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Meth Addiction: Signs and Effects of Meth Abuse

Meth addict in the dark room

Published: August 3, 2023

Meth addiction, a condition that causes someone to become reliant on the use of meth, is a widespread issue.

Addiction to methamphetamine affects thousands of people in the U.S., leading to countless consequences and even death.

Meth addiction is more common in certain regions of the country, such as rural areas. Much like other substance addictions, meth addiction can leave individuals feeling hopeless and alone.

Yet addiction treatment can help you start your journey toward recovery, and it’s possible to start a life without addiction.

Keep reading to learn about signs and effects of meth addiction as well as treatment options and answers to frequently asked questions about meth.

Meth Addiction vs. Meth Abuse

Because meth (methamphetamine) is an illicit drug, any use of the substance is considered abuse. However, there is a difference between meth abuse and meth addiction.

Casual methamphetamine use (meth abuse) is possible, but rarely remains casual for long before developing into an addiction. Meth addiction, also called meth use disorder, is different from meth abuse in that you rely on the drug to function.

People who are addicted to meth often go on meth binges. Meth binges involve taking the drug for hours or days straight to create a continual high.

Crystal meth is an illicit substance. However, note that methamphetamine (a central nervous system stimulant in a class of medications called amphetamines) is also available as a prescription medication (Desoxyn) used to treat ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

Meth Addiction vs. Meth Dependence

Meth addiction and meth dependence are also different conditions. In simple terms, meth addiction is a mental reliance on the drug while dependence is a physical reliance.

When it comes to meth addiction, the mental reliance encourages continued use. Meth is a highly addictive substance because it affects the “reward system” of our brains by replacing the way they produce and process dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good or happy.

Without meth, individuals with a meth addiction often experience extremely negative and depressed feelings. This causes them to reach for meth to “solve” the problem.

On the other hand, meth dependence causes the body to rely on meth – making it impossible to function without it. In this case, when not actively using the substance, individuals often experience withdrawal symptoms.

Signs of Meth Addiction Many people hide meth addiction from their friends and loved ones,

Many people hide meth addiction from their friends and loved ones, so it’s important to know the signs. Additionally, some people may need help recognizing signs of addiction in themselves.

Signs of meth addiction can include behavioral or physical changes.

Signs of meth addiction may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Skin sores
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Paranoia
  • Dental problems and jaw pain (meth mouth)
  • An increase in meth use (dose or length of time)
  • Inability to quit
  • Cravings for meth
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Inability to keep up with responsibilities
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Getting involved in risky situations for meth
  • Aggression or violence
  • Unpredictable behavior

The signs of methamphetamine addiction can vary widely. Some people may present more signs than others, so it’s vital to be vigilant if you suspect addiction in someone.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

Meth withdrawal occurs when an individual stops using meth but their body has created a dependence on the drug.

Meth withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Cravings for meth
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of motivation
  • Psychosis
  • Malnourishment

Side Effects of Meth Use

Like any kind of drug use, meth use has numerous side effects. Due to its illicit nature, however, these side effects tend to be hazardous to your well-being, especially since its use is not regulated (unless used in a prescribed manner).

There are short-term and long-term effects, the former being those that are experienced immediately after methamphetamine abuse or within a couple of days and the latter being those that are experienced after continued use.

The effects one experiences from using meth can also depend on how meth is used. For example, snorting, smoking, injecting, and orally ingesting meth are all common methods.

Scroll on to learn more about the effects of methamphetamine.

Short-Term Effects of Meth

Immediate and short-term meth effects are often what encourage the use of this drug. However, not all of the effects are pleasant.

Short-term effects of meth can include:

  • Euphoria or a “rush”
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased attention
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Psychosis
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Severe mood swings
  • Spikes in blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

While the euphoric feeling and increased attention side effects can make meth use appealing to some, there are several not-so-enjoyable effects you may also experience.

Long-Term Health Complications Linked to Meth

Long-term effects are also possible with meth abuse. In particular, there are many long-term health problems linked to continued meth use.

Long-term effects may include:

  • Addiction
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Severe dental problems like tooth decay
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Decreased thinking and motor skills
  • Mood disturbances
  • Changes in brain structure or function
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hepatitis

Some long-term effects of meth abuse can cause permanent damage to your physical and behavioral health

Risk Factors for Meth Drug Addiction

Much like other kinds of addictions, there are risk factors for meth addiction. First, there are many people who may be at an increased risk for drug addiction in general.

