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Meth Abuse and Addiction

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Despite taking a backseat to opioid addiction and overdoses in the United States, stimulant misuse, including meth, continues to be a significant problem—especially in rural or remote areas. Although it’s classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance, it’s still commonly produced, sold, and used illegally, and its addictive nature is the chief contributor to long-term use and the wealth of adverse consequences associated with it. (1)

If you or a loved one is struggling with a dependence on meth, another drug, or alcohol, we encourage you to contact Guardian Recovery today. Our comprehensive programs and personalized treatment plans are designed to provide individuals with all the tools, support, and resources they need to experience a full recovery.

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What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine (meth) is an addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It’s a synthetic drug made from pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in many cold medicines. Meth is usually found as a crystalline powder or rock-like solid that can be snorted, smoked, ingested, or taken orally. It produces an intense rush of euphoria and feelings of increased energy and alertness that can last for several hours.

Although meth does have a few limited clinical purposes, it is most often manufactured and used through illicit means. Unless meth is prescribed (e.g., as Desoxyn) and taken as directed, ingestion is considered misuse and can be extremely dangerous. It can result in a wide range of physical and mental health issues, including addiction, respiratory problems, and psychosis. It can also have detrimental effects on one’s relationships, finances, and overall quality of life.

Risk Factors for Meth Misuse & Addiction Include:

  • Genetics and Heredity—Having a family history of substance misuse or addiction.
  • Environmental Factors—Experiencing trauma, misuse, or neglect, especially in childhood.
  • Age—Meth use that begins at a young age.
  • Gender—Men may be more likely than women to develop a meth addiction.
  • Mental Health Conditions—Experiencing depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric disorders.
  • Peer Pressure—Spending time with meth users.

Excessive Use—Using meth frequently or in large amounts.

How Addictive Is Meth & How Does Addiction Develop?

Meth use increases dopamine levels in the brain, a chemical messenger responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure and reward. (2) This surge in dopamine causes a rapid and intense rush of euphoria and energy, effects that can result in addiction with repeated use. Eventually, this leads to changes in the way the brain functions, and the brain’s reward system becomes desensitized to the presence of meth. Users require increasingly higher doses to achieve the effects they’re seeking, feel good, and function normally. They may also start prioritizing meth use over other important aspects of their lives, such as work, relationships, and personal and financial obligations.

Visible Signs Someone May Be Addicted to Meth Include:

  • Physical Appearance—The presence of acne, other skin lesions, and a pale, gaunt, and unkempt appearance.
  • Behavioral Changes—Increased aggression, paranoia, and anxiety, as well as a loss of interest in personal relationships, work, and enjoyable activities.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns—Insomnia, hypersomnia, and an erratic sleep schedule.
  • Dental Problems—Tooth loss and decay, commonly referred to as “meth mouth.”
  • Twitching or Jerky Movements—Commonly referred to as “tweaking.”

Symptoms & Side Effects of Meth Addiction

Meth use can have a range of short- and long-term symptoms and side effects, some of which may be severe, chronic, and permanent.

Short-Term Effects of Meth Include:

  • An intense rush of pleasure and energy.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Agitation and anxiety, restlessness, and hypervigilance.
  • Impulsivity and poor decision-making.
  • Paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.

Long-Term or Permanent Effects of Meth May Include:

  • Addiction, including tolerance and dependence.
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart problems and stroke.
  • Dental problems and deterioration.
  • Scarring due to long-term skin problems.
  • Changes to the brain’s structure and function.
  • Cognitive impairments, including memory loss, confusion, and impaired decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Psychotic symptoms.

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What To Do if Someone Overdoses on Meth

If someone you know has overdosed on meth, it is important to take immediate action to get them medical help, as this is considered a life-threatening emergency. (3) A meth overdose can have severe consequences and lead to irreversible damage or death.

Meth Overdose Symptoms Include:

  • Agitation or aggressive behavior
  • Delusions and paranoia.
  • Chest pain.
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Elevated body temperature or hyperthermia.
  • Heart attack, stroke, or cardiac arrest.
  • Life-threatening hypertension.
  • Seizures.

Steps for Helping Someone Who Is Overdosing on Meth Include:

  1. Dial 911 or your local emergency services number immediately. and follow the operator’s instructions.
  2. Provide as much information as possible about the situation.
  3. Monitor the person’s respiratory rate, pulse, and consciousness, and if they are not breathing, perform CPR if you are trained to do so.
  4. Stay calm and reassure the person that help is on the way.
  5. Do not leave the person alone while waiting for medical help to arrive.

Meth Use, Addiction, & Overdose Statistics

According to the Pew Institute, the use of meth, overdose deaths, and arrests substantially rose from 2015 to 2019. (4) The number of those with a meth use disorder increased by 37%, while the number of those who died from a meth-related overdose increased dramatically by 170%. An analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that self-reported past-year meth use rose by 22%, from approximately 1.66 million adults in 2015 to over two million in 2019. (5)

The Cost of Meth Misuse & Addiction to Society

According to the RAND Corporation, the best estimate of methamphetamine costs in 2005 was about $23.4 billion, with the true economic burden somewhere in the range of $16.2 billion to $48.3 billion. (6)

Annual Costs (Best Estimate) Associated With Meth Use Include:

  • Intangibles and Premature Death—$16,625,000,000.
  • Crime and Criminal Justice—$4,210,000,000.
  • Child Endangerment—$905,000,000.
  • Lost Productivity—$687,000,000.
  • Drug Treatment—$546,000,000.
  • Healthcare—$351,000,000.
  • Meth Production/Hazards—$61,000,000.

Potential Solutions to Meth Misuse & Addiction Include:

  • Prevention Programs—Education and prevention regarding meth use risks, information on healthy coping mechanisms, and the teaching of life skills that can help prevent drug use.
  • Early Intervention—Identifying and addressing risk factors and providing support and resources to individuals, family members, and caregivers.
  • Comprehensive Treatment—Rehab programs that offer a combination of behavioral therapies, medications, and support groups, can be effective in helping people recover from meth addiction.
  • Behavioral TherapiesCognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and others that help individuals identify and alter dysfunctional thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Medications—Some pharmaceutical interventions can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Support Groups—Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other groups can be effective in providing community, support, and accountability for individuals in recovery.

Harm Reduction Strategies—Harm reduction endeavors include education initiatives focused on information regarding meth misuse-related risks, safer use, testing, improved access to treatment and support services, and community outreach efforts.

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Getting Professional Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is a chronic, incurable, and relapsing brain disease, but many individuals have successfully recovered from this condition through the use of comprehensive, intensive treatment. Through participation in evidence-based approaches, such as medical detox, behavioral therapy, and group support, those suffering from addiction can develop the skills they need to prevent relapse and sustain long-term sobriety.

We encourage you to contact Guardian Recovery if you’ve been struggling with the misuse of meth, other drugs, or alcohol. We offer free assessments and health insurance benefit checks. You can speak to a skilled, caring Treatment Advisor who can explain more about our streamlined admissions process and multiple levels of care. If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, reach out to us today.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling (2)https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/methbrainnoflash.html (3)https://www.goodrx.com/methamphetamine/overdose (4)https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2022/08/16/methamphetamine-use-overdose-deaths-and-arrests-soared-from-2015-to-2019 (5)https://nsduhweb.rti.org/ (6)https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9438.html

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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