Signs & Symptoms of Meth Addiction

The signs, symptoms, and effects of meth addiction can be different for every person impacted. Learning about meth addiction is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Meth

Learn about meth and substance abuse

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an illicit stimulant drug. Popular for a variety of reasons, including because it is relatively easy to synthesize, meth use brings powerful feelings of pleasure and invincibility. This euphoric “rush” can be so potent that meth users often abuse the drug again and again in pursuit of a high, which may lead them to develop a methamphetamine use disorder. A meth use disorder can be debilitating, and often a person will require the help of a team of substance abuse professionals at a comprehensive substance use treatment center in order to successfully overcome his or her addiction.

Statistics

Meth addiction statistics

Although meth use seems to be decreasing throughout the United States, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 1.2 million Americans had used meth within the previous year, and 440,000 had used the drug within the previous month. Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) found that meth was responsible for 103,000 emergency room visits in 2011, and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) reported that 5.6 percent of substance use treatment center admissions were related to meth.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for meth addiction

As with other substance use disorders, one’s risk of developing a meth use disorder is affected by a number of factors, which may include the following:

Genetic: Genetics can have a strong influence on the development of methamphetamine use disorder. For example, individuals who have a genetic predisposition to impulsivity or novelty-seeking may be at increased risk for developing a problem with meth.

Environmental: Exposure to meth before birth can increase a person’s risk of developing a meth use disorder. In addition, growing up in a family where parents or siblings use meth, being exposed to community violence, living in an unstable home environment, having a mental illness, and being around meth dealers and users all increase the chance that a person will develop a meth use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Certain personality characteristics, such as impulsivity or desire for novelty
  • Presence of other mental health disorders
  • Being exposed to meth in the womb
  • Growing up in an instable household
  • Being around others who use meth
  • Exposure to violence in one’s community
  • Having parents who use meth

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

People who are wrestling with a meth use disorder may exhibit and experience a number of signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Neglecting important events in favor of using meth
  • Abusing meth even in situations where being high is physically dangerous, such as while driving or at work
  • Using meth in larger amounts or over a longer time period than intended
  • A history of unsuccessful efforts to reduce one’s meth use
  • Spending large amounts of time obtaining, using, or recovering from use of meth
  • Failure to fulfill major tasks or obligations at home or work as a result of meth abuse
  • Continuing to abuse meth despite being aware of problems in one’s life that are caused by medication abuse

Physical symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat or slowed heartbeat
  • Larger-than-normal pupils
  • Excessively high or low blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Losing weight
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Jitteriness or restlessness
  • Slowed movements
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Experiencing strong discomfort and unpleasant symptoms when abstaining from meth use for a period of time
  • Needing greater doses of meth over time in order to achieve a high

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Presence of meth cravings
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Continuing to abuse meth despite experiencing interpersonal conflict related to use
  • Neglecting social events in favor of meth use
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Blunted emotions
  • Social withdrawal

Effects

Effects of meth addiction

Meth is a dangerous drug that can have disastrous effects on a person’s life. If a person does not seek treatment for meth abuse, he or she is at risk for experiencing the following negative consequences:

  • Respiratory problems, collapsed veins, and puncture marks, depending on how a person takes meth
  • Contracting HIV or other sexually-transmitted infections as a result of sharing used needles
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Relationship tension, separation, or divorce
  • Loss of child custody
  • Social isolation
  • Poor occupational performance, possibly resulting in job loss
  • Injury due to drug trafficking-related violence
  • Birth defects
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Involvement in illegal activities, such as prostitution, in an attempt to earn money to buy meth
  • “Meth mouth,” which can include gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

People with meth use disorders unfortunately often struggle with a number of other co-occurring mental health disorders. Some of these disorders may include:

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal and overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal: If a person attempts to abstain from using meth after a long period of frequent use, he or she will likely experience a number of extremely uncomfortable symptoms. These symptoms can include the following:

  • Vivid nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Oversleeping
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Depressed mood
  • Restlessness or jitteriness
  • Slowed thought processes
  • Slowed movements
  • Slow heart rate

Effects of meth overdose: A person’s body is only able to safely metabolize or excrete a certain amount of meth at a given time. Should a person exceed his or her body’s limit, he or she will experience an overdose, which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Anyone who has been using meth and exhibits the following signs should receive medical attention immediately:

  • Agitation
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paranoia
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Heart attack