Methamphetamine (also called meth or crystal meth) is a highly addictive and powerful drug. One of its most dangerous effects is called tweaking. If you or someone you know struggles with meth use, here’s what you should know about this effect.
What Is Tweaking?
The term “tweaking” refers to a set of symptoms that many people experience after a meth binge. A meth binge is a period of time in which someone keeps using meth to maintain the high.
A meth high causes pleasurable feelings like increased confidence, increased energy, and euphoria (intense joy). The drug causes these feelings by increasing the effects of brain chemicals called dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Eventually, no matter how long your meth binge lasts, the high will fade, and you will likely start tweaking.
Tweaking may also occur if you develop a tolerance to meth. That means your body gets used to the drug. You will then need increasingly larger or more frequent doses to feel the desired effects. Over time, the drug will no longer get you high. Instead, it will cause symptoms of tweaking.
In most cases, tweaking causes both physical and psychological symptoms.
The most common physical symptoms of tweaking include:
- repetitive movements
- enlarged pupils
- rapid eye movements
The most common psychological symptoms of tweaking include:
- intense cravings for meth
- anxiety and panic
- mood swings
- irritability and aggression
- trouble sleeping
In addition, tweaking often causes psychosis.
Psychosis is a temporary loss of connection with reality. It can make you hallucinate, which means you see, hear, or feel things that aren’t really there.
Many people who are tweaking hallucinate that bugs are crawling on or under their skin. They may then scratch their skin excessively, leaving sores.
Other symptoms of psychosis may include:
- paranoia (irrational distrust of others)
- delusions (beliefs that aren’t based in reality)
- trouble communicating
- bizarre behavior
Because tweaking can make you feel disconnected from reality, it may increase your risk of harming yourself or others. That’s why it’s important to seek medical help as soon as you realize that you or someone you love is tweaking.
Doctors can ease your symptoms and keep you as safe and comfortable as possible.
How Long Does Tweaking Last?
Symptoms of tweaking typically last a few days. The exact amount of time you will spend tweaking depends on personal factors such as:
- how much meth you used
- how long you has been using meth
- your overall health
Once you finish tweaking, you may feel malnourished and dehydrated. That’s because tweaking makes it difficult to meet your basic needs, including hunger and thirst.
You may also experience a “crash.” A crash is a period of extreme exhaustion following stimulant drug use. Like tweaking, a crash usually lasts a few days. Some people become so exhausted that they spend the entire crash sleeping.
Tweaking & Meth Addiction
Tweaking is often a sign of meth addiction. That’s why people who are addicted to meth are sometimes called “tweakers.”
Meth addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to stop using the drug even if you want to. Along with tweaking, common symptoms include:
- mood swings
- loss of motivation
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- avoidance of family and friends
- secretive or suspicious behavior
- severe tooth decay
When left untreated, meth addiction can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, heart attack, and stroke. It can also wreak havoc on your personal and professional life.
Meth Addiction Treatment Options
Like other diseases, meth addiction requires professional treatment. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with meth, seek help at a drug abuse and addiction treatment program. These programs offer recovery-focused services such as:
- medical detox, in which doctors help you manage meth withdrawal symptoms as you stop using the drug
- therapy, in which a therapist helps you manage cravings and any mental health concerns that may have contributed to your methamphetamine use
- contingency management, in which you receive rewards (such as gift cards or cash) for not using meth
- support groups, in which you can discuss your challenges and triumphs with other people in recovery
- aftercare planning, in which your doctors will help you plan strategies to reduce your risk of relapse, such as ongoing therapy, regular exercise, and housing assistance
Inpatient & Outpatient Treatment
Some treatment programs are inpatient, which means you live at the treatment center and receive 24/7 care. Other programs are outpatient, which means you live at home and regularly visit the treatment center.
In general, inpatient programs are recommended for people with moderate-to-severe addictions, while outpatient programs may work for people with milder addictions. Your doctor can help you determine which option is right for you.
To learn more about treatment options for methamphetamine abuse and addiction, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based outpatient care to help you stay healthy and sober.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Methamphetamine
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Know the Risks of Meth