Meth Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Meth Abuse

Learn About Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine, which is more commonly referred to as “meth,” is a potent and dangerous drug that stimulates the central nervous system. As a stimulant, meth is in the same category as Adderall and Ritalin, caffeine, and certain illegal substances such as cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and amphetamines. Meth is most commonly consumed by being swallowed, smoked, dissolved then injected, or snorted. When meth is present in the system, it creates extreme pleasure for an individual. This occurs because of meth’s ability to heighten the brain’s levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is connected to motivation and pleasure. This experience can be so addictive and cause individuals to continue to use it, leading to a destructive pattern of abuse and addiction. Despite the possibility for addiction to develop, there are a number of treatment options for those who have wound up addicted to meth.


Meth Addiction Statistics

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), roughly 0.2% of people ages 12 and older have abused an amphetamine-like stimulant within the past year. Intravenous use is roughly three to four times more likely in men than in women, although this difference is only notable amongst those who inject it. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) states a higher estimate, saying that in 2012, 0.4% of the population (or 1.2 million people) have abused meth within the past year.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Meth Addiction

Similar to many other mental health and substance use disorders, there are a variety of factors that can impact one’s risk level of developing a meth use disorder, including:

Environmental: Those who have been exposed to meth prenatally or during childhood are at a greater risk for abusing this substance at some point in their lives. Additionally, those who have witnessed community violence, were raised in unstable homes, struggle with mental illnesses, and socialize with meth dealers and users are more likely to develop a meth use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Exposure to meth in the womb
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Experiencing community violence
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Impulsive personality
  • Being around meth dealers or users
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Having an unstable home environment
  • Personal history of other substance use disorders

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Those who are battling with meth use disorder might experience a variety of signs and symptoms of abuse, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending a great deal of time using meth, obtaining meth, or recovering from meth use
  • Being unsuccessful in attempts to reduce meth use
  • Continuing to use meth even though use is having a negative psychological or physical effect on the person
  • Using meth even in situations where use may be physically hazardous
  • Using more meth, or over a longer period of time, than a person intends
  • Neglecting social, occupational, academic, or recreational activities or obligations in favor of using meth

Physical symptoms:

  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Sweating or chills
  • Abnormally slow or fast heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormally slow or fast movement
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Withdrawal, which a series of uncomfortable symptoms one experiences when attempting to discontinue meth use
  • Experiencing tolerance, wherein a person requires a larger dose of meth in order to achieve a high
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Cravings for meth
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Continuing to use meth despite experiencing significant interpersonal problems resulting from meth use


Effects of Meth Addiction

If an individual continues to abuse meth and does not obtain treatment, he or she becomes vulnerable to suffer from one or more of the following consequences:

  • Seizures
  • Respiratory problems
  • Stroke
  • Puncture marks or “tracks”
  • Heart attack
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores, known as “meth mouth”
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Contracting HIV or other sexually-transmitted infection from sharing needles or engaging in risky sexual activity while high
  • Engaging in illegal or dangerous activities to earn money to buy more meth
  • Malnutrition
  • Violent injury from associating with drug trafficking
  • Weight loss

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Sadly, people with meth use disorder might also meet criteria required to be diagnosed with mental health conditions, such as:

  • Gambling disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Know the Effects of Meth Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal: If an individual uses meth for a long period of time and then tries to stop use, he or she will likely begin a stage of withdrawal, which can be highly uncomfortable and painful. Some symptoms of meth withdrawal can include:

  • Agitation
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Slowed thought processes
  • Increased appetite
  • Oversleeping
  • Slowed movement
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Vivid unpleasant dreams

Effects of meth overdose: If an individual consumes more meth than his or her body can handle, he or she will overdose on meth. Meth overdoses are incredibly dangerous and often times deadly. If someone who has been abusing meth is starting to display the following symptoms, he or she should obtain medical attention immediately:

  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Heart attack
  • Agitation
  • Organ damage
  • Heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain