Meth Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Addiction Center helps individuals struggling with meth addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Meth Addiction

Learn About Meth Abuse & Addiction

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “meth,” is a highly-addictive neurotoxic stimulant that is often referred to as “the most dangerous drug on earth,” due to the wide availability, ease of use, and ability to manufacture the drug out of ordinary household products. Most often, methamphetamine comes in two forms, “Crystal Meth” and “powdered meth,” both produce similar effects on the user.

Crystal methamphetamine, the more pure form of the drug also known as “ice,” “crystal,” “crystal meth,” is an opaque crystalized rock that is abused in various methods. Powdered methamphetamine, aka “speed” or “tina,” is less potent and is created to form a white, bitter-tasting, odorless powder that can be snorted, smoked, eaten, dissolved in a drink, or heated and injected.

What is common among both forms of methamphetamines is that it produces a false sense of wellbeing and happiness. It gives the user a rush, and an increase in feelings of energy, confidence, and wakefulness. These effects generally last six to eight hours, but can be sustained for upwards of twelve hours.

Methamphetamine is simply and cheaply made using various household products in about two days – start to finish. The key ingredient in methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, both of which are found in a wide variety of over-the-counter cold remedies. Other cheap items are used to isolate the active ingredient – pseudoephedrine or ephedrine – cook it, and process it for consumption. These readily available materials can include anhydrous ammonia, lye, and red phosphorous (found by scraping matchbook covers). Cooking meth is a dangerous pursuit as the ingredients are highly toxic and the fumes produced by “cooking meth” can lead to toxic vapors and explosions.

Usage of meth causes the brain to release a large amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine which leads to a prolonged pleasurable experience. While initially pleasurable, repeated usage of meth depletes the stores of dopamine in the brain and obliterates the wiring of the dopamine receptors. In turn, meth users become addicted to meth because the naturally-occurring dopamine is no longer available and they are unable to experience feelings of pleasure.

Statistics

Statistics for Meth Abuse

While methamphetamine was once considered a rural drug due to the high availability of compounds needed to cook meth, studies have shown that methamphetamine abuse is now spreading to cities and white collar workers. Often touted as a “club drug,” many cities are now struggling to combat methamphetamine abuse. Current estimates are that there are 1.4 million people in the U.S. using and abusing methamphetamine; that number is steadily climbing.

Internationally, the United Nations reports that methamphetamine is now the most abused hard drug in the world. Worldwide meth users now surpasses the combined total of cocaine and heroin abusers at 26 million individuals.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Meth Addiction

The precise causes for addiction have yet to be determined, so most researchers believe that methamphetamine addiction is caused by a number of factors. These factors include:

Genetic: Individuals who have a close relative such as a sibling or parent who struggles with addiction are more likely to develop an addiction later in life.

Biological: As the brain of chronic meth users slowly begins to deteriorate and becomes unable to naturally produce pleasurable sensations, meth addicts require the drug to feel any sort of pleasure.

Environmental: Individuals who grow up in a home that is rife with addiction are more likely to see drug abuse as a way to cope with emotional problems, which can lead to addiction later down the road.

Psychological: Many individuals who struggle with methamphetamine addiction have an untreated or undiagnosed mental illness. To manage the symptoms of the mental illness, some individuals do turn to substances to “self-medicate” the symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Meth Addiction

The symptoms of methamphetamine addiction will vary wildly among individual users. Variability is due, in part, to the differing genetic makeup of each person as well as the duration of meth abuse, the amount used, and the frequency in which methamphetamines are used. Common symptoms of methamphetamine addiction include the following:

Mood symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Overall sense of wellbeing
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Mounting legal problems
  • Preoccupation with obtaining, using, and recovering from methamphetamine use
  • Social isolation
  • Hiding drug use from others
  • Dangerous, risky behaviors
  • Impulsiveness
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Mounting legal problems
  • Incarceration
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Violent behaviors
  • Appetite depression
  • Binge/crash pattern of abuse
  • Aggression
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Tweaking – intently-focused attention

Physical symptoms:

  • Trembling and shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction
  • “Meth mouth”
  • Open sores
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Decreased blood flow through the body’s tissues
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Tachycardia
  • Liver damage
  • Extreme rise in core temperature of body

Psychological symptoms:

  • Nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • “Meth bugs” or the sensation of bugs crawling underneath the skin
  • Paranoia

Though meth abuse and addiction can inflict profound damage on a person’s mental, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing, meth addiction can be successfully treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Effects

Effects of Meth Abuse

The effects of methamphetamine addiction and abuse can impact every single aspect of a meth user’s life. Meth is a terribly dangerous drug that can significantly change everything. The effects of meth addiction include:

  • Homelessness
  • Malnutrition
  • Incarceration
  • Financial ruin
  • Divorce
  • Domestic and child abuse
  • Full-blown toxic psychosis
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Impotence
  • Tooth loss
  • Compulsive, obsessive behaviors – tweaking
  • Alterations in memory and cognition
  • Violent behaviors
  • Functional changes in the brain
  • Behavioral changes
  • Brain damage
  • Decline in reasoning, motor skills, and judgment
  • Destruction of the body’s tissues and blood vessels
  • Inability for the body to properly repair damaged tissues
  • Anhedonia – the inability to feel pleasure
  • Increased infectious diseases
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

Many individuals who become addicted to methamphetamine suffer from undertreated or undiagnosed mental illnesses. These co-occurring mental illnesses may include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Conduct disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Meth

Withdrawing from methamphetamine is not a pleasant process; however it is not one of the more dangerous drugs to detox from. Meth detox should always occur in a proper rehab center under the careful eye of trained medical professionals. Symptoms of meth withdrawal include:

  • Deep, dark depression
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased sleeping
  • Teeth grinding
  • Night sweats
  • Emotional labiality
  • Irritability
  • Resumption of eating, leading to weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Craving methamphetamines
  • Anhedonia
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicide

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An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

My addiction to Meth was ruining my life. Acadiana helped me quit and get my life back on track.

– Anonymous Patient