Methamphetamine Addiction: Common Signs
- Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug.
- Meth is available as a legal medication in the form of Desoxyn.
- Illegal meth is often in the form of crystals or powder, both of which may be cut with other dangerous substances.
- Short-term meth use can cause euphoria and excessive energy.
- Long-term meth use can cause brain damage, organ damage, and deat
Methamphetamine, also known as “meth”, is a common street drug, though it is also rarely used for medicinal purposes. It has an extremely potent effect on the brain’s reward pathways. Once a person starts using this drug, it will become very difficult for the brain to regulate certain hormones like dopamine and serotonin on its own.
The brain will instead rely on the presence of the drug to make the person feel good. This can lead to serious withdrawal effects if the person stops using the drug suddenly.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is very similar to amphetamine, which is used to treat ADHD.1 It targets the central nervous system and causes it to speed up. This can help people with ADHD focus better and can help people with narcolepsy stay awake.
Due to its addictive nature, it can be difficult for people to avoid its dangerous effects. When taking prescription methamphetamine in the form of a pill, it is necessary to take it exactly as prescribed.
This will minimize the risk of addiction and dependence. However, some people will misuse the drug by crushing and swallowing or snorting the pills. This releases the pill’s dose all at once and causes a powerful high. Misusing stimulant drugs is more common than most people realize. 5 million people in the United States alone misuse prescription stimulants.
Many more delve into the realm of illegal meth, which is very different from prescription options like Desoxyn. Street meth is often mixed with dangerous fillers such as lithium, cat litter, drain cleaner, or rat poison. These fillers are cheaper than the meth itself, making it more convenient to sell on the street.
Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug, and it goes by many names, including glass, crystal, shatter, and crank.
What Are the Side Effects of Meth?
Snorting, smoking, or injecting meth will cause a person to instantly feel euphoria. Taking the pill orally does not cause instant effects. This euphoria is followed by a crash, which causes a person to feel sick and depressed.
This crash pushes a person to keep abusing meth so they can continue feeling that euphoria. However, a tolerance will eventually develop, and the person will need to take increasingly higher doses of the substance to continue experiencing the euphoria at the same intensity.
An increase in dosage or frequency can cause brain and liver damage. It may also damage the heart or cause a heart attack.
Many people will accidentally overdose or die for this reason. The negative side effects of meth tend to get worse the longer a person consumes the substance and may not be too noticeable in the beginning. Many people don’t realize that they have developed a meth addiction until it has advanced.
Statistics on Methamphetamine Use, Misuse, and Addiction
During 2015–2018, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults aged 18 years and over reported past-year methamphetamine use. Of these individuals, 52.9% had a methamphetamine use disorder.
In 2021, approximately 2.5 million people (ages 12 and over) reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months. Of this group, an estimated 1.6 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder in the past 12 months. Additionally, approximately 32,537 people died from an overdose involving meth in 2021 in the US.
What Is Meth Withdrawal?
When you take meth all the time, your brain will become accustomed to its presence. It will also rely on that drug to produce pleasure. As a result, the brain will stop producing its own feel-good hormones, including dopamine and serotonin.
When you stop taking meth, the brain enters a state of shock because it has a complete lack of these hormones and is unable to make them in the quantities it needs to function properly. This can cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and confusion.
When stopping the drug suddenly, known as going cold turkey, it is possible to have seizures, strokes, and heart attacks. Some people may die from this process. It is important to go to a professional meth rehab center for detox treatment. They can keep you safe while you detox and mitigate the risks. They can also provide certain medications that may limit the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Meth?
Meth negatively affects the brain when taken long-term. Studies have shown that those who have used this drug for many years may display consistent psychotic symptoms. These may include paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations and may continue even months after the person has stopped using meth.
Meth can permanently damage the brain or at least leave it damaged for long periods of time. Other long-term effects include anxiety, depression, mood changes, and violent outbursts. Meth use also has a seriously negative effect on the liver.
