Meth Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Causes, Signs & Side Effects

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that is extremely addictive due to the quick acting and highly potent effects it produces. It is also known as meth, chalk, ice, and crystal, among other names.

Understanding Meth Abuse

Learn More About Meth Addiction

When the individual first begins to take methamphetamine, they feel a rush; extreme pleasure, increased activity, loss of appetite, increased talkativeness, and sociability. It comes in the form of white powder that can be snorted, swallowed, smoked or mixed with water and injected. First developed from amphetamine, it was used as a nasal decongestant and in bronchial inhalers. It was soon discovered to have strong side effects that were experienced as highly pleasurable. When it was realized that these effects led to the development of a reliance or dependence on inhalers, sometimes leading to serious damage to the nasal septum, it was taken off the market. However, the word was out and a number of people took it on themselves to determine how to produce the substance themselves through trial and error.

Methamphetamine differs significantly from amphetamine in several ways. At the same dose, methamphetamine is absorbed in far greater amounts into the brain, leading to far more intense effects. It also lasts longer and has more devastating effects on the central nervous system. These effects, and the fact that it is inexpensive and easy to get, make methamphetamine a drug with a high potential for addiction and dependence.

Although initially the effects of the drug may seem uniformly positive, such as increasing an individual’s ability to interact with others, focus on work related activities, and even enhanced creativity – essentially feeling as if life has become more fun all of a sudden, over time negative effects largely replace the positive ones. At some point the individual begins to realize they no longer have an interest in being with friends or family. Their appearance, living conditions, and the things that once seemed important no longer seem to matter. Eventually, when things start going wrong in the individual’s life, they don’t understand how this occurred or what their contribution to their own problems is. This state of affairs frequently causes them to take more, increasing the problems they face. As the drug has become their main means of coping with these symptoms they fail to recognize the extent of their problems. It also becomes more likely they will continue abusing the substance, despite recognizing it is making matters worse, not better. The psychological effects cause an individual to believe they cannot function without the drug. This is the nature of addiction.

Contrary to popular belief, most people addicted to drugs can understand the damage it is doing to their lives and the lives of those they love. However, the characteristics of addiction prevent them from acting on this knowledge in an adaptive manner.

You may be suffering from this conflict right now – knowing your life would be better if you could stop taking meth, but fearful of what life will be like without it. At Park Royal we understand this struggle and can help you begin the journey to a fulfilling and happy life, free from the control of any substances.


Statistics of Meth Addiction

Estimated 12 month prevalence rates for adults in the U.S. for stimulants is .2%. There is a gender difference found for intravenous stimulant use:  3-4 times more likely in males than females. There is no significant difference found between men and women for non-intravenous use of stimulants. Past year prevalence is higher among 18-29 year olds (.4%) when compared to 45-64 year olds (.1%). Among adults in the U.S. rates are highest in Native Americans (.6%) and Alaskan Natives (.6%), lower in Caucasians (.2%) and Hispanics (.2%).Amphetamine abuse is virtually non-existent in African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


Causes and Risk Factors for Meth Abuse

Genetic: Individuals with a first degree relative who has an addiction disorder  are more likely to develop methamphetamine abuse. This effect is particularly strong when the relative was addicted to a stimulant type of substance. Additionally, inherited temperamental qualities lead to the development of various personality characteristics. Certain personality characteristics have been shown to be associated with the development of methamphetamine addiction, including a preference for a high activity level, desire for novel experiences, neuroticism, being less open to others, being less agreeable, and being less conscientious.

Brain Chemicals and Structures: Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, or chemical responsible for communication in the brain, has been associated with the experience of pleasure. Certain areas in the brain produce high levels of dopamine. Methamphetamine stimulates these areas of the brain causing a large amount of dopamine to be released, leading to the registration of a large rush of pleasure in the brain’s reward center. This large increase in pleasurable feelings can become addicting, especially for individuals who don’t experience pleasure frequently.

Environmental Factors: Sometimes we participate in activities we probably wouldn’t otherwise in order to be accepted by a particular group. We may use meth as a way of being allowed to join a particularly desirable group. This doesn’t mean this peer group is necessarily a criminal or gang related group. Often individuals who are working to achieve high levels of success may use methamphetamine to increase their productivity in order to be accepted by a group of high achievers. Other causes of meth addiction may be the result of numerous negative life events that an individual needs to cope with. Some people may feel so overwhelmed they become hopeless about the future and feel unable to alter this accepted outcome. Looking for any possibilities that will allow them to escape from their life for a while, they may discover methamphetamine and when they find that it allows them to avoid reality, will  continue to use it until dependence develops.


Signs and Symptoms of Meth Abuse

There are numerous symptoms that develop as a result of methamphetamine abuse. Some symptoms include:

Psychological/Mood Symptoms:

  • Extreme pleasure and excitation
  • Emotional numbing
  • Paranoid thoughts and beliefs
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tension
  • Anger outbursts
  • Confusion
  • Constant scanning of the environment for danger
  • Compromised judgment
  • Illusions, delusions or living in a fantasy world

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Fixed patterns of behavior
  • Alterations between increased and decreased energy and activity levels
  • Hostility
  • Invading others’ privacy
  • Stealing or lying to obtain drugs

Social Symptoms:

  • Marital Discord
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Interpersonal Problems
  • Failure to remember social engagements or deciding not to go at the last minute
  • Loss of desire for social relationships
  • Desire to be around only those who also use Methamphetamine

Physical Symptoms:

  • Cardiac problems
  • Significant change in blood pressure
  • Chills or Sweating
  • Queasiness, vomiting
  • Decreased appetite with unintended weight loss and possible malnourishment
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Convulsions


Effects of Meth Abuse

  • Impaired memory problems
  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • Difficulty functioning in a timely manner
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Mood disruptions
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Skin Lesions
  • Rotting Teeth and Tooth Loss
  • Undernourishment

Co-Occurring Disorders

Learn About Co-Occurring Disorders

There are several disorders that co-occur with Methamphetamine Abuse.  Some of these are:

  • Other Substance Related Disorders – in particular those that are calming or sedating, to overcome the negative effects of the methamphetamine especially when it is wearing off
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Adult Onset)
  • Cardiac problems due to increased stress on the heart
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Gambling Habit Disorder

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose for Meth Abuse

Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with no longer using methamphetamine include:

  • Psychotic Episodes
  • Severe Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Need for more sleep
  • Enlarged appetite
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Intense, disagreeable dreams
  • Physical and Psychological Cravings
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

Park Royal helped my son defeat his meth addiction. I'm so proud of him and our family is so grateful we chose Park Royal as his rehab facility.

– Johanna R