Methamphetamine Addiction—Abuse And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 21, 2020

Methamphetamine addiction can result in long-term damages to a person’s physical and psychological health, including the risk of overdose. Meth addiction treatment works to restore physical and psychological health, teaching individuals ways to modify behavior and change lifestyles for a lasting recovery.

Methamphetamine Addiction And Treatment Options

Methamphetamine addiction occurs when an individual abuses meth until they become preoccupied with the use of the drug, seeking and using it in spite of any harmful consequences.

While methamphetamine is a prescription drug that can be used in surgeries and other medical procedures, illicit use of illegally produced meth has been on the rise in recent decades.

Those who abuse meth are at risk of quickly developing an addiction to this highly addictive drug. Treatment for methamphetamine addiction can help individuals quit use of meth, modify their behavior for a sober lifestyle, and find support in recovery.

What Is Methamphetamine And How Is It Abused?

Methamphetamine, also called meth, is both a prescription stimulant drug (Desoxyn) and an illegally produced street drug of abuse.

Because the prescription form of methamphetamine is only used in hospitals, it is not prescribed for everyday use. Most meth found on the streets has been produced in homemade labs, making it low in purity and unsafe for use.

Methamphetamine is usually made into a pill and taken orally or a powder and snorted or dissolved into a solution.

Crystal meth, a solid form of the drug, can also be smoked. Those who use meth this way usually inhale its vapors for quick absorption into the bloodstream and a rapid onset of effects.

How Does Meth Abuse Lead To Addiction?

Meth is very addictive, so abuse of it can lead to addiction with just a few uses. Methamphetamine works like other stimulants, disrupting the brain’s natural production of feel-good chemicals like dopamine.

Increasing dopamine levels, meth makes the person using it feel more energetic, happy, alert, and focused.

This creates a positive response within the body. Not only does the brain react well to this feeling, with time the brain will come to rely on meth to produce feelings of happiness and pleasure, a mental reliance commonly known as addiction.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meth Addiction

The first signs and symptoms of meth addiction are signs of abuse, which include initial side effects of the drug: euphoria, bouts of energy, and increased focus. Many people abuse meth in order to experience these effects.

Recognizing bursts of energy or enhanced focus for those who don’t usually have these characteristics can be a sign of methamphetamine abuse.

Addiction to meth will change a person’s behavior, emotional state, and physical health as well.

Other signs and symptoms of a meth addiction include:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • psychosis

Because meth abuse leads to psychotic symptoms, having a meth addiction can lead a person to become violent and act out in aggressive ways, resulting in behavioral changes.

Why Do People Abuse Methamphetamine?

People abusing methamphetamine are typically seeking the drug’s more common side effects, like an increase in energy—people may abuse meth to stay alert. They may believe it enhances their focus, making them feel more confident.

Meth is a drug which leads to lack of appetite, so some people may continue to abuse it to keep weight off. Meth binges can lead to days of lasting side effects, including no sleep, no appetite, and ongoing alertness.

Others may abuse meth alongside other drugs, such as other depressants like alcohol or heroin, looking for combined effects.

Side Effects Of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine is one of the most harmful illicit drugs, especially to a person’s long-term health. Meth affects all aspects of a person’s health and the more a person abuses meth, the more damaging side effects can be.

Side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:

  • appetite suppression
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • extreme itching
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • increased energy/physical activity
  • mouth and teeth damage (“meth mouth”)
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid or irregular heart rate
  • sores, scratching, and scarring of the skin

Risks Of Long-Term Meth Abuse

Some changes to health from meth abuse can lead to real risks for a person’s long-term well-being.

Continued meth abuse can affect a person’s decision-making and judgment skills. This means a person may take more risks, engage in dangerous behavior, or do things they wouldn’t normally do. Consequences can result, which can last longer than an addiction.

Long-term meth abuse can also alter the way a person’s body produces dopamine. Because dopamine is essential to both physical and mental health, interfering with dopamine production can be damaging.

Long-term effects due to these changes can include impact on coordination and verbal learning. A person may experience drastic cognitive and emotional changes also as a result of dopamine changes.

For those with HIV/AIDS, meth abuse can cause the disease to progress more quickly, leading to a snowball effect of health consequences.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meth Overdose

Methamphetamine abuse can also lead to meth overdose, one of the greatest dangers associated with the drug.

Meth overdose signs and symptoms include extremely increased body temperature, breathing and heart rates, and blood pressure. A person experiencing meth overdose will also be more likely to experience a stroke, seizures, or heart failure.

Even if a meth overdose does not lead to fatal results, organ damage can occur from the body overheating. It’s important that any meth overdose is treated right away.

Meth And Polysubstance Abuse

Taking meth in combination with another drug (or alcohol) is considered polysubstance abuse. Often times, combining meth with other drugs of abuse can have devastating effects on the user.

Some common effects of taking meth with another drug include:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • cognitive impairment
  • manic euphoria

Learn more about the dangers of methamphetamine and polysubstance abuse by reading the article below:

Treatment Programs For Meth Abuse And Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s life, affecting their physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being.

The best treatment programs for methamphetamine abuse and addiction involve integrated treatment, which works to address all aspects of a person’s health impacted by addiction.

Residential Treatment For Meth Abuse And Addiction

Residential treatment programs may be the most effective form of treatment for meth addiction, as it allows a person to become completely immersed in treatment and recovery support.

Here, individuals can undergo behavioral therapy, learning new ways to handle destructive thought patterns and modify behavior to stop the use of meth.

Individuals also learn new constructive ways to pass time and engage in a sober lifestyle within inpatient (residential) treatment. This is important for those addicted to illicit drugs like meth.

For those who need it, medically assisted detox programs are also available to treat meth addiction. These help individuals rid their bodies of toxic chemicals from meth so they can begin healing physically.

Read more about detoxing from meth

Continuing Care For Meth Abuse And Addiction

Because meth addiction can have such a deep impact on a person’s life, continued care is equally as important to recovery as an initial treatment program.

Many outpatient programs exist for the treatment of meth abuse, such as intensive outpatient programs, sobriety sponsors, and support groups.

Freedom from meth addiction is within reach, and it begins with the right addiction treatment program to help an individual begin recovery. For more information on methamphetamine addiction or abuse, or to learn about treatment options, contact us today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 21, 2020


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