What Is a Meth Addict?

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Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is known as white, odorless, and bitter-tasting.

Methamphetamine was developed early in the 20th century from the original drug amphetamine and was primarily used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a feeling of euphoria.

However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine. For example, when using meth, more of the drug gets into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. It also has longer-lasting and more adverse effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with a high potential for widespread misuse and addiction.

Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 2.5 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months.

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How Soon Can Someone Using Meth Become Addicted?

It is difficult to say when a person can become dependent or develop an addiction to a substance. It is unlikely for a person to become addicted to meth after one use. According to the DSM-5,  a person needs to use a substance repeatedly despite negative consequences that impact a person’s health, safety, relationships, and work to meet the characteristics of addiction.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 14.9 million people in the U.S. have used methamphetamine in their lifetime. 1.1 million of those individuals met the criteria for a methamphetamine use disorder in 2018.

Is There a Difference Between Meth Use, Dependence, & Addiction?

Yes, there is a difference between methamphetamine (meth) use, dependence, and addiction.

Meth use refers to the act of consuming methamphetamine, which is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can produce intense feelings of euphoria and increased energy levels.

Meth dependence refers to a physical and psychological reliance on the drug, where a person may experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit or reduce their use. Dependence can occur after regular or long-term use of meth.

Meth addiction, also known as methamphetamine use disorder, is a chronic brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite the negative consequences that may result. Addiction often involves physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Still, it is also marked by changes in the brain’s reward and motivation systems that make it difficult for individuals to quit using meth.

It is important to note that meth use, dependence, and addiction are not the same and that addiction is a complex disease requiring professional treatment.

Visual Signs Someone Is Addicted to Meth

If you suspect a person may be addicted to meth, signs, behaviors, and changes in physical appearance occur over time with use. In addition to behavior changes, you can first look for drug paraphernalia commonly used with meth.

Common Paraphernalia of Meth: 

  • Glass pipes.
  • Needles and syringes.
  • Light bulbs or aluminum foil.
  • Rolled-up dollar bills or straws.
  • Bongs or water pipes.
  • Mirrors or other smooth surfaces.
  • Razor blades or credit cards.

Methamphetamine addiction can cause a range of physical and behavioral symptoms that can be observed in individuals who are using the drug. Here are some visual signs that someone may be addicted to meth:

  • Changes in Appearance – Meth addiction can cause significant changes in a person’s appearance, including weight loss, dental problems, skin sores, and hair loss.
  • Rapid Eye Movements – Meth use can cause rapid eye movements, which can be observed as a person’s eyes dart back and forth.
  • Dilated Pupils – Methamphetamine use can cause pupils to become enlarged and stay that way for an extended period.
  • Twitching or Shaking – Meth can cause involuntary muscle movements, such as twitching or shaking.
  • Hyperactivity – Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that can cause hyperactivity and excessive energy, leading to restlessness, agitation, and fidgeting.
  • Erratic Behavior – Meth use can cause mood swings, paranoia, and erratic behavior, which can be observed in a person’s actions and interactions with others.
  • Poor Hygiene – Meth addiction can lead to neglect of personal hygiene, resulting in dirty clothes, body odor, and other hygiene-related issues.

Methamphetamine is a dangerous and highly addictive drug; its signs of use are among the most recognizable substances. Some of the most common symptoms of meth are apparent in a person’s physical appearance.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from methamphetamine can be challenging and uncomfortable, with a range of physical and psychological symptoms that can last for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction. Here are some common withdrawal symptoms of meth:

  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Intense cravings for methamphetamine.
  • Increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and vivid dreams.
  • Shakiness and tremors.
  • Muscle aches and pains.
  • Headaches.
  • Nightmares and hallucinations.

In severe cases of meth addiction, withdrawal can also cause psychosis, characterized by delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Withdrawal from methamphetamine can be challenging, and it is highly recommended that individuals seek professional medical help to manage symptoms safely and effectively. A comprehensive treatment program, including behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment, can help individuals manage their withdrawal symptoms and increase their chances of a successful recovery.

Mental Health Issues

Methamphetamine use can have significant negative impacts on mental health, and it can exacerbate preexisting mental health conditions. Here are some mental health issues that can result from meth use:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Psychosis.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Impulsivity and risk-taking.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior.

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Side Effects of Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction can significantly affect an individual’s physical and mental health. The following are some of the side effects of methamphetamine addiction:

  • Cardiovascular Problems – Methamphetamine use can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat, leading to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Respiratory Problems –  Methamphetamine use can cause respiratory problems, including breathing difficulties, coughing, and lung infections.
  • Dental Problems – Methamphetamine use can lead to dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss, known as “meth mouth.”
  • Psychiatric Problems – Methamphetamine use can cause psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and hallucinations.
  • Cognitive Problems – Methamphetamine use can cause cognitive impairment, including memory loss, confusion, and impaired judgment.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies – Methamphetamine use can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, leading to weakness, fatigue, and other health problems.
  • Skin Problems – Methamphetamine use can cause skin problems such as acne, sores, and rashes, which can become infected.
  • Social & Legal Problems – Methamphetamine addiction can lead to social and legal problems, such as relationship issues, financial problems, and criminal activity.