The liver is the main organ that metabolizes drugs. When you misuse hard drugs like meth for a long time, the liver cells will eventually sustain damage, making it difficult for the organ to function properly. The kidneys, heart, and lungs may sustain similar damage.
Meth overdoses are often fatal, especially if the person isn’t treated in time. At first, an overdose can make a person extremely energetic, paranoid, and panicked. They may experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and pain. Then, the person may lose consciousness. If they pass out, it is possible that they may sustain a concussion if they hit their head on something hard.
Since meth is a stimulant and raises the heart rate, it is possible to have a heart attack or stroke if the heart starts beating too fast. This can be fatal, or it can lead to permanent damage to the heart or brain. It is also possible for a person to stop breathing. These consequences are even more dangerous if other substances, like alcohol or other stimulants, are consumed with the meth.
Call 911 if you think someone has overdosed on meth. They need to receive treatment as quickly as possible to give them the best chance at recovery.
Tennessee offers Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists throughout the state who offer overdose awareness training and naloxone distribution, to ensure that community-based services and first responders are equipped to handle a suspected overdose. New Jersey has similar resources for overdose prevention and naloxone use training.
How Is Meth Addiction Treated?
Some people may try to detox on their own, but this is unsafe. Going through withdrawals alone can lead to dangerous consequences, such as heart attacks, strokes, and so on. It is best to go through this process at a professional detox facility. This allows you to have professionals on your side to support you.
They may also use medication to make the withdrawal symptoms less intense. Naltrexone seems to be helpful for some people going through meth withdrawals. More basic medications, like Advil, may also be helpful for relieving headaches and body aches. If you’ve been addicted to meth for a long time, it may take several months or even a year to fully recover.
Treatment consists of medical detox, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient treatment, and long-term aftercare plans.
Most patients will also participate in holistic therapies, where you will learn practical strategies to navigate substance use and mental health struggles. Therapy sessions could consist of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, EMDR, group therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
Those with substance use disorders may find it harder to get through the treatment process and avoid relapsing later on. However, with the right support and treatment, it is still possible for them to get back on their feet and avoid future addictions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Meth Addiction
Street meth is usually crystalline, or it may come in the form of a powder. This makes it easy to snort or smoke the substance. Both methods of administration are very common, but some may prefer to dissolve the substance in liquid before injecting it. All of these methods are very fast-acting and also very dangerous.
It is also possible to eat meth straight, but this is less popular as it doesn’t result in the immediate feeling of euphoria.
Absolutely. Doing so causes the heart to race, which may result in a heart attack or stroke. Some people may also faint and give themselves a concussion if they land on a hard surface. It is also possible to die if you mix meth with other substances, like other stimulants, or a depressant, like alcohol.
Desoxyn is the primary medicinal use of meth. It is an oral medication used to treat ADHD. However, most doctors prefer to use Adderall, an amphetamine, to treat this condition. It is believed that Adderall may be safer for this purpose, although it also has some potential for abuse.
Meth is a synthetic drug. Medicinal meth, such as Desoxyn, is made in a lab. Street meth is produced by drug gangs. Street meth actually contains low amounts of meth in comparison to the filler products it contains. This is another reason why meth can be so dangerous.
Some filler ingredients are so dangerous that they can cause instantaneous death when consumed. Desoxyn is much less dangerous since it is pure, but it can still be a hazard if it is misused.
Are you or a loved one struggling with Methamphetamine use?
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, March 3). Methamphetamine drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine on May 23, 2023.
 NIDA. 2018, April 16. Five million American adults misusing prescription stimulants. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/04/five-million-american-adults-misusing-prescription-stimulants on May 23, 2023.
 Jones, C. M., Compton, W. M., & Mustaquim, D. (2020). Patterns and Characteristics of Methamphetamine Use Among Adults — United States, 2015–2018. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(12), 317–323. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912a1
 Abuse, N. I. on D. (2019, October). What is the scope of methamphetamine use in the United States? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, January 12). What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse on May 23, 2023.