Methamphetamine Addiction: Rehabilitation, Signs, Symptoms, and Risks


Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po Chang Hsu MD, MS

Updated On: Jan 13, 2024
Last Medical Reviewer On: April 28, 2024
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    Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful stimulant that impacts the central nervous system (CNS). It carries a high potential for addiction and a host of various health issues, from psychological to physical.

    First developed in the early 20th Century (as a derivative of amphetamine)[1], methamphetamine quickly gained a foothold as a street drug over the ensuing years, causing much heartbreak and struggle for wide swaths of the population, both across the US and around the world.

    What is Methamphetamine?

    Methamphetamine is classified as a stimulant, affecting the CNS in a variety of ways. Even in small doses, the drug can rapidly increase sensations of alertness and physical activity and decrease appetite, often giving individuals a burst of energy and a general sense of euphoria.

    Methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine. As a prescription medication, the latter is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unlike amphetamine, Methamphetamine is often illicitly synthesized using various hazardous chemicals, but it is chemically distinct from contaminants like paint thinner or battery acid, which are not ingredients but can be present as impurities.[2]

    Illicit meth use in the decades since its introduction has dramatically risen. Among people aged 12 or older, around 2.5 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past calendar year (in 2021), and around 1.6 million people were estimated to be suffering from a methamphetamine-related substance use disorder.[3] Over 32,000 people died of an overdose involving a psychostimulant that same year, which the National Institute of Health has identified were primarily resulting from methamphetamine.[3]

    According to the DEA Controlled Substances Act, methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled drug. This means that it carries a high potential for abuse and a limited currently accepted medical use.[4] Prescription-based methamphetamine (known as Desoxyn) is considered to be a second-line treatment for ADHD.

    Common street nicknames for methamphetamine include crank, crystal, ice, stove top, and yaba.

    Learn About Other Substance Use Disorders

    Side Effects of Methamphetamine

    The effects of methamphetamine usage can lead to several short and long-term consequences, though their scope depends upon several factors, including the dosage taken, the time period of usage, and the individual.

    Short-term effects can include:

    • Increased energy and alertness
    • Feelings of euphoria
    • A sense of invulnerability
    • Increase in heart and breathing rates
    • Rise in blood pressure
    • Decrease in appetite
    • Paranoia

    Prolonged usage of meth can lead to:

    • Tolerance
    • Irritability
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    • Aggression
    • Cravings
    • Auditory and/or visual hallucinations
    • Open sores (due to constant scratching or picking at the skin)
    • Teeth deterioration

    How is Methamphetamine Taken?

    Methamphetamine can be ingested in several ways:

    • Taken in pill form (typically when prescribed)
    • Snorted (nasal ingestion)
    • Smoking
    • Injection

    While the effects of meth are usually fast-acting upon usage, methamphetamine injection typically results in a very fast high in addition to exposing the person using it to a host of other potential health complications that come along with intravenous drug use.

    Methamphetamine Quick Reference

    Drug Category Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule Administration
    Stimulant Commercial: Desoxyn Street names: Batu, Bikers Coffee, Black Beauties, Chalk, Chicken Feed, Crank, Crystal, Glass, Go-Fast, Hiropon, Ice, Meth, Methlies Quick, Poor Man’s Cocaine, Shabu, Shards, Speed, Stove Top, Tina, Trash, Tweak, Uppers, Ventana, Vidrio, Yaba, and Yellow Bam Schedule II Oral, liquid, smoked, snorted, injected

    Statistics on Methamphetamine Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Over three years, from 2015 to 2018, an estimated 1.6 million adults in the US reported past-year illicit methamphetamine use—52.9% of which qualified for having a stimulant use disorder. Of that 1.6 million, 22.3% reported injecting methamphetamine within the past year.[5]

    Only 12,000 prescriptions were written for Desoxyn in 2015 (according to the DEA), demonstrating how infrequently methamphetamine is utilized within the clinical setting in the present day.[6]

    Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

    The effects of methamphetamine abuse extend beyond damaging one’s physical health; they also profoundly impact mental health and social well-being. Chronic methamphetamine abuse can lead to severe dental issues, weight loss, skin sores, and a heightened risk of contracting infections due to a compromised immune system.

    Moreover, methamphetamine abuse can trigger anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and violent behavior, placing you at risk for several other high-risk behaviors and potentially dangerous circumstances.

    Meth abuse will also often quickly lead to developing a tolerance, which can make stopping usage difficult. There are currently no medications approved specifically for the withdrawal phase of meth use, though a quality treatment provider will be able to provide several other interventions to assist in the detox process, along with potentially prescribing medications to assist in the alleviation of other co-occurring issues or symptomatology.[7]

    Can You Overdose on Methamphetamine?

    Yes, methamphetamine overdose is a real and life-threatening risk. Immediate medical attention is crucial in cases of suspected overdose.

    Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Overdose

    Symptoms of a methamphetamine overdose can include chest pain, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, confusion, seizures, and even lapsing into a coma.

    What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on meth

    If you suspect someone of having a methamphetamine overdose, call 911 immediately.

    Dangers of Long-Term Methamphetamine Use

    The dangers of long-term methamphetamine use can have lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Chronic usage can lead to cognitive impairments, memory loss, and severe dental issues, often referred to as “meth mouth.”

    Additionally, long-term users may experience significant mood disturbances, including anxiety, depression, and violent behavior, and may experience strong cravings to use and extreme difficulty in stopping on their own.

