Signs & Symptoms of Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an extremely addictive stimulant substance that causes a sense of overall well-being by releasing increased levels of dopamine in the brain.

Understanding Meth

Learn More About Meth Abuse

Additionally, this substance blocks a person’s ability to feel pain, which leads to a sensation of euphoria. Meth comes in several forms and can be smoked, inhaled, or orally ingested. When used, the associated high occurs instantaneously and has been known to last up to 12 hours, which makes this drug especially appealing to users. Meth is made with toxic chemicals that cause permanent damage to the body and once a person becomes addicted it is an extremely difficult habit to shake. Treating a meth addiction is possible, but it requires the help and supervision of qualified mental health professionals.


Statistics of Meth Abuse

According to reports provided by the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.2 million people in the United States admitted to using methamphetamine in the year prior to the survey. Of those individuals, 440,000 reported using the drug within the month prior to the survey’s distribution. Slightly more recent statistics show that an estimated 600,000 Americans use meth every week. The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey concluded that 1% of adolescents in the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades were using meth. It is also said that, in the Midwest alone, methamphetamine abuse makes up 90% of all drug cases.

Causes and Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Meth Abuse

The reason that some individuals use meth and quickly become addicted, while others do not, is not very well understood. Yet, it is believed that the development of a meth addiction results from a number of different aspects working together. Examples of these various factors include:

Genetic: Addiction is known to run in families, which means that when an individual’s family member has struggled with an addiction to any type of substance, he or she runs the risk of developing an addiction as well. Additionally, research has shown that variations in the composition of different genes can play a role in increasing or decreasing one’s level of resistance to forming an addiction.

Physical: Once someone becomes addicted to meth, the pathways within his or her brain become significantly altered as the drug induces nerve cell changes. The high that people receive after using meth is the result of an increase in the amount of dopamine that the brain is releasing, which adds to the level of disturbances within the brain’s pathways.

Environmental: Environmental factors play an important role in the development of an addiction. For example, individuals who have grown up with a highly stressful or unstable home life are more at risk for using substances like meth. Additionally, those who have been exposed to meth or have easy access to it are more likely to start using. All of these factors can quickly turn into an addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Presence of mental illness
  • Peer pressure
  • Having easy access to the drug
  • Being surrounded by people who use the drug
  • Exposure to violence
  • Exposure to crime

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Abuse

There are a number of signs and symptoms that may indicate that an individual is abusing meth, however, not everyone will display the exact same symptoms. Factors such as the amount of meth being used, the length of time the drug has been abused, as well as other personal characteristics can alter the symptoms that an individual experiences. Examples of the various kinds of symptoms that may indicate that a person is using meth can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sudden, sporadic bursts of hyperactivity
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Extreme moodiness
  • Doesn’t care about appearance or hygiene
  • Secretive and deceitful behavior
  • Lying
  • Stealing and/or participating in other types of criminal behavior
  • Missing work or school
  • Episodes of sudden, unprovoked aggression
  • Engagement in risky behavior
  • No longer participating in activities once enjoyed

Physical symptoms:

  • Increase in body temperature
  • Tooth decay
  • Scabs and sores on face and arms
  • Facial tics
  • Muscle spasms / uncontrollable twitching
  • Foul body odor
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased blood pressure and/or heart rate

Cognitive symptoms:

  • False sense of confidence
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Extreme confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Having difficulty learning
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Loss of judgment and reasoning
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Excessive agitation
  • Excessive irritability
  • Intense anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Prolonged manic episodes


Effects of Meth Abuse

The long-term effects of meth abuse can cause irreversible damage in many aspects of a person life. The severity of the effects that people usually experience will vary based on a number of different factors, but may include the following:

  • Financial difficulty
  • Damaged blood vessels in brain that can lead to stroke
  • Increased chance for cardiovascular collapse
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Marital problems
  • Destroyed relationships
  • Permanent damage to and weakening of one’s immune system
  • Brain damage, including memory loss and an inability to grasp abstract thoughts
  • Job loss
  • Academic failure
  • Homelessness
  • Legal problems, including incarceration
  • Contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth Addiction & Co-Occurring Disorders

Some individuals who abuse methamphetamines are suffering from a mental illness and may be using the drug as an attempt to help control some of the symptoms they may be experiencing. Examples of different mental health disorders that can co-occur with meth abuse may include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Other substance abuse

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal: When people abruptly stop abusing meth, they will experience a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fearfulness
  • Loss of energy
  • Extreme cravings
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Hyperventilation
  • Suicidal ideation

Effects of meth overdose: Unlike other substances, a meth overdose does not give any immediate signs to the user. This means that someone can take a lethal dosage of meth and not realize that they have done so. An overdose of meth will result in a rapid onset of physiological deterioration that eventually leads to a heart attack or stroke. Since it is such a rapid onset, death occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. Signs that could indicate a person is overdosing on methamphetamine may include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • High temperature
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular collapse

I thought I would drown in my meth addiction, miss out on all my family’s milestones as well as my own. Thank you Sonora for getting me back on track.

– Becky T.