Meth & Substance Abuse Addiction Costs to an Addict

Methamphetamine addiction can have devastating effects on an individual struggling with addiction. The costs of methamphetamine addiction can be both physical and psychological, leading to significant personal, social, and economic consequences.

Physically, methamphetamine addiction can cause numerous health problems, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and dental issues. It can also lead to malnutrition and weight loss, weakening the body and increasing the risk of infections and illnesses. The individual may experience cognitive problems, memory loss, confusion, and impaired judgment.

Psychologically, methamphetamine addiction can cause significant mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, paranoia, and hallucinations. The individual may experience severe mood swings, leading to relationship problems and social isolation. They may also experience legal issues, such as criminal activity related to drug use and possession.

Economically, methamphetamine addiction can be expensive, leading to financial problems such as debt, job loss, and homelessness. The individual may struggle to maintain employment and spend significant amounts on the drug, leading to economic instability.

Overall, the costs of methamphetamine addiction to individuals struggling with addiction are high and can have long-lasting consequences. Seeking professional help and treatment is essential to managing addiction’s physical, psychological, and economic costs.

Cost of Meth Addiction to Society

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is challenging to estimate the exact cost of methamphetamine uses in the United States each year. However, some studies have attempted to estimate the economic burden of methamphetamine addiction.

One study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence estimated that the economic burden of methamphetamine use in the United States was $23.4 billion in 2005, with $5.5 billion in healthcare costs, $3.6 billion in criminal justice costs, and $14.3 billion in productivity losses.

Another study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine estimated that the economic burden of methamphetamine use in the United States was $23.6 billion in 2015, with $6.2 billion in healthcare costs, $7.6 billion in criminal justice costs, and $9.8 billion in productivity losses.

How to Help Someone Addicted to Meth

Helping someone addicted to methamphetamine can be challenging, but supporting the individual and encouraging them to seek professional help is essential. Here are some steps you can take to help someone addicted to methamphetamine:

  • Educate Yourself – Learn about the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction and how it affects the individual’s physical, psychological, and social health. This will help you understand the person’s challenges and how you can support them.
  • Express Concern – Talk to the person and express your concern for their well-being. Let them know that you care about them and want to help them.
  • Encourage Professional Help – Encourage the individual to seek professional help, such as addiction treatment or counseling. Offer to help them find resources and support them throughout the process.
  • Support – Offer emotional and practical help, such as transportation to appointments or assistance with daily tasks.
  • Avoid Enabling – Avoid enabling the person’s addiction by providing them with money or other resources that they may use to buy drugs. Instead, offer support that does not contribute to their addiction.
  • Take Care of Yourself – Supporting someone with methamphetamine addiction can be emotionally challenging, so taking care of your mental and physical health is essential. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if needed.

Remember that helping someone with methamphetamine addiction is a long-term process that requires patience, compassion, and persistence. It is essential to support the individual throughout their recovery journey and provide them with the resources and help they need to overcome their addiction.

Addiction Treatment Options for Meth Addicts

Guardian Recovery is a network of addiction treatment centers offering various treatment options for methamphetamine addiction. Some of the treatment options available at Guardian Recovery include:

  • Detoxification – Guardian Recovery offers medically supervised detoxification to help individuals safely and comfortably withdraw from methamphetamine. This process can help to manage withdrawal symptoms and prepare individuals for further treatment.
  • Residential Treatment – Guardian Recovery offers programs where individuals can receive intensive treatment and support in a safe and structured environment. These programs typically last 30 to 90 days and may include individual, group, behavioral, and holistic therapies.
  • Outpatient Treatment – Guardian Recovery offers outpatient treatment programs for individuals who do not require 24-hour care. These programs may include individual and group therapy, behavioral therapies, and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment – Guardian Recovery offers dual diagnosis treatment for individuals with substance use and mental health disorders. These programs address both conditions simultaneously and may include medication management, individual and group therapy, and behavioral therapies.
  • Aftercare – Guardian Recovery provides aftercare services to help individuals maintain their sobriety after treatment. These services may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and other resources to help individuals continue their recovery.

Guardian Recovery’s treatment options are tailored to meet each person’s individual needs. They use evidence-based practices and a holistic approach to help individuals achieve long-term recovery from methamphetamine addiction.

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At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of meth detox that focuses on much more than physical stabilization. In addition to emphasizing physical recovery, we tackle mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. While prioritizing a safe and pain-free cocaine withdrawal, we offer individualgroup, and family therapy sessions, case management services, relapse prevention training, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today if you or your loved one is ready to begin an entirely new way of life and commit to long-term recovery. As soon as you call, we start developing a plan of action that begins with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine the most appropriate level of care for each unique case. We identify potential coverage options if our medically monitored detox program is a good fit. We work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation insurance benefit check.

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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.

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  2. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
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  10. https://www.samhsa.gov/meth
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  12. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912a1.htm
  13. https://nida.nih.gov/download/37620/methamphetamine-research-report.pdf?v=59d70e192be11090787a4dab7e8cd390
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4440680/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4164186/

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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:

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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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