Methamphetamine Abuse & Addiction
Methamphetamine abuse and addiction is a serious and growing problem in the United States. Meth is addictive and causes great damage, and at times it may seem that things are hopeless. However, if you or a loved one is struggling with methamphetamine abuse and addiction, know that there is help out there. Understanding methamphetamine abuse and addiction can help you find treatment and recovery.
What is Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that is similar to amphetamines, such as Adderall. However, unlike Adderall, the most common form of methamphetamine that people abuse is an illegal drug, manufactured by mixing several ingredients and cooking them to create a substance that is extremely addictive. Most meth is made in Mexico and brought illegally into the United States, although some is made in the U.S. Methamphetamine is also called ice, blue, meth, speed, and crystal meth.1(under ‘what is methamphetamine?’) Around 1 million people have a methamphetamine use disorder in the U.S.2
How is Methamphetamine Used?
While people tend to only see meth as an illegally manufactured drug, there is a legally manufactured form of methamphetamine. This legal methamphetamine is sometimes prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity.3
What can methamphetamine do to you?
Methamphetamine use can have serious consequences. The side effects of methamphetamine abuse can include numerous physical and mental issues. These symptoms of methamphetamine abuse can manifest as short-term side effects and long-term side effects.
Short Term Side Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse
The short-term side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:1,3
- Increased wakefulness.
- Intense feelings of euphoria.
- Raised body temperature.
- High blood pressure.
- Lack of appetite.
- Heart irregularities.
Meth and Alcohol
Several potentially serious dangers can occur when meth and alcohol are mixed or used in conjunction. These symptoms of meth and alcohol mixing could include:4
- Increased heart rate.
- Problems concentrating.
Long Term Side Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse
Some long-term side effects methamphetamine abuse include:5
- Violent behavior.
- Weight loss.
- Mood swings.
- Loss of memory.
- Acute dental problems, including “meth mouth.”
- Changes in brain activity.
- Motor skills deficits.
- Increased risk of strokes.
- Potential for increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
- Sensations of bugs crawling on one’s skin, which leads people who abuse meth to pick at their skin and create sores and scabs.
Why is methamphetamine addictive?
Methamphetamine causes an increase of dopamine levels in the brain. This gives a person a rush and is responsible for methamphetamine’s addictive qualities. Dopamine is strongly associated with the reward centers of the brain, and a person will keep engaging in meth use to keep feeling those sensations of reward and pleasure. These initial sensations include:1
- Short-term euphoria.
- Increased alertness.
- Increased energy.
- Increased productivity.
How Easy is it to Get Addicted to Meth?
Due to its ability to trigger dopamine release, meth can be extremely addictive. The interactions of meth with dopamine in the brain lead to intense euphoria and people will often “chase” the high.1 (How does methamphetamine affect the brain?) Once you begin using meth, it is difficult to stop using it, especially as withdrawal results in intense fatigue and depression. The cravings to use methamphetamine are incredibly intense, and it is extremely hard to stop using it.5
How Addictive is Meth Compared to Other Drugs?
Some evidence indicates that meth can be more addictive than cocaine, as meth appears to stay in the body longer than cocaine. Methamphetamine also impacts dopamine more intensely than cocaine does.6
Methamphetamine Addiction Symptoms
You may wonder what the common methamphetamine addiction symptoms are. There are numerous signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction, some of which are physical, and others which are behavioral. So-called functioning meth addicts have some symptoms of methamphetamine addiction but can keep going to work or taking care of their families. Some studies have called these types of people social users.7
Physical Side-Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse
The physical side effects of methamphetamine abuse can include:5
- Weight loss.
- Consistent appetite loss.
- Crawling sensations on the skin.
- Meth mouth (serious deformity and deterioration of the teeth).
- Uncontrollable body movements.
Behavioral Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction
In addition to physical symptoms of meth abuse, some of the behavioral symptoms are: 5,8
- Unsuccessful attempts to stop using.
- Spending all your money on meth.
- Risky behavior.
- Being unable to fulfill responsibilities at work or at home.
- Increased conflict with others over meth use.
Methamphetamine Withdrawal & Detox
If someone who is abusing meth cannot get the drug, they will often display signs of acute withdrawal. Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms could include:1
- Intense cravings.
- Severe depression.
- Strong fatigue.
While understanding the physical and behavioral symptoms of addiction can help you determine if you or someone you love truly has a problem, it is important to understand that the physical symptoms of methamphetamine addiction and withdrawal can be the most challenging pieces of achieving sobriety.
That is why the first phase of addiction treatment for most programs often includes detox. Detox is generally a 5-7 day period in which you are supervised by clinicians or medical staff to ensure your health and safety are preserved. You can find more information on detox here.
Are You Struggling With Methamphetamine Addiction?
As you have read the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction, do you recognize one or more of the symptoms in yourself or a loved one? Are you looking for help, but don’t know where to start? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need to consider treatment for yourself or your loved one.
How American Addiction Centers Can Help
As a leading addiction treatment provider in the United States, American Addiction Centers focuses on not only treating the addiction itself, but the causes that led to its development. At American Addiction Centers, treatment is specialized to meet the needs of each person.
Our treatment model focuses on identifying any existing mental illnesses or mental health issues that may stimulate the need to cope with issues by using drugs or alcohol.
Our treatment facilities then focus on providing an initial support system for those attending treatment and teach them healthier ways to cope with their addiction.
We offer a full continuum of care that encompasses the primary types of treatment all the way from detox for those initially struggling to aftercare options like sober living, counseling sessions, and support groups for those maintaining their recovery.
To find out more, or to get started, American Addiction Centers operates a confidential addiction hotline available 24/7 to help people find their path to recovery.
Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment?
Learning about addiction and treatment options may feel overwhelming. If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Methamphetamine: DrugFacts.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020) What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States?
- DEA. Methamphetamine.
- Drugs.com. Methamphetamine and alcohol/food interactions.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). How is methamphetamine different from other stimulants, such as cocaine?.
- Australian Government Department of Health. (2008). Specific types of methamphetamine users and behaviorual contexts.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
- Zorick T, Nestor L, Miotto K, et al. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetamine-dependent subjects. Addiction. 105(10):1809-1818.