Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?
Find out now

Meth Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Treatment & More

May 4, 2022

Table of Contents

The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that about 2.6 million people over the age of 12 have used methamphetamine in the prior 12 months, and about 1.5 million people met criteria for a methamphetamine use disorder.[1] 

In 2020, almost 24,000 people died of an overdose caused by a psychostimulant other than cocaine, usually methamphetamine.[2] 

Methamphetamine also known as speed, ice, tweak, crystal, crank, or meth depending on the region. It may be ingested orally, snorted, smoked, or injected.[3] 

No matter how it is taken,meth is a highly addictive substance and can lead to overdose even with the first use. 

Why Is Meth So Addictive?

When crystal meth is ingested, it triggers the release of dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical in the brain. [4] This chemical is associated with the pleasure center in the brain that is connected to the ability to manage compulsive behavior, emotional response, motor function, and motivation. 

When someone takes crystal meth, they not only experience a high while under the influence but they also begin to crave more of the substance. These cravings increase with persistent use. 

Meth is one of the most difficult drugs to quit using long term because that compulsion to use the substance can arise months into recovery. While long-term recovery can be challenging, it is achievable with proper support.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Meth Addiction?

Physical Effects of Meth

The physical effects of crystal meth are hard to miss and can begin within just a few weeks of regular meth use. They include the following: [5] 

  • Dental problems: Tooth decay happens very quickly with regular meth use. The term meth mouth refers to the damage that can occur in the teeth and gums as a result of ongoing methamphetamine use. 
  • Skin issues: It is common for people under the influence of meth to pick at their skin. Many report feeling as if they have bugs under the skin. This picking can result in bleeding, scabs, pock marks, and long-term damage to the skin.
  • Weight loss and malnutrition: Some people begin using crystal meth due to the fact that it speeds up the metabolism and quells appetite, but the end result can be malnutrition that leads to other health problems. 
  • Cardiovascular risks: Crystal meth is a stimulant, speeding up heart rate and increasing blood pressure. When this happens, it can create demand on the heart and put the the individual at risk for heart attack and eventual heart failure. 

Psychological Effects of Meth

When under the influence of meth, it is common to feel a euphoric high, a sense of focused energy, and/ or a high level paranoia. These can exist in phases, at different periods of crystal meth use. Psychosis, including both aural and visual hallucinations, may also occur. [6] 

Behavioral Effects of Meth

Meth users can exhibit erratic behavior. They may seem to jump from one subject to the next, have irregular speech and though patterns, speak very quickly (“pressured” speech) and spend hours engrossed in tiny details, or be aggressive or even violent. 

In the beginning, these effects may wear off along with the drug. Over time, these issues can evolve into significant behavioral problems that are difficult to manage even when not actively under the influence of crystal meth. 

What Are the Risk Factors of Meth Addiction?

There are a number of issues that can increase the risk of developing a methamphetamine addiction after using the drug, including these:[7]

  • History of substance misuse, including heroin, alcohol, and other substances
  • Family history of drug or alcohol misuse, especially among parents or siblings
  • Family history of crime
  • Risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected or promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Some psychiatric disorders
  • Smoking

What Are the Effects & Side Effects of Meth? 

After using crystal meth, the user may experience short-term effects, including these:[8]

  • A high
  • Paranoia
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Higher activity levels
  • Increased breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Decreased appetite or ability sleep

The side effects of continued and regular use of crystal meth long-term can include the following:[9]

  • Psychological disorders or symptoms that mimic psychological disorders
  • Malnutrition and breakdown of organ function as a result
  • Inability to manage responsibilities, such as finances, a job, or care of dependents
  • Physical health problems, especially cardiovascular issues, dental problems, and skin changes

What Is the Best Treatment for Meth Addiction?

Unlike opioids for which there is MAT therapy, there is no medication currently for Methamphetamine use disorder. The best treatment for methamphetamine use is a behavioral intervention, usually a program that will address the psychological effects of the drug and help motivate the individual to discontinue use.

What Support Groups Are Best for People in Recovery From Meth Use?

Support is crucial during every stage of recovery. Support groups, made up of peers who are also on the road to long-term recovery, can be crucial in maintaining sobriety and feeling supported.  Here are some of the available options:

  • Crystal Meth Anonymous: This is the most popular in-person, 12-steps-based support group that is specific to crystal meth. The meetings are held locally and run by volunteers who are also in recovery. A commitment to anonymity and a genuine desire to avoid relapse are all that are required to attend. 
  • Narcotics Anonymous: This support group is also based on the 12 steps and open to anyone seeking recovery from any addictive substance, including crystal meth. 
  • Meth Addiction and Family Support: This Facebook group provides online support to people in recovery from crystal meth and their families.

Resources for People Struggling With Meth Addiction 

If you are seeking more information about crystal meth addiction, recovery, or treatment, check out any of the resources below: 

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

Medically Reviewed By

Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?

Contact us directly to speak with a specialist.

Citations

  1. 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/release/2020-national-survey-drug-use-and-health-nsduh-releases. Accessed April 2022. 
  2. About Underlying Cause of Death, 1999- 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. Accessed April 2022.
  3. Methamphetamine. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/methamphetamine. Accessed April 2022. 
  4. Methamphetamine Induces Dopamine Release in the Nucleus Accumbens Through a Sigma Receptor-Mediated Pathway. Neuropsychopharmacology. https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2017291. November 2017. Accessed April 2022. 
  5. How Meth Destroys the Body. NPR. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/.   Accessed April 2022. 
  6. Tips for Teens: Methamphetamine, The Truth About Methamphetamine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/pep18-03.pdf. Accessed April 2022. 
  7. Risk factors for methamphetamine use in youth: a systematic review. BMC Pediatrics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2588572/. October 2008. Accessed April 2022. 
  8. Methamphetamine Drug Facts. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine. May 2019. Accessed April 2022. 
  9. What Are the Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Misuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse. Accessed April 2022.

Imagine what’s possible on the other side of opioid use disorder.

Our science-backed approach boasts 95% of patients reporting no withdrawal symptoms at 7 days. We can help you achieve easier days and a happier future.

Call (844) 943-2514or book an enrollment call