Meth Addiction

Sendra Yang
Calendar icon Last Updated: 01/25/2024

What is Meth Addiction?

Meth addiction is the inability to stop using meth regardless of the harmful physical, psychological, or social side effects it is causing an individual. Meth addiction is an addiction many Americans face, one that can be overcome with proper intervention, and ongoing treatment.

Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, or meth, is a highly addictive drug which affects the central nervous system. It comes as clear shiny crystals or hard blue-white rocks. Crystal meth is typically smoked, snorted or injected to provide a lasting high that makes the user feel invincible, upbeat, energetic and euphoric.

Also known as ice, crank, or crystal, meth can be cheaply made by simply mixing together a number of chemicals, many of which are interchangeable. For this reason, this highly addictive substance is often called a bathtub drug. Crystal meth is easy to obtain, and due to the incredibly harsh chemicals used in its manufacture—including battery acid and ammonia—the physical and cognitive effects of the addiction are severe.

If a drug is so dangerous, so addictive, and so debilitating, why do people use it? Primarily, crystal meth is easy to get and cheap for how long the high lasts. For instance, a small amount of crystal meth that costs maybe ten dollars could allow one or two people to stay high and keep partying for a full day or longer. Other reasons meth addicts cite for seeking out the drug include rapid weight loss and the way it lowers inhibitions and increases libido. Some people turn to crystal meth after their tolerance to a different drug has grown so much that they can no longer get high from that substance. Crystal meth can not only provide the high the addict is looking for, it also costs less and lasts longer.

What are the Risks of Meth Addiction?

Physically, meth addiction can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and other areas of the body. Those who abuse meth are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke as a direct result of their drug abuse.

One of the largest and fastest growing epidemics in the nation that is crippling Americans at an alarmingly fast rate is crystal meth addiction. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million people are addicted to crystal meth in the United States alone, and this number seems to be growing.

Unless you or someone you love has been addicted to meth and you have lived in a world of hell that meth addiction causes, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of the struggle caused by meth fully. Crystal meth addiction leads to some of the most severe consequences of any other drug on the market or on the streets today.

In most cases, abstinence from meth abuse for at least two years can lead to the reversal of many of the negative physical signs of methamphetamine abuse but not all. Motor function and verbal memory will typically repair to some extent after two years of meth abstinence, but some other neurological aspects of prolonged use may not repair themselves even with time.

What are the Symptoms of Meth Addiction?

There are many short-term and long-term effects of using crystal meth. Some of these effects will naturally subside on their own within a few hours while others could take days or more to go away even after the last dose of crystal meth was administered.

Available in many different forms, meth can be smoked, snorted, injected or ingested orally. Each of the methods of meth use will have a different effect on the user and the amount of time that the drug is active will differ slightly from one method of use to the next.

Below is a look at how each method of methamphetamine use will affect the user:

  • Smoking meth –leads to a fast uptake of the drug into the brain and can amplify the addiction potential as well as many adverse health consequences such as lung tumors and other problems
  • Injecting meth –leads to an intense rush or flash of a high that is described as a pleasurable state which typically only lasts a few minutes
  • Snorting or Oral Consumption of Meth –leads to a less intense rush that lasts anywhere from 5 to twenty minutes and can linger.

Crystal meth affects the psychological system as well as the physical components of the body and can lead to a range of adverse reactions.

Short-Term Effects of Meth Include:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Fascination with repetitive tasks
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Jaw clenching
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Poor sleeping habits or insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • High blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Long-Term Effects of Meth Abuse Include:

  • Brain damage
  • Coma
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Death
  • Meth mouth (rotten teeth)
  • Hallucinations
  • Sores on the body
  • Boils or infections on the skin
  • Psychosis
  • Weight loss and malnutrition

Many of the short and long-term signs of meth abuse can be fixed once the meth addiction is treated and the user is no longer abusing the drug. Unfortunately, some of the severe complications of meth use, such as depression and severe paranoia, do not go away quickly and are often lifelong effects of having used this dangerous drug.

What are the Signs of Meth Addiction?

There are some tell-tale signs of meth addiction that you may be able to spot right away or which may become more prevalent as time goes on.

Look out for the following signs of meth addiction:

  • Track or needle marks on the arms, legs, hands, feet or neck
  • Euphoric states followed by fatigue or depression
  • Respiratory problems, sinus infections or lung infections
  • A cough or hoarse voices from smoking methamphetamine
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Skin abscesses or infections of the skin with no explanation
  • Anger or irritability
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Sustained scratching or picking at skin or hair
  • Poor dental health
  • Doing repetitive tasks
  • Erratic sleeping patterns
  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive sweating
  • Changes in body odor
  • Constant talking
  • Jerky movements or ticks

What to do if Someone You Love is Abusing Meth

If someone you love is abusing meth, and cannot or will not stop on their own, it may be time to seek professional help. If they are in denial about their harmful behavior, you may want to set up an intervention with an addiction specialist and gather their close friends and family members. This person may also be aware they are addicted but are unable to stop despite trying to ween back their dosage. In this case, it would be helpful for you to support them in their recovery, by finding them a nearby addiction treatment center with medical professionals who can assist in their detox, treatment, and recovery.

Which Treatment Options are Available for Meth Addiction?

Inpatient treatment is always the best option for addicts, especially long-term users who will have more severe withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment allows for close medical oversight, in a safe environment that can prevent triggers, and relapse from occurring. Alongside inpatient treatment, patients can also be involved in therapy programs to help address the underlying causes of their addiction, such problems with their mental health.

The most effective methods of therapy treatment that have been found to assist those with meth addiction include behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy methods. Each of these methods of treatment involves helping the patient to combine new thoughts with their behaviors and vice versa to control their outbursts, cravings, and decisions. Contingency management interventions are also acceptable methods of treating methamphetamine addiction for some patients. The following methods are some of the most commonly used in centers for the treatment of meth addiction:

  • Behavioral therapy changing behaviors that would once trigger the use of drugs into behaviors that are now productive and do not include drug abuse
  • Family education teaching others in the family about meth addiction and how they can help their loved one by not facilitating the addiction but to support their recovery
  • Individual counseling –providing a safe place for the addict to get help for their addiction without having to worry about the thoughts of others. Individual counseling also allows for a place to talk about potential causes of the addiction such as past or present physical abuse or trauma.
  • 12-step therapy many counseling centers, treatment centers and community programs provide twelve step treatments for those suffering from all types of addiction including methamphetamine addiction. Crystal Meth Anonymous groups are available in communities to provide social support for recovering addicts
  • Contingency management interventions –these programs offer incentives to the patient when he or she goes a set amount of time without using meth by providing coupons or vouchers to assist them in finding something that they like as a reward. The coupon may be for a free meal, a special gift or something else of value.
Medical Reviewer
Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA
Medical Information Professional
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Sendra Yang received her Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Business Administration degrees from Wingate University School of Pharmacy. She has experience in the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy education, and clinical practice. She has also been a medical writer, editor, and reviewer for consumer health and medical content, including materials relating to addiction and rehabilitation.