Signs & Effects of Meth Abuse

Understanding Meth Addiction

Learn About Meth Abuse & Addiction

Methamphetamine, or “meth”, is a potent and dangerous substance. This drug is categorized as a stimulant, as it is effective in heightening the activity of the central nervous system. The category of stimulants include caffeine, prescription medications like Ritalin and Adderall, and illicit drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and of course, meth. Meth is commonly consumed orally, through snorting or smoking, or dissolved and then injected. When consumed, meth brings about extreme pleasure for an individual. This sense of pleasure comes from meth’s ability to increase dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is connected to motivation and pleasure, within the brain. These pleasurable feelings that come from the use of meth can lead to the development of a methamphetamine use disorder. However, despite the possibility of addiction, there are a number of treatment options available for those who have become dependent on meth.


Statistics of Meth Abuse

According to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), roughly 0.2% of individuals ages 12 and older have abused an amphetamine-like stimulant over the past year. In men, intravenous use is three to four times more popular than in women. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) reported data from 2012 that gave a higher estimate, showing that roughly 0.4% of the population (or 1.2 million people) have used meth within the past year.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors of Meth Abuse

As with a number of mental health and substance use disorders, there are a variety of different factors that can impact one’s likelihood of developing a meth use disorder, including:

Environmental: Those who were prenatally exposed to meth or exposed to it during childhood are at a much higher risk of abusing this substance within their lifetime. Additionally, those who were subject to community violence, lived in unstable homes, struggle with mental health conditions, or who remain connected to meth dealers and users are more susceptible to developing a meth use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being around meth dealers or users
  • Having an unstable home environment
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Personal history of other substance use disorders
  • Experiencing community violence
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Impulsive personality
  • Exposure to meth in the womb

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Those who are grappling with meth abuse can experience a variety of symptoms connected to their abuse, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using meth even in situations where use may be physically hazardous
  • Continuing to use meth even though use is having a negative psychological or physical effect on the person
  • Spending a great deal of time using meth, obtaining meth, or recovering from meth use
  • Neglecting social, occupational, academic, or recreational activities or obligations in favor of using meth
  • Using more meth, or over a longer period of time, than a person intends
  • Being unsuccessful in attempts to reduce meth use

Physical symptoms:

  • Experiencing tolerance, wherein a person requires a greater dose of meth in order to achieve a high
  • Abnormally slow or fast heart rate
  • Withdrawal, which are a series of uncomfortable symptoms that an individual experiences when trying to stop use
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Seizures
  • Sweating or chills
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Abnormally slow or fast movement
  • Weight loss

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Cravings for meth
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Continuing to use meth despite experiencing serious interpersonal problems resulting from meth use
  • Irritability
  • Agitation


Effects of Meth Abuse

If an individual’s meth use continues to go untreated, he or she might experience a number of upsetting consequences such as:

  • Seizures
  • Nasal bleeding or irritation
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores (known as “meth mouth”)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Puncture marks or “tracks”
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Engaging in illegal or dangerous activities to earn money to buy more meth
  • Contracting HIV or other sexually-transmitted infections from sharing needs or engaging in risky sexual behaviors while high
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Violent injury from associating with drug trafficking

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Sadly, individuals who have meth use disorder also might struggle with the following mental health disorders:

  • Gambling disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose From Meth

If an individual abuses meth for a long period of time and then tries to stop his or her use, he or she can go through a number of upsetting symptoms as his or her body re-acclimates to the absence of meth. These symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Slowed thought processes
  • Oversleeping
  • Slowed movement
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams

Effects of meth overdose: If an individual consumes more meth than he or she is able to metabolize, then he or she will overdose. Meth overdoses are highly risky and can be deadly. If someone who has been abusing meth begins displaying the following symptoms, he or she should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Coma
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Stomach pain
  • Organ damage

I've struggled for many years with bipolar disorder and began self-medicating with meth in my early 20's. It wasn't until I finally hit rock bottom - losing everything I cared about in my life - that I realized I needed help. Since leaving WTC, I now am getting my life back together one relationship at a time. I cannot thank you enough.

– Alexia M.
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