Meth (Methamphetamine) Addiction

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Meth (methamphetamine) is a potent synthetic stimulant, and meth addiction is a significant concern in the United States.

If you become addicted to meth, this can bring about severe long-term complications, both psychological and physical. Meth abuse is not only dangerous, but it can also be life-threatening.

Learn about the signs and symptoms and discover how to connect with evidence-based meth abuse treatment in Ohio.

What is Meth (Methamphetamine)?

Meth is an addictive stimulant that impacts the CNS (central nervous system). Methamphetamine comes in the form of a white crystalline powder that tastes bitter and dissolves in alcohol or water.

The substance was developed in the early 1900s, derived from amphetamine and used in nasal decongestants and inhalers. In the same way as its parent drug amphetamine, meth causes effects that include:

  • Euphoria
  • Talkativeness
  • Increased activity
  • Appetite loss

If amphetamine and methamphetamine are taken in similar doses, far more methamphetamine penetrates the brain, meaning that meth is a more potent stimulant than amphetamine. The potency of methamphetamine means it has high potential for widespread abuse.

The DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) categorizes methamphetamine as a Schedule II controlled substance. As such, meth is legally available only with a supporting and nonrefillable prescription. The substance may be prescribed to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and as a short-term weight-loss aid. These applications are limited and seldom prescribed. If meth is indicated for these treatments, prescribed doses are normally much lower than doses of meth in instances of abuse. Meth, like all Schedule II controlled substances, has the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.

Is Meth Addictive?

In the most recent data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health),

2.5 million people in the U.S. reported past-year meth use. Among those, 1.6 million had a diagnosable meth addiction in the same year, illustrating the highly addictive nature of this substance.

When you ingest meth in any form, it triggers the over-release of dopamine while at the same time preventing the reuptake of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger – that is associated with pleasurable feelings and sometimes informally known as the feel-good chemical. Dopamine floods the system with an intense euphoria and a surge of energy, boosting self-confidence and sociability. 

Dopamine plays a crucial role in reward and motivation. The euphoric rush provoked by methamphetamine occurs as the nucleus accumbens – the reward center of the brain – becomes saturated with this feel-good chemical. A desire to recreate this surge of euphoria is what underpins most instances of meth abuse.

Chronic abuse of methamphetamine can lead to an accumulation of dopamine in the brain and significant changes to brain function. Over time, the brain becomes unable to experience pleasure without meth – a condition known as anhedonia.

Additionally, meth adversely impacts areas of the brain responsible for emotion and memory. Long-term meth abuse may trigger emotional and cognitive difficulties, as well as meth addiction (stimulant use disorder).

Some changes brought on by long-term meth abuse may persist long after you stop using the substance, and some changes may be irreversible.

How Addictive is Meth?

When you ingest methamphetamine, the wave of pleasure and euphoria triggered is intense but fleeting – much more concentrated than a cocaine high. This prompts powerful cravings to recreate the feeling by using more meth. Giving in to this abusive pattern of consumption can easily lead to the formation of tolerance and physical dependence, often followed by addiction.

Studies show that addiction to meth can develop more rapidly than addiction to many other substances of abuse.

Signs of Meth Addiction

The signs of meth addiction will differ depending on the individual, the scope and duration of meth abuse, and the route of administration. 

These are some of the most common physical signs of meth addiction:

  • Flushed skin
  • Itchiness
  • Acne
  • Uncontrollable twitching
  • Raised body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Damage to teeth and gums
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Bruised or scabbed skin

If you find that tolerance to meth is building, so is the likelihood of addiction. Taking more meth to counter tolerance initiates an abusive pattern of consumption that will speed up the development of physical dependence. If withdrawal symptoms manifest when the effects of meth wear off, you are physically dependent on the stimulant.

Meth Abuse Symptoms

The most reported psychological symptoms of meth abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperactivity
  • High energy levels
  • Increased alertness
  • Enhanced sex drive
  • Increased sociability, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Obsessive behaviors
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Psychosis

The most reported physical symptoms of meth abuse include:

  • Rotten teeth (meth mouth)
  • Facial sores
  • Acne
  • Emaciated body
  • Liver damage
  • Droopy skin
  • Intense scratching
  • Weakened immune system
  • Stroke
  • Convulsions

Meth addiction is clinically described as stimulant use disorder. The symptoms of meth addiction are outlined in DSM-5-TR, the fifth revised edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as follows:

  1. Are you using meth in potentially hazardous situations?
  2. Is your meth use causing you to neglect personal or professional commitments?
  3. Are you experiencing problems in your personal relationships due to meth use?
  4. Have you reduced the time spent on activities you once enjoyed because of meth use?
  5. Do you require more meth to achieve the same effects?
  6. Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms when not using meth?
  7. Do you exceed the intended duration or quantity of meth use?
  8. Have you attempted and failed to quit or control your meth use?
  9. Do you devote significant amounts of time to meth use and recovery?
  10. Despite developing physical or psychological issues, do you continue to use meth?
  11. Have you encountered intense cravings for meth?

Meth addiction is diagnosed as mild (2 or 3 symptoms), moderate (4 or 5 symptoms), or severe (6 or more symptoms).

Meth Addiction Treatment at Ohio Community Health

While there are currently no medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of meth abuse and addiction, we can help you combat methamphetamine addiction at Ohio Community Health.

We specialize in the intensive outpatient treatment of stimulant use disorders like meth addiction. We also offer integrated dual diagnosis treatment for those battling addictions with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Engage with individualized treatment that combines psychotherapy, counseling, motivational therapies, and holistic therapies. All Ohio Community Health meth addiction treatment programs also include a comprehensive aftercare component to promote your sustained sobriety.When you are ready to move beyond meth addiction, call 513-757-5000.

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