Leah Miller, MHC
More commonly, this drug is used illicitly in forms such as crystal meth.1,2,3 Methamphetamine was originally synthesized from amphetamine in the early 20th century as a treatment for nasal congestion and trouble breathing.1 With the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, methamphetamine, as well as other stimulants amphetamine and cocaine were placed on Schedule II as drugs with a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe physiological dependence.
The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 2 million Americans 12 years or older used methamphetamine in the past year, making it the second most commonly used illicit stimulant.3
Meth use, like other amphetamines, results in increased activity, decreased appetite, enhanced sociability and talkativeness, and can induce feelings of pleasure and a sense of well-being. A key difference between meth and amphetamines, however, is that greater amounts of the drug pass into the brain when compared with a similar dose of amphetamines, making it a more potent stimulant.
When the drug is smoked or injected, the effects are felt extremely quickly; causing an immediate and intense, but short-lived, rush.1 Snorting or oral ingestion produces effects of euphoria within several minutes but not an intense rush.
These pleasurable effects last longer than cocaine but are still somewhat fleeting, and users often try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug, sometimes foregoing food, sleep and other responsibilities as they binge on the drug over several days.4
Taking meth causes an increase in levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that plays an important role in motivation and the reinforcement of rewards.1,2
Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result
Using meth can result in dependence and addiction, and can be harmful to your body and mind over time.1,2,5 It creates changes in the brain that can endure for long periods of time—and may be only partially reversible.1,2 Effects of chronic meth use can include:1,2,5
Only a physician can diagnose a substance use disorder, but there are various signs, symptoms, and side effects of meth use. To be diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder, you would have to demonstrate at least 2 of the following symptoms within a 1-year period:5
There are some signs of a meth addiction to be aware of if you are worried that you or someone you care about might have an issue with meth. These can include:5,6
High doses and chronic use of meth are associated with two long-term mental health concerns: anhedonia and psychosis.1,3,5,7
Anhedonia is a diminished interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable or rewarding activities.8 It has been theorized that changes in the pleasure and reward centers of the brain as a result of meth use may play a role in protracted anhedonia in former meth users.7
Meth use can also result in psychotic symptoms and drug-induced psychosis, with studies suggesting that those who use intravenously or have a family history of psychosis are at heightened risk.1,5,9 Although psychiatric symptoms typically resolve themselves within a week of abstinence, for some these symptoms may last long after using and may recur in times of stress.1 Signs of psychosis can include:1,2,5
Various forms of effective treatment are available to those with an addiction to meth, and the best meth treatment options depend on each individual.10 The majority of people who are addicted to meth will go through withdrawal, and detox is from meth is a first step prior to treatment.3,5,10 Stimulant withdrawal is typically less physically dangerous than withdrawal from some other substances, such as alcohol, opioids, and sedatives.3 However, methamphetamine withdrawal can produce seizures in some people. Other potential dangers include suicidal ideation and the risk of overdose upon relapse.3
It generally takes about a week for these symptoms to go away, but the timeline for each person’s withdrawal symptoms may vary.3,4,7 Detox should be followed by other forms of treatment that address the behavioral and cognitive issues associated with addiction.7
Treatment can take place in several different settings.7,8 Inpatient rehab or residential treatmentoccurs when you stay at a facility around the clock while receiving counseling and support. Outpatient treatment allows you to live at home and attend pre-scheduled appointments with varying levels of intensity, depending on your needs and progress in treatment.10,11
Yes, plenty of meth rehab centers accept various forms of in-state and out-of-state insurance plans. To find out whether or not your insurance will cover the full or partial cost of your treatment, simply provide your insurance information in the form below and an American Addiction Centers admissions navigator will inquire on your benefits.
Behavioral therapy is effective in treating meth addiction.1,2 Some behavioral therapy techniques that are commonly used in treatment may include:1,2,10