Addiction risk factors include family history of addiction, mental illness, early use, being prescribed a highly addictive drug, peer pressure, and lack of family involvement.

For meth addiction in particular, risk factors include all of the above as well as:

  • Location
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Meth availability
  • Inability to get other, more expensive illicit drugs

Some people may start being addicted to other drugs like cocaine and turn to meth when they can no longer afford coke.

Diagnosing Meth Addiction

When it comes to diagnosing meth addiction, it’s important to note a true diagnosis can only be given by a healthcare professional.

If you notice yourself or someone you know exhibiting signs of meth addiction, the best thing to do is set them up with a provider who can perform a medical evaluation. Sometimes, the best way to broach this topic is by setting up an intervention with the person’s friends and family.

Medical evaluations involve analyzing different parts of one’s life such as frequency of use, tolerance for the drug, evidence of withdrawal symptoms, and other areas like your social or professional life.

The signs mentioned earlier as well as other indicators can provide enough evidence to diagnose meth addiction.

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

Although meth addiction is dangerous and can be challenging to overcome, there are many addiction treatment programs available.

Based on the care you need, the extent of your addiction, and, in some cases, what your doctor recommends, you may seek out a specific type of treatment.

Common treatment options include detoxification, rehabilitation, aftercare and support groups, and sober living.

Meth Detox Programs

One common treatment option for meth addiction is medical detox. Detoxification is a kind of program that helps the individual through withdrawal symptoms while their body processes and rids of the meth.

Detoxification programs involve 24-hour supervision as well as medications, fluids, and other medical services to help treat the effects of withdrawal. This kind of program can vary in length as everyone’s body processes drugs differently.

Some people may only participate in a detox program while others may follow up detoxification with a rehabilitation program.

Meth Rehab Programs

Rehab programs are longer-term treatment options that often follow medical detox. There are two main types of rehab programs, inpatient and outpatient, both of which may also include behavioral therapy.

Inpatient treatment is a kind of program that requires the individual to stay at a treatment center 24/7. Inpatient programs are more rigorous in that there is frequent and sometimes constant supervision.

On the other hand, outpatient programs don’t require the individual to stay anywhere. These programs may occur 100% remotely or require the individual to come into a facility for certain days of the week or even just a couple of hours. Some people transition into outpatient programs following inpatient treatment.

Aftercare & Support Groups

Aftercare and support groups are treatment options typically utilized after or during rehabilitation.

Support groups are groups of people who talk about their experiences, struggles, and accomplishments with addiction. Support groups are often offered during the course of rehabilitation, but many communities offer them to the general public.

Aftercare is a broad term that covers the services offered to help people transition from treatment back to their normal life.

Types of aftercare can vary, but can include 12-step programs, individual therapy, or regular meetings with a specialist. The idea is for these services to ease you back into a routine without addiction holding you down.

Sober Living

Sober living is another offering for those recovering from meth addiction. Sober living facilities are another form of aftercare many people choose to participate in after being in a rehabilitation program.

These facilities, or houses, offer a place to live for those recovering from drug addiction. As the name may suggest, they are completely sober environments.

The goal of sober living is for individuals to have an easier time resisting relapse as there is no pressure of others’ substance abuse in sober living facilities.

Find Help for a Meth Addiction

Meth addiction can completely derail your life, causing short- and long-term health effects, affecting your relationships, and even your career.

Luckily, there are a myriad of treatment options available for addiction recovery, many of which can be tailored to your unique needs.

If you’re ready to start your path toward recovery, call our helpline today to learn more about meth treatment and addiction resources.

Meth Addiction FAQs

Is meth addictive?

Yes, meth is addictive. It alters chemicals in your brain as well as processes in the body that can make it difficult to function without it. The more frequently it’s used, the worse this addiction can become.

Is meth dangerous?

Yes, meth use is quite dangerous. As an illicit drug, street meth is an unregulated substance which can pose countless risks. Additionally, it has a wide range of dangerous health effects and it is easy to use in hazardous amounts.

Can meth cause psychosis?

Yes, meth can cause psychosis. This psychosis can include conditions such as paranoia, hallucinations, or difficulty thinking clearly. Psychosis can be a short- or long-term effect of meth abuse.

Can you recover from meth addiction?

Yes, it is possible to recover from meth addiction. With the right treatment, help from medical professionals, and support from your friends and family, it is possible to move on from meth addiction and start a new life.

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