Methamphetamine or meth is an extremely addictive stimulant that can lead to addiction after just one use. That’s largely because it causes a rush of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that causes feelings of pleasure and also affects reward processing, motivation, learning, and memory retention. While the brain naturally produces dopamine, meth causes a much higher spike. In order to continue experiencing those heightened feelings of pleasure, people need to keep using the drug. For those whose loved ones may be using meth, we’ve created this quick reference guide to help quickly identify meth addiction symptoms.

Many people who use meth maintain their high over several days by taking the drug continually. This often results in the development of tolerance, which means they need to use higher and higher doses to achieve the effects they did the first time. Addiction can quickly follow tolerance, and users find it difficult to feel happy if they don’t take meth. 

They may also experience withdrawal symptoms like depression, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia when the effects wear off. Given the discomfort that withdrawal causes, abuse and binging are likely to occur. Cravings, along with fear of withdrawal, mean the individual feels compelled to continue using. This vicious cycle is dangerous.

Methamphetamine can have serious long-term effects on both the mind and the body, and it is one of the most harmful drugs on the market. If you use meth, you need to know about meth addiction symptoms. If you’re concerned that a loved one is using drugs, you need to know both the signs of meth use and the meth addiction symptoms and effects. This is important if you want to get help in a timely manner and return to a healthy, happy, drug-free life.

What Does Meth Do to You Immediately After Use?

Meth can cause a high that lasts for between 8 and 24 hours. If an individual binges, they may stay awake for several days while experiencing a range of negative side effects including:

  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations 
  • Aggression
  • Flushed skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Faster heart rate
  • Muscle twitching
  • Increased body temperature

 

In addition to these effects, meth users are also at risk of overdose every time they use. Taking too much meth can lead to seizures, heart attacks, and heatstroke. If the person doesn’t get immediate treatment, overdose can cause organ failure and even death.

Other indicators of overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Extremely high low blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Extremely high body temperature

What Does Meth Do to You in the Long Term?

If an individual continues to use meth over a long period, the brain begins to rely on it. This dependence can become a dangerous addiction. Long-term use can also result in various physical and psychological issues. Physical problems include:

  • Heart disease
  • Arrhythmia 
  • Rotten teeth
  • Respiratory problems
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Birth defects
  • Reproductive issues

 

The long-term psychological effects of meth use include:

  • Memory loss
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired cognition
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Psychosis

How to Recognize a Meth Addict

Meth Addiction Symptoms

There are many varieties of meth addiction symptoms, and as with the signs of meth use, they can be physical, psychological, or physical. Over time, symptoms often become more pronounced, as with prolonged usage of the drug itself.

Physical Signs

A person who is addicted to using meth won’t be able to hide it forever. Physical meth addiction symptoms often include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Burns, particularly on the lips or fingers
  • Erratic sleeping patterns
  • Outbursts or mood swings
  • Extreme weight loss

Psychological Signs

Meth activates the brain’s reward and pleasure systems through the release of dopamine, and this is one reason why it’s so addictive. However, as we noted earlier, dopamine is also involved in learning and memory. As a result, people who are addicted to meth may display an inability to learn new things, and their ability to remember things may be impaired.

Some also experience psychosis which is characterized by auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. These individuals may also be highly irritable. The intense scratching that people often associate with meth addiction can also result from psychosis. A person who is experiencing meth-induced psychosis may believe bugs are crawling over their skin and they scratch and pick to get relief. This usually results in rashes and abrasions on the skin. If you’ve heard anything about meth side effects, skin irritation was likely mentioned.

Individuals who are abusing meth may also experience what’s known as tweaking. This is when they experience 3 to 15 days of insomnia. Tweaking causes confusion, irritability, and paranoia as well as highly noticeable rapid eye movement. A person who is tweaking may also walk with jerky movements and speak quickly with their words jumbled. They may also be more prone to violence and criminal behavior during this phase.

Behavioral Signs

People usually start out using meth or other drugs recreationally while balancing other aspects of their lives. However, the use of addictive substances can quickly become a big part of their existence. So much so, that they put drug use above everything else, including work, school, and family commitments. In the early stages, some people can hide the fact that they’re abusing drugs, but as time goes on, long term meth addiction symptoms become apparent. 

The person no longer cares enough about what other people think to hide their addiction. All they care about is getting and using more meth. When an individual loses all interest in social and familial obligations and relationships, this is a powerful indicator of addiction. 

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for signs that an individual is crashing. If a person is addicted to meth but they cannot get it, they will crash. The crash phase is a period of one to three days during which the individual experiences extreme exhaustion. They may sleep for long periods and appear depressed. During this time in the life of a meth addict, they will also experience intense drug cravings.