    Mixing Methamphetamine with Other Drugs

    Mixing methamphetamine with other drugs, whether prescription-based or illicit, can significantly increase the risk of negative health effects and overdose. Combining stimulants like meth with depressants like alcohol or opioids can lead to unpredictable and dangerous interactions. While stimulants increase heart rate and blood pressure, depressants can do the opposite, leading to complex effects on the heart and central nervous system (CNS) that can be hazardous.

    Methamphetamine Addiction and Abuse

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) states that an individual may be diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder (of which methamphetamine is included) if they meet at least 2 of the following identifiers within a 12-month period:[8]

    • Methamphetamine is frequently consumed in increasing quantities or for longer periods of time than was originally intended
    • There is a frequent desire and/or unsuccessful attempts to decrease or regulate methamphetamine use
    • Significant amounts of time are dedicated to engaging in activities required to obtain methamphetamine, to use it, or to recover from its effects
    • Cravings to use methamphetamine
    • Ongoing methamphetamine use leads to an inability to fulfill role responsibilities at work, school, or home (such as frequent absences from employment)
    • Persistent methamphetamine use despite ongoing social/interpersonal issues originating from or worsened by methamphetamine’s effects
    • Important recreational, social, or leisure activities are given up or reduced due to ongoing usage
    • Methamphetamine use occurs in situations that pose a physical risk (such as driving a car)
    • Methamphetamine use occurs despite a growing awareness of having an ongoing physical or psychological condition that is likely exacerbated by the stimulant
    • Tolerance, as characterized by either of the following:
    • An increasing amount of methamphetamine is needed to achieve the desired effects
    • A significant reduction in effect with sustained use of the same quantity of methamphetamine

    Is Methamphetamine Addictive?

    Yes, methamphetamine is considered to be a highly addictive substance with dangerous health risks and high overdose potential.

    How Addictive is Methamphetamine?

    Methamphetamine is highly addictive both psychologically and physically. Users of the drug can experience several complications that arise from long-term usage, both of which may necessitate medically assisted detoxification to cease using safely.

    Signs of Addiction to Methamphetamine

    Some of the potential signs of methamphetamine addiction can include:

    • Increased energy
    • Decreased need for sleep or food
    • Fracturing of interpersonal relationships
    • Unexplained sores or major dental issues
    • Compulsive or risky behavior
    • Cravings
    • Potential legal issues arising from ongoing usage

    Cutting Agents Used for Methamphetamine

    Several other products and substances are traditionally used to cut methamphetamine, with MSM, or methylsulfone and dimethylsulfone, being one of the most common.[9]

    Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

    Treatment programs for methamphetamine addiction will normally begin with a medically supervised detox program where a team of medical professionals can treat any severe withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment. From there, patients will usually go on to engage with a residential treatment program to work on learning new skills to continue their recovery process, along with providing treatment for any potential co-occurring disorders and additional medical needs they may have.

    The time and cost of meth treatment will vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the addiction.

    Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

    • Detoxification: A place to safely manage any potential withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.
    • Inpatient Treatment: Residential treatment offers a structured treatment environment designed for individuals dealing with mental health disorders or substance abuse issues. It offers a comprehensive therapeutic experience, allowing participants to engage in various therapeutic activities, counseling sessions, and group therapies. This program is particularly suited for those who would benefit from a distraction-free environment to focus solely on recovery.
    • Aftercare: Aftercare programs offer ongoing support, relapse prevention strategies, long-term counseling, and other resources to sustain long-term recovery after the initial phase of treatment is complete. At many treatment facilities, including Paramount Wellness, aftercare programs are available to alumni participants for ongoing support.

    The overall length and cost of your treatment will vary depending on several factors, including your individualized needs and the treatment provider you choose.

    Therapies Used in Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

    Several different treatment protocols may be utilized in the treatment of meth addiction, which can include:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps people identify negative thought patterns to think more positively and constructively
    • Group therapy: Group therapy allows individuals to process their experiences and gain new insights in the supportive environment of their peers, facilitated by a licensed professional.
    • Holistic Treatment Modalities: Holistic interventions are used alongside standard treatments to support full-body, whole-person healing. These can complement evidence-based treatments like CBT and include practices such as yoga, meditation, music therapy, and physical fitness training. Other modalities like reiki, sound healing, smudging, and Ayurveda are less evidence-based but may offer subjective benefits to some individuals.

    Methamphetamine Addiction and Mental Health

    Methamphetamine abuse can lead to disruptions in one’s overall mood, functioning, and outlook, creating additional vulnerabilities for other co-occurring conditions (such as depression or anxiety) or health issues.

    Co-Occurring Disorders

    Individuals struggling with substance use disorders are also at risk for developing one or more concurrent mental health conditions or chronic diseases.

    Some of the more common co-occurring disorders seen in individuals with a diagnosed substance use disorder include:

    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression, etc.)

    How to Find Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment in Connecticut

    The process of identifying and accessing quality treatment services for meth addiction in Connecticut can be overwhelming, especially when you or a loved one is struggling—but there are several avenues by which to seek help.

    Most substance use and co-occurring treatment facilities accept several kinds of insurance, so it’s always recommended to contact your insurance company about which treatment resources are in-network.

    Additionally, several useful resources can help link you to qualified treatment providers in your area of the state, including:

    Finally, it’s important to research treatment centers and resources by reading online reviews and speaking to potential providers to get a feel for the kinds of services they offer, what kinds of treatment modalities they provide, and how they structure their treatment (both during and after the initial phases) to feel secure and comfortable with taking the best path ahead for you.

    Frequently Asked Questions

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