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Meth Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

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Last updated: 05/5/2021
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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Perhaps you have considered using, or currently use, methamphetamine. Before deciding to use this substance, take some time to consider the effects of meth abuse, use, and misuse.

Table of Contents

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine, derived from drug classes amphetamine and phenethylamine, is a chemical stimulant. As the name suggests, stimulants generally produce heightened energy and concentration along with an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Being highly addictive, research has demonstrated meth’s capacity for fostering dependence in those who use or misuse it.1

Commonly known as crystal meth, this substance comes in a variety of forms. One medication, Desoxyn, offers methamphetamine in hydrochloride tablets.4 People may try to use illicitly or illegally manufactured meth in many different ways:

  • By the mouth
  • Snorting
  • Smoking
  • Injection
  • With suppositories

Each type of meth consumption can affect your health in different ways.3 Some risks associated with sharing contaminated paraphernalia, especially when injecting meth, include transmission of HIV, hepatitis, or other infectious diseases.3

Smoking meth can have harmful effects on your mouth, lungs, and respiratory system.2 Meth use can also cause problems with your teeth due to its chemical composition, excessive teeth grinding, symptoms of dry mouth, as well as changes in lifestyle habits on oral hygiene.5 Rectal or vaginal use may impact the delivery of the substance and cause damage to the cell tissue in those areas.6 Intranasal, snorting, use of this substance can cause irritation, perforation, and bleeding of the mucous membranes in the nose.7

Whichever form or dosage available, meth use has risks. If you consider taking meth, even with a prescription, you can still experience the risks of meth addiction, abuse, or misuse.

Meth Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

Misuse occurs when a person takes more of this medication than prescribed or uses it without a prescription. Symptoms of meth abuse can occur over long and short periods, affecting several systems within your body.3

Short-term effects associated with meth use include:3,7

  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased breathing
  • Changes or irregularity in your heartbeat
  • Feeling more awake
  • Greater amounts of activity
  • Improved attention
  • Increased body temperature
  • Impaired judgment
  • Tension
  • Anger

Medications containing methamphetamine, such as Desoxyn, have potentially serious side effects.

Some signs to look out for with regards to prescription methamphetamine use include:8

  • Slow growth in children
  • Seizures
  • Changes to eyesight
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness

Talk with a doctor if these symptoms occur or persist while you or your loved one takes this medication.

The likelihood of developing long-term effects from meth misuse increases the longer you take this substance and with larger dosages.3 Binging on methamphetamine can result in sleep deprivation and other changes to your pattern of living.3 These binge episodes may result in a “crash” due to the effects of large amounts of methamphetamine taken in a short period.3

Long-term effects from methamphetamine use include:3, 7

  • Poor sleep
  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood
  • Increased anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  • Memory changes
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Aggression
  • Violent behavior
  • Persistent weight loss
  • Changes in learning ability
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Changes in brain functioning

Symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions can continue even after you have quit using meth.3 A person experiencing hallucinations may hear or see things that others cannot. Physical hallucinations, such as feeling as if bugs are crawling over a person’s skin, can occur.3 Changes in perception, especially related to paranoia and delusions, can cause further emotional distress.7 Even after these symptoms subside, increased stress may cause them to return.3

Using methamphetamine while pregnant can have impacts on the unborn child’s health.3 Babies exposed to methamphetamine prior to birth showed signs of heart problems, brain abnormalities, low energy, and had a smaller physical size.3 Some studies showed that children exposed to meth prior to birth had notable attention problems, developmental concerns, and challenges associated with self-control.3

Misusing methamphetamine also places you at risk of developing a substance use disorder.7

Symptoms of a substance use disorder on methamphetamine include:7

  • Taking more than you intended
  • Continuing to use despite impacts to areas of your life
  • Giving up on life activities to use
  • Spending a lot of time seeking out the substance
  • Inability to stop or reduce use
  • Needing larger amounts to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal when cutting back or stopping meth use

Withdrawal symptoms can impact a person’s sleep, movements, appetite, and energy levels.7 Developing a tolerance to methamphetamine can lead to greater levels of misuse. Using more methamphetamine to overcome tolerance can lead a person to experience overdose:3

Meth Overdose Symptoms

A methamphetamine overdose can have detrimental impacts on several parts of your body, resulting in potentially long-term damage, including death.3

Overdose symptoms may include:

  • Tremors
  • Sensitive reflexes
  • Confusion
  • Aggression
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Mood changes
  • Restlessness
  • Panic
  • Heart problems
  • Circulatory system failure
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

Serotonin syndrome can become life-threatening and may develop if you take methamphetamine with other medications.8 Coma and convulsions during methamphetamine overdose can also indicate deadly levels of the substance in a person’s system.8

Meth medication manufacturers also noted sudden death in people who had pre-existing heart problems when taking this medication.8 Sudden stroke and heart attack risk presented for adults who took Desoxyn at prescribed levels.8 The presence of certain pre-existing conditions put individuals who took methamphetamine medication at a higher risk of severe health problems.8 Misusing this medication by taking it without a prescription or at higher levels than prescribed increases your risk of severe health problems from methamphetamine use.

If you or someone you love experiences overdose, or any other life-threatening symptoms associated with meth use, reach out to emergency medical services or go to your nearest emergency center.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

The effects of meth misuse, dependence, and withdrawal extend well beyond physical7. The risk of worsening mental health conditions when misusing methamphetamine can create further complications.3, 8

If you or someone you know misuses or might misuse methamphetamine, talk to a professional. In outpatient meth addiction treatment, trained clinicians can offer you support in taking steps to prevent substance misuse. If your need for treatment grows due to increased misuse or an emergency event, inpatient and residential treatment can help you get started with long-term recovery.

Meth addiction treatment at the right level can help you manage the effects of methamphetamine misuse, increase your motivation to stop misusing this medication, as well as connect you with a network of support. The right medical and therapeutic services can guide you through physical and mental health recovery.9

Call 800-926-9037 Who Answers? today to speak with a treatment specialist about which services would work best for you.

Resources

  1. Parsons, N.L. (2014) Meth Mania: A History of Methamphetamine. Lynne Rienner Publishers.
  2. McCarthy, E., & McClain, E. (2019). Methamphetamine-Induced Lung Injury. European journal of case reports in internal medicine, 6(6), 001067. https://doi.org/10.12890/2019_001067
  3. Willis, S. M. . M. M. (2020). Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 20). Overview. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/overview
  5. Recordati Rare Diseases Inc. (2015). Desoxyn [package insert]. Lebanon, NJ: Recordati Rare Diseases Inc.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, September 5). Meth (crank, ice) facts. https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/meth-crank-ice-facts
  7. Gupta, M., Bailey, S., & Lovato, L. M. (2009). Bottoms up: Methamphetamine toxicity from an unusual route. The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 10(1), 58–60. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/03z4s3rp
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  9. Recordati Rare Diseases Inc. (2019). Desoxyn [package insert]. http://recordatirarediseases.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Desoxyn-PI-with-box-warning.pdf
  10. Miller, W. R., Forcehimes, A. A., & Zweben, A. (2011). Treating addiction: A guide for professionals. The Guilford Press.

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