Meth Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

Are you unsure whether you or your loved one is struggling with meth addiction? Read below to learn how to spot the warning signs.

Understanding Meth Addiction

Learn about meth addiction

Methamphetamine is a very dangerous substance to abuse. Also known widely as meth or crystal, this illicit drug can cause an individual to become addicted to it even after just a handful of uses. Additionally, since meth consists of highly toxic substances, an individual’s health and other areas of his or her life can be severely damaged if he or she finds himself or herself dependent on this drug.

Whether an individual smokes, snorts, or injects this substance, the high that is experienced is intense. Sensations of euphoria and pleasure overwhelm the individual’s body and a surge of energy results after he or she takes this drug. Once these effects fade, an individual is likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal and powerful cravings for more meth, and may resort to extreme measures to obtain and use more of this substance. With increased use, an individual might spend an exceptional amount of time consuming meth in larger amounts in order to achieve the high that is desired. After a short period of time, while this pattern of increased usage is occurring, an individual can find him or herself trapped in the throes of addiction, or methamphetamine use disorder, which typically requires professional help to defeat.

Thankfully, there are effective options for care that can help women and men free themselves from the grips of addiction. In choosing to obtain treatment, the devastating effects of prolonged meth abuse can be lessened and allow those who are struggling with meth abuse to live fuller, happier, and richer lives.

Statistics

Meth addiction statistics

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that as much as five percent of the population in the United States has used meth at least one time. Researchers have determined that more than one million women and men have abused methamphetamine within the past year, with nearly half a million of those individuals having abused meth within the past month. In addition, over 100,000 emergency room visits every year are attributed to meth abuse.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for meth addiction

For close friends and loved ones, it might be unclear as to why or how someone they care for has come to abuse this deadly substance. Research shows that the following can lead to meth abuse:

Genetic: Experts have found specific gene clusters that might make an individual more susceptible to meth abuse at some point in his or her life. Furthermore, addiction experts have concluded that when an individual possesses a family history of meth abuse, other substance abuse, and/or mental illness, there is a greater chance that that individual will also battle similar concerns.

Environmental: Experts also strongly believe that one’s environment can impact whether or not meth abuse will occur. Exposure to meth or other substances of abuse, continual stress, living in an impoverished area, or residing in an unstable home environment can all add to the development of an addiction to meth. Lastly, addiction experts believe that if an individual associates with others who use and/or distribute meth, he or she is more likely to abuse meth as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of mental health conditions
  • Being of younger age
  • Family history of mental health conditions
  • Exposure to ongoing stress and chaos
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Personal history of other substance use
  • Being Caucasian American
  • Personal history of trauma
  • Poverty
  • Family history of meth abuse and addiction

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

A meth addiction can dramatically affect how an individual looks and behaves. Depending on the severity of his or her addiction, the signs and symptoms below may or may not be obvious to others:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent absences from work
  • Being deceptive about one’s activities and whereabouts
  • Obsessive, repetitive behaviors
  • Acting with uncharacteristic energy
  • Continuing to abuse meth after experiencing negative effects from prior use
  • Spending a great deal of time acquiring, using, or recovering from meth use
  • Prioritizing meth use over spending time with family and/or friends
  • Poor performance at work
  • Being unable to control one’s meth use
  • Attempts to borrow or steal money in order to acquire meth

Physical symptoms:

  • Hypertension
  • Increased pulse
  • Developing tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal
  • Scabs and sores on face, arms, and other body parts
  • Increased heartrate
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gum and tooth damage and decay

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia

Psychological symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Dramatic shifts in mood

Effects

Effects of meth addiction

Obtaining treatment for meth addiction is critical. If care is not obtained, the listed effects below are likely to occur and decrease an individual’s overall quality of life:

  • Suicide attempts
  • Brain damage
  • Drastic changes in appearance
  • Deterioration of relationships
  • Family discord
  • Job loss
  • Lung problems
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Loss of muscle tissue
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Loss of bone density
  • Weakened immune system
  • Legal problems leading to incarceration
  • Financial distress
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hepatitis B or C

Withdrawal

Signs, symptoms, and effects of meth withdrawal

Since long-term meth abuse can cause an individual’s body to become dependent upon this substance, an individual must continue to abuse it in order to go about every day functioning. However, if an individual stops using this substance, the symptoms and effects below can emerge:

  • Hypersomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue
  • Intense cravings for meth
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

Overdose

Signs, symptoms, and effects of meth overdose

One of the very real dangers linked with meth abuse is overdose. An overdose on methamphetamine occurs when an individual consumes more of a substance than his or her body is able to manage, which causes the person’s body to respond with a number of symptoms and warning signs. If any of the following overdose effects appear after the use of this dangerous substance, emergency medical attention should be immediately obtained as fast as possible:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Respiratory distress

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

Abusing methamphetamine can make already-existing mental health symptoms worse or trigger the onset of specific mental disorders. The following conditions are some of those that are known to impact the lives of those who are struggling with methamphetamine use disorder:

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