Methamphetamine is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States, with an estimated 13 million active users and over 500,000 people addicted to the drug. Meth is a powerful central nervous system stimulant, causing euphoria, energy, and a high lasting as long as 12 hours. Methamphetamine also strongly affects the mind and body, causing long-term damage in the form of psychosis, physical deterioration, and decreasing physical ability.
If your loved one is suffering from a methamphetamine addiction, there is help. Addiction is a very treatable illness, and one that should be treated as quickly as possible.
Learning more about the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine addiction, how withdrawal works, and what treatment options are available will give you the tools to make the best choices for your loved one.
Methamphetamine Addiction Symptoms
Methamphetamine users show a diverse range of symptoms including use symptoms as well as long-term abuse symptoms.
Is Your Loved One Using Meth? – People often show very noticeable symptoms when using meth. These typically include an increase in energy (over about 12 hours), increased self-confidence, increased motivation, manic or agitated behavior, increased agitation, and paranoia. Users show signs of elevated heart rate and stimulation including dilated pupils, faster breathing, heightened blood-pressure, sweating, irritability, jaw clenching, and sometimes shaking or tremors. Most also have trouble sleeping and may not sleep for days while high on the drug. These symptoms are also accompanied by excitability, violence, erratic behavior, and even violence or anger.
Physical Symptoms of Meth Addiction – Meth addiction can take a considerable toll on the body, with skin sores, yellowing or rotting teeth, rapid weight loss, and repetitive motion such as scratching or tics being common. These signs can be tracked to many illnesses but may also be a symptom of methamphetamine addiction.
Mental Side Effects of Meth Addiction – Meth takes its largest toll on mental health. Users often do not sleep, resulting in paranoia, psychosis, tics, and depression. Amphetamine abusers noticeably suffer from emotional and sensory blunting, where they feel little when not high. This results in depression and even lethargy when not high.
Most users also show symptoms including erratic sleep, rhythmic or jerky movements, increasing paranoia, and psychosis. Hallucinations, delusions, new aspects of personality, lack of pleasure, motor skill impairment, and extreme paranoia are all common.
Withdrawing from methamphetamines can be dangerous and difficult. Methamphetamine affects several parts of the brain, including the dopamine and GABA receptors, with a very long withdrawal period and a risk of seizures. In most cases, withdrawal is divided into three periods:
Crash – Withdrawal begins 12-24 hours after the final dose in the form of a “crash” phase, where the body comes down from the high of the stimulant. This involves depression and severe fatigue, which can result in suicidal ideation. This stage lasts for 3-10 days and progressively worsens over the period.
Plateau – Symptoms plateau after the first 3-10 days, after which users begin to experience intense cravings, anxiety, hallucinations, and paranoia. Here, users are most at risk for relapse, as they are still suffering from the initial symptoms of the crash.
Recovery – Most withdrawal symptoms begin to abate after the first 2 weeks and then begin to taper off over the 4 weeks following that.
Methamphetamine withdrawal typically lasts for 4-8 weeks and sometimes longer. While not typically dangerous on its own, depression, exhaustion, and anxiety can lead to self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and relapse. Having medical supervision during this period is crucial.
Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment
Methamphetamine addiction is treatable through counseling, detox, behavioral therapy, and medication. A range of treatments is often necessary to tackle the complex range of factors contributing to addiction. For example, factors behind addiction often include social conditions, stress, lifestyle, mental health, and economic factors. Seeking out appropriate therapy and counseling as well as stress management and skills training is essential to maintaining long-term recovery.
Most rehabilitation centers offer counseling, group therapy, one-on-one counseling, and often 12-step. Behavioral therapy, which tackles addiction from the approach of what contributes to addiction and how behavior and emotions impact a user’s health and likelihood of relapse, is also important. Some rehabilitation centers also use medications such as Bupropion, Modafinil, and Naltrexone to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms during treatment.
Methamphetamine is dangerous, harmful to long-term health, and often one of the most difficult drugs to recover from. If your loved one is suffering from addiction, it is important that you work to get them help. Rehabilitation offers the treatment and training to help anyone build the tools that will get them over addiction and back to their life.