Meth and Meth Paraphernalia

If you’re concerned about another person’s drug use and you don’t want to confront them just yet, you can look for paraphernalia associated with methamphetamine use. Some family members find both drugs and paraphernalia, while others just find the paraphernalia. On their own, these items don’t necessarily mean that an individual is currently using meth or that they’re addicted. However, if you also notice the psychological and physical signs of meth use we’ve discussed, this is a good indicator that the individual is using.

Meth is usually in the form of a crystalline white powder, but it can also be brown, orange, pink, or yellow-gray. It can also be in the form of a pill. Meth is often packaged in self-closing baggies or sandwich bags with a corner cut off and fastened with a twist tie. 

The paraphernalia you may find depends on the method of consumption the person prefers. Meth can be smoked, injected, or snorted. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for a wide range of items including glass tubes, torch lighters, short straws, hollowed-out light bulbs, and aluminum foil strips. 

People who use meth may smoke a pipe with a bulbous tip (often referred to as a ‘pookie’) or put the crushed powder on foil, heat it, and suck the smoke through a tube, straw, or hollowed-out pen. These items tend to have burn residue on them. Individuals who snort may also have straws, hollowed-out pens, or rolled-up bills. Meanwhile, if the individual injects meth, you may find syringes, spoons, and armbands.

Officially Diagnosing a Meth Addiction Symptoms

If you notice multiple signs of meth abuse or addiction in yourself or a loved one, the next step is to get a clinical diagnosis so you can get the appropriate treatment. Meth can quickly take over every aspect of a person’s life. Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), an individual can be diagnosed with a methamphetamine use disorder if they meet more than two of the following criteria within a 12-month period:

  • Spending lots of time abusing meth
  • Using meth even when it’s dangerous to oneself or others
  • Neglecting personal, professional, or academic responsibilities
  • Experiencing social or interpersonal problems because of meth use
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using meth or trying to quit
  • Needing more and more meth to get the same effects
  • Using more and more meth for longer periods
  • Failing repeatedly to limit the use or stop using completely
  • Experiencing meth cravings
  • Giving up other activities in an effort to source or use meth
  • Developing physical or mental problems because of using meth

 

If you or a loved one has two or three of these meth addiction symptoms, your substance use disorder is considered mild. If you meet four or five of the criteria, the addiction is moderate. To be diagnosed with a severe meth addiction, you need to meet six or more of the DSM-V criteria.

Getting Treatment for Meth Addiction Symptoms

Recovering from a meth addiction starts with detoxification. This is the process through which the body rids itself of a substance and gets used to its absence. During detox, individuals usually experience painful and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Since these symptoms can drive them to use again, it’s best to undergo a medically supervised detox. A medical detox program provides patients with round-the-clock monitoring and support from trained professionals. They also have access to medications and other interventions that relieve the worse of the symptoms.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

 

Withdrawal symptoms vary widely from one person to another. The severity depends on several factors, including:

  • How long the individual was using meth
  • How much meth they used
  • How frequently they used 
  • Whether they used other drugs as well

 

Also of importance is which method they used to consume the meth. Individuals who use the drug intravenously tend to experience a longer, more intense withdrawal process as well as more intense meth addiction symptoms as well. .

Meth withdrawal effects typically include:

  • Heightened appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Severe depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tremor
  • Dehydration

 

Typically, the acute physical withdrawal peaks around two or three days after the last use. The symptoms start to lessen after a week. However, the cravings, agitation, mood swings, and sleep disturbances can last for several weeks and depression can go on for months or even a year for some people. Professional support is key.

What Happens After Detox

Detox is just the beginning of the journey towards sobriety. People struggling with addiction need to get to the root of their condition and find strategies for fighting cravings and managing their triggers. This is done through therapy.

Currently, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management have proven to be among the most effective treatments for meth addictions. CBT is a psychological treatment that can significantly improve functioning and quality of life for people struggling with addiction and other mental health disorders. It focuses on identifying and challenging cognitive distortions and behaviors, developing better emotional regulation, and devising coping mechanisms for one’s problems. 

Contingency management aims to reinforce desired behaviours through the use of incentives. The incentives typically include small cash rewards or vouchers for people who engage in treatment and remain abstinent. This behavioral intervention is typically used alongside other forms of therapy. Psychotherapy, family counseling, and other types of treatment are also common. 

Since each person is different, treatment should be customized to their needs. Most people benefit from multiple types of treatment, first in an inpatient facility and then in increasingly less intensive programs.

Reach Out to Find Addiction Rehabs for Expert Guidance!

If someone you know is displaying meth addiction symptoms, you need to talk to them and explain the importance of getting professional help. The same applies if you’re concerned about your own usage. It is never too late to seek help and get on the path towards sobriety. Even people with severe meth addictions can recover with the right help. 

There’s no need to try to overcome a meth addiction on your own. Entering a structured program that offers evidence-based treatment provides the greatest chance of success. If you’re finding it difficult to find a rehabilitation center that meets your needs, reach out to the professionals at Find Addiction Rehabs to get the guidance you need.