Meth Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Learn about what meth is, the signs and symptoms of use, and how meth addiction can be treated.
Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this Methamphetamine was developed in the early 1800s and used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. 1
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure, and causing the person to feel energized, talkative, and euphoric. Some side effects of meth abuse can include decreased appetite, paranoia, and irritability.
Crystal Methamphetamine got its name because the drug resembles tiny ice crystals. The drug can be snorted, smoked, or injected. There is an initial rush where the body experiences the most extreme meth symptoms, followed by a high lasting four to sixteen hours. The drug is often mixed with other dangerous substances like codeine or fentanyl, and there is no guarantee the drug is pure Methamphetamine.
Uses of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is categorized as a Schedule II substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and can cause severe physical or psychological dependence. This drug is illegal; however, in the form of the FDA-approved version called methamphetamine hydrochloride (Desoxyn), it is legally available through a nonrefillable prescription. Desoxyn can be used as a temporary aid to decrease appetite in people with obesity and/or binge eating disorder, and it has also been used to treat ADHD. Nevertheless, methamphetamine hydrochloride is rarely prescribed, and when it is prescribed, the doses are much lower than those found in pure meth used by people who abuse the drug.
Recreationally, methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse. Stimulating meth symptoms make people feel less inhibited, more social, more energized, and happier overall. Additionally, the drug may create an increased feeling of confidence, causing the drug to be used as a remedy to cope with mental illness. In all, these pleasurable feelings can lead to an addiction to the substance.2
Symptoms and Signs of Meth Use
The symptoms of meth use can vary depending on the length of the abuse. In the short term, Methamphetamine side effects mostly include:
Faster breathing and heart rate. Methamphetamine causes the central nervous system to ramp up, leading to rapid pulse and faster breathing.
Higher blood pressure and body temperature. Crystal Methamphetamine almost always causes elevated blood pressure along with a rising body temperature, leading to sweating and potential dehydration. The skin may also be flushed.
Irregular heartbeat. Meth abuse can result in an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. The arrhythmia can put stress on the heart, putting individuals with Methamphetamine use disorder at risk for severe cardiovascular damage.
Decreased appetite. Weight loss is common because the drug decreases appetite. Someone who loses weight rapidly or seems never to have an appetite may be demonstrating the signs of Methamphetamine addiction. Extreme weight loss can result in malnutrition and even death by anorexia.3
Warning Signs for Meth Addiction
It’s important to know the signs of meth addiction to help someone with Methamphetamine use disorder. Some common side effects of meth use to look out for include:
Meth addiction causes changes in brain chemistry that result in issues with emotional regulation. Some of these brain changes may reverse after quitting the drug, but studies indicate methamphetamine abuse can cause irreversible damage.
Meth is often used with a glass pipe, which gets hot when used. Repeated contact with the hot pipe can cause sores on the mouth and fingers, which can be painful and cause serious infections.
Changes in Appearance
Meth use can affect appearance by causing increased acne, yellowing or dry skin, and sores on the face and body.
Erratic Sleeping Patterns
Insomnia can be caused by the stimulating effects of the drug. This may result in the person sleeping at odd times and being awake at strange times or for extended periods of time.
Meth is known for its adverse dental effects, including rotting teeth. The harsh chemicals in the drug can eat away at tooth enamel, leading to cavities and decay. Additionally, dry mouth and changes in dental hygiene due to drug use can also lead to rotting teeth.
Outbursts or Mood Swings
Outbursts, anger, and mood swings are all side effects. Acting erratically can be a sign of meth use.
Adverse Effects of Meth
Although some find the effects of Methamphetamine to be pleasurable initially, the adverse effects that eventually happen can be devastating. “Meth mouth” can cause dental damage so severe that it requires tens of thousands of dollars to repair, not to mention the self-esteem issues that can come with extreme dental problems.4
The cognitive damage from crystal meth can permanently damage the dopamine receptors in the brain, leading to the need for larger and larger doses to feel the pleasurable Methamphetamine side effects. Eventually, even very high doses don’t give those effects, resulting in a difficulty to experience pleasure from anything. This is known as dysphoria, and it is often irreversible.
Treatments for Methamphetamine Addiction
A 2012 study revealed that about five hundred thirty-five thousand Americans were estimated to meet the diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence on crystal meth, which makes up a significant portion of the twenty million people ages twelve and up who use illicit drugs. It has also been estimated that around 5% of American high school seniors have used crystal meth.5
Meth is an undeniably dangerous substance, so if someone is dealing with crystal meth use disorder, it’s important to seek help. There are many resources available to help someone recover.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a great option for meth addiction treatment. In CBT, patients learn to spot and correct problematic behaviors by applying a range of skills. It helps deal with addiction because it addresses not only substance abuse but also the co-occurring mental health problems that often accompany substance abuse.6
The Matrix Model
The Matrix Model is a 16-week, highly structured program suited for people addicted to stimulants. In this model, patients learn new skills to prevent relapse, participate in group therapy, and find sustainable ways to maintain sobriety.
Contingency Management Intervention
Contingency management intervention is a treatment that gives patients tangible rewards to reinforce and encourage positive behavior. Incentive-based treatments can be very effective in promoting abstinence and sustaining sobriety.
After-Care and Support Groups
After-care and support groups can also be very useful in substance use recovery. Staying on top of mental health issues can prevent relapse and keep cravings at bay, and support groups can provide the motivation needed to stay positive and move forward.