meth use.

Over time, this chemical alteration causes memory impairment, affects learning abilities, disrupts information processing, and negatively impacts emotional functions.

Certain mental disorders may also spur meth addiction, such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and impulse control disorders.

Learn More About The Effects of Meth On Your Brain

Meth Addiction Treatment

Meth addiction treatment often takes several months. It involves therapy and support to restore balance and build healthy lifestyle habits. The cost will depend on the treatment program and insurance coverage. Every program is unique to the individual. Choosing a treatment program tailored to your needs will give you the resources to recover from your addiction.

Medical detox involves medical monitoring
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Medical Detox

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Medical detox involves medical monitoring

Medical detox involves medical monitoring as you evacuate the substance from your body. This level of care reduces withdrawal symptoms and makes the detox process safer. Medical detox is also supervised by medical professionals to ensure that you are safe.

Inpatient meth treatment allows you to sleep at the facility and receive treatment during the day
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Inpatient Treatment

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Inpatient meth treatment allows you to sleep at the facility and receive treatment during the day

Inpatient treatment allows you to sleep at the facility and receive treatment during the day. However, balancing work and other duties while receiving inpatient treatment may be challenging.

Therapies Used in Meth
Addiction Treatment

CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT addresses the underlying thinking and feeling patterns that lead to harmful behaviors and helps you think more productively to activate behavior change.

DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT focuses on identifying and accepting emotions and learning practical coping skills to manage intense emotional responses.

Motivational Interviewing

This therapy aims to reduce ambivalence and cause positive behavioral changes.

Contingency Management

This option uses the power of consequences and stimulus control to change behavior.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

This therapy provides client feedback and monitors the behavioral changes when the client receives that feedback.

Experiential Therapy

This approach allows patients to process and explore their emotions through activities and creative expression.

Relapse Prevention

Here is where you develop and continue to hone valuable coping skills and emergency planning to prevent drug or behavior relapse.

Twelve-Step Facilitation

This structured program helps patients overcome drugs and alcohol and seek abstinence.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders apply when both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition coexist. Some mental health concerns may make it more likely for people to abuse meth.

  • Depression: Depressive thoughts may cause a person to seek out meth’s euphoria.
  • Anxiety: Anxious thoughts are overwhelming and may temporarily be calmed with unhealthy drug use.

Meth Detox and Withdrawal Management

Meth detox may take from a few days to several weeks as you navigate withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and sweating. Medication-assisted treatment may be available to alleviate symptoms and help you focus on recovery during the withdrawal timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who Uses Meth?

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Many people use meth for recreational purposes. Some may also use meth as an alternative to other stimulants like cocaine. It is an inexpensive substance and is, therefore, more common among disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

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Why Is Meth Addictive?

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Meth targets the brain’s pleasure centers, causing a euphoric high shortly after taking it. With long-term use, the brain’s ability to produce pleasure hormones naturally is severely reduced. This often leads to increasing doses and more frequent use.

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What Is Meth Cut With?

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Meth is often cut with dangerous substances like lithium, rat poison, and other harmful chemicals. Each substance is dangerous to ingest on its own, but the harmful effects can be magnified when cut with meth.

Sources
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[01]

What does it look like? What is it called? How is methamphetamine … (n.d.-d). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3981/3981p.pdf on July 4, 2023

[02]

What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse? | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse on 2024, June 7.

[03]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 26). Patterns and characteristics of methamphetamine use among adults – United States, 2015–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from  https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912a1.htm on July 4, 2023

[04]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, July 10). Drug overdose death rates. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from  https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates on July 4, 2023

[05]

NIDA. 2022, January 12. What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse on July 4, 2023

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