Meth Abuse Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Delta Specialty Hospital helps individuals struggling with alcohol or drug addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Memphis, TN, Delta is the preferred provider of substance abuse recovery.

Understanding Meth

Learn about meth and substance abuse

Methamphetamines, more commonly referred to as “meth,” are potent and highly addictive stimulants that affect the central nervous system of the body. Known on the street as “chalk,” “ice,” “glass,” and “crystal,” this drug creates powerful feelings of energy and well-being for the user. Meth is such a powerful drug that many users report getting hooked on meth after their first time using. While methamphetamines, a Schedule II medication, are available by prescription to manage conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, most often methamphetamines are created in clandestine laboratories across the world and sold on the streets. As meth (“ice”) production is particularly dangerous, creating toxic fumes, fires, and explosions, these laboratories, often hiding in plain sight in residential neighborhoods are of major concern to law enforcement and civilians alike.

The substances most often used to “cook” meth are both highly toxic and frighteningly easy to come by. Over-the-counter cold medicine with the medication pseudoephedrine is one of the primary ingredients in illegal methamphetamines. Some of the other common ingredients found in methamphetamines include lighter fluid, battery acid, lye, anhydrous ammonia, ether, drain cleaner, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, red phosphorous, iodine, and brake and engine cleaner.

As is the case with many other illegal drugs such as opiate narcotics and cocaine, methamphetamine is particularly addictive. Available in a white, odorless powder or crystal rock form, the ease of production means that methamphetamine is an extremely cheap way to get high. Most often, people abuse meth (“ice”) by snorting the drug, smoking it, or injecting it intravenously to produce the intense “rush” described by users. The rush is caused by a surge of dopamine and serotonin into the brain and unlike cocaine, the effects can last up to twelve hours. After the high wears off, many individuals report an intense craving for more meth. This cycle of abuse is known as the binge/crash pattern and leaves users up for days on end without sleeping or eating, only to crash after several days. Methamphetamines often utilize more of the body’s resources than it’s able to provide, which is why meth use is synonymous with health-related risks.

Many people who abuse methamphetamines also abuse other substances. Individuals may combine meth with other stimulants such as cocaine or Adderall, to experience an even more intense high. This potent combination of uppers can cause permanent cardiovascular damage, such as a heart attack or stroke. Others combine methamphetamines with downers such as opiates, barbiturates, or alcohol to experience a more mellow high. The effects that methamphetamines have on the brain can lead to permanent damage, especially when used with other types of drugs.

Addiction to methamphetamines can seem like an insurmountable, frightening, and overwhelming burden. It’s time to put down the burden and seek treatment for methamphetamine addiction at Delta. When you’re here, we’ll do everything in our power to help you overcome meth addiction once and for all.


Meth addiction statistics

While once considered a rural problem affecting the West Coast, methamphetamine abuse is becoming an epidemic in the United States and worldwide. Coined “the most dangerous drug in the world,” the use of meth has increased at an alarming rate. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.2 million people (0.4% of the adult population) reported using methamphetamine in the past year; 440,000 (0.2%) reported using it in the past month.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

Methamphetamine abuse often occurs with other mental illnesses. These co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Stimulant abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Opioid dependence
  • Benzodiazepine abuse
  • Schizophrenia

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors of meth addiction

While the precise cause for addiction remains unknown, most researchers agree that addiction is likely caused by a number of factors working together. The most common causes for methamphetamine addiction may include:

Genetic: Countless studies have shown that addiction tends to run in families. Individuals who have a first-degree relative who has an addiction to substances are more likely to develop an addiction themselves.

Brain Chemistry: It has been suggested that certain individuals may be born lacking in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the pleasurable feelings associated with methamphetamine use. These individuals may use methamphetamines to “self-medicate” with methamphetamines to release dopamine.

Environmental: Individuals who are born into a chaotic home in which addiction runs amok are at greater risk for developing an addiction later in life. Additionally, individuals who begin to abuse substances at an earlier age are at higher risk for developing addiction disorders later in life.

Psychological: Some individuals struggle for many years to manage the symptoms of an undiagnosed or undertreated mental illness. These individuals may begin to abuse substances in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and, in turn, may develop an addiction.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

The signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction will vary greatly from person to person based upon genetic makeup, duration of addiction, the amount used, and frequency of use. Signs & symptoms of methamphetamine abuse may include the following:

Mood signs & symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Intense anxiety
  • Labile mood – up one second and down the next
  • Euphoria

Behavioral signs & symptoms:

  • Lying or hiding drug abuse
  • Drug paraphernalia in individual’s belongings
  • Use of the drug despite negative consequences
  • Drug-seeking behaviors
  • Risky behaviors
  • Increased libido
  • Increased risky sexual activity
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
  • Social withdrawal from interpersonal relationships
  • Declining work or academic performance
  • Increasingly disheveled personal appearance
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Increases in physical activities
  • Borrowing or stealing money from loved ones
  • Increased alertness

Physical signs & symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia following a meth binge
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Dilated pupils
  • Severe hypertension
  • Hyperthermia – extremely high body temperatures

Psychological signs & symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions


Effects of meth addiction

Chronic abuse of methamphetamines can cause major problems in nearly every area of a tweaker’s life. From negative health consequences, including death, to homelessness, no part of a methamphetamine addict’s life is free from the consequences of the addiction. Most common side effects of methamphetamine abuse include:

  • Job loss
  • Crumbling interpersonal relationships
  • Damage to brain cells that contain the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine
  • Parkinson’s-like symptoms resulting from brain damage
  • Divorce
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Financial ruin
  • Consequences of risky behaviors
  • Mounting legal problems
  • HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C infections from shared needles
  • Profound confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behaviors
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Skin sores from “meth bugs”
  • “Meth mouth” or tooth rot and decay
  • Damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and other vital organs
  • Infections from communicable diseases
  • Total psychosis
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Increased suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms of meth addiction

The side effects of withdrawal are often what keeps an addict using despite the mounting negative consequences in his or her life. Withdrawal from methamphetamines should be done under the supervised care of medical professionals in a rehab setting that provides around-the-clock care. Most commonly reported withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense craving for methamphetamines
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Fever, chills, and profuse sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hypertension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Respiratory failure
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

The Delta Specialty Hospital staff here did an amazing job helping me understand and overcome many of the underlying causes to my meth addiction. They are always so genuinely supportive and caring.

– Former Patient
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