Meth Addiction | Effects, Signs, Withdrawal, & Treatment

In 2018, methamphetamine overdose deaths increased by approximately 21% in the New England region. Meth has become more available in Massachusetts and is quite cheap, causing a growth in the number of users. Get help for meth addiction today.

Methamphetamine (also called meth or crystal meth) is a highly addictive drug. As a central nervous system stimulant, it causes a rush of energy and euphoria (intense joy). However, it can also make you feel angry, anxious, and paranoid.

Because the drug is so powerful, even occasional meth use can lead to addiction. Like other substance use disorders, methamphetamine addiction poses severe health risks. Fortunately, it’s treatable.

Effects Of Meth Addiction

A person with meth addiction may experience psychological, physical, and social side effects.

Psychological Effects

Meth impacts your brain’s production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that regulates your mood and motivation.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), prolonged meth exposure can damage up to 50 percent of your dopamine-producing brain cells.

Meth’s effects on dopamine can cause a variety of psychological symptoms, including:

  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • increased wakefulness and trouble sleeping
  • poor judgment
  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • aggression and violence

Meth can also cause psychosis, which is a temporary loss of connection with reality.

The most common symptoms of psychosis are paranoia (irrational distrust of others), delusions (beliefs that aren’t based in reality), and hallucinations (sensory perceptions, such as images or sounds, that don’t exist in reality).

Many people with meth addiction hallucinate that bugs are crawling on or under their skin. They may then pick at their skin excessively, leaving scars and scabs. This condition is called “meth mites.”

Physical Effects

Meth addiction takes a serious toll on your body. You may experience:

  • severe tooth decay (also called “meth mouth”)
  • reduced appetite and severe weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack and stroke
  • dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid and/or irregular heart rate
  • convulsions
  • premature osteoporosis (a condition that weakens the bones)
  • damage to the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, or lungs

Meth addiction also increases your risk of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. That’s because meth impairs your judgment, which means you may share needles for injecting meth or engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex with multiple partners. These behaviors pose a high risk of infection.

Also, if you already have HIV/AIDS, meth can worsen the disease’s effects, especially its effects on thinking and memory.

Social Effects

Since meth addiction affects your mood and thinking, it seriously threatens your personal and professional life. For example, you might experience:

  • damaged relationships
  • performance issues at work or school
  • job loss and financial problems
  • trouble with the law

Learn more about the Short-Term & Long-Term Effects Of Meth

Signs Of Meth Addiction

The most common signs of meth addiction include:

  • frequent cravings for meth
  • physical changes, such as weight loss, scabs, and dental problems
  • mood changes, such as anxiety, paranoia, and mood swings
  • tolerance (needing increasingly higher doses of meth to feel the desired effects)
  • physical dependence (feeling unable to function normally without meth)

In addition, if your loved one is struggling with meth abuse, you may find meth paraphernalia (items used for ingesting meth) in their home or car. These items may include:

  • needles
  • syringes
  • glass pipes
  • hollowed-out light bulbs or pens
  • burnt spoons, tinfoil, or aluminum cans
  • cut-up straws

Meth Withdrawal

If you’re physically dependent on meth and stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • extreme cravings for meth
  • anxiety
  • depression and suicidal thoughts
  • loss of motivation
  • dehydration
  • dry mouth
  • extreme fatigue
  • increased appetite
  • excessive sweating
  • shakiness
  • fever
  • symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations

While these symptoms are uncomfortable, they’re usually not life-threatening. In most cases, they start to subside one week after your last dose of meth. However, some withdrawal symptoms may last for weeks, months, or even a year, especially if you don’t receive professional help.

Learn more about Meth Withdrawal

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

Most people with meth addiction need professional treatment at a drug addiction treatment facility. Some people choose inpatient care, which means they live at the center and receive 24/7 supervision.

Other people choose outpatient care, which means they regularly attend the center while living at home. Talk to your health care provider to determine which option is right for you.

Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient care, your treatment team will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. Most treatment plans for meth addiction include medical detox and behavioral therapy.

Medical Detox

During medical detox, doctors will help you manage meth withdrawal. They’ll closely monitor your health and may prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms, such as anti-anxiety medications and fever reducers.

They may also administer intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration.

Behavioral Therapy

In behavioral therapy, a mental health professional will help you identify your triggers (people, places, or other things that make you want to use meth).

You’ll then learn coping skills, such as deep breathing and journaling, so you can manage your triggers without relapsing. You may also receive motivational incentives, such as cash or gift cards, for staying drug-free.

Along with helping you recover from meth addiction, your therapist can help treat any underlying mental illnesses that contributed to your methamphetamine abuse, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Other Treatment Services

Depending on your needs, your treatment plan may also include other services, such as:

If you or a loved one struggles with methamphetamine use or another form of drug use, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our substance abuse treatment programs offer therapy, support groups, and other evidence-based, recovery-focused services.


How Long Does Meth Stay In Your System?

Meth can stay in your system for various lengths of time depending on the amount used and the way the drug enters the body. Meth can stay in your urine for up to one week, in your blood for up to three days, in your saliva for up to four days, and in your hair for up to 90 days.

To learn more, read How Long Does Meth Stay In Your System?

Can You Overdose On Meth?

Yes, you can overdose on meth if you take a dose that is too much for your body. How much is too much can depend on your weight, age, and how long you’ve used the drug.

Learn more about Meth Overdose

What Is Meth Made Of?

To make meth, the “cook” starts with either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Both of these ingredients are decongestants that appear in over-the-counter cold medications and weight loss products. The cook then combines the decongestant with various other substances, including:

  • acetone (found in nail polish remover, paint thinner, and varnish thinner)
  • antifreeze
  • cat litter
  • gasoline
  • isopropyl alcohol (found in rubbing alcohol and various cleaning products)
  • lithium (found in battery acid)
  • red phosphorus (found in matches or road flares)
  • rock salt
  • sodium metal (found in table salt and baking soda)
  • trichloroethane (found in gun cleaner)

Learn more about Meth Ingredients & Labs

​What Is Meth Cut With?

Meth can be cut with fentanyl, baking soda, sugar, MSM, pseudoephedrine, and a number of other products. Impurities like lithium and hydrochloric acid can also end up in meth during production. Ingesting illegally made meth can cause serious side effects.

To learn more, read What Is Meth Cut With?

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