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Meth Addiction, Symptoms, & Treatment

Updated 27 October 2022 Written by Deborah QuinnClinically Reviewed by Sarah Fletcher, LPC, LAC
A stressed teenager supporting his head with his hand, thinking

Methamphetamine (Meth) Treatment

Methamphetamine was created in the early 1900’s and used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from asthma to depression. It was sold over the counter in various forms until 1970 when it was declared a Schedule 2 banned substance by the DEA.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant similar in structure to amphetamines. Some other names for methamphetamine include: Meth, crystal, chalk, ice.

In powder form, it is white and odorless, although it can also be found in a colorless crystal form. It is often smoked or mixed with water or alcohol and injected.

Over 12 million people(4.7 percent of the population) have tried meth at least once

Signs of Meth Use

Some signs of methamphetamine use can include:

  • Finding glass pipes and/or foil
  • Finding needles and other injection paraphernalia
  • Sores on the skin from picking or scratching
  • Burns on the lips or fingers from a hot pipe
  • Erratic behavior

Effects of Meth on the Brain

Methamphetamine acts on the brain’s reward circuit by triggering the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine at extremely high levels. Dopamine is involved in the experience of pleasure, reward, motivation, and motor function. The release of excessive amounts of dopamine causes the rush of euphoria that characterizes the methamphetamine high.

The high is short-lived, often causing users to seek repeated doses, causing a “binge and crash” cycle.

Short-term Effects of Methamphetamine Use

Similar to cocaine or other stimulants, even small doses of methamphetamine can cause the following symptoms:

  • Extreme wakefulness and energy
  • Increased heartbeat and respiration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased physical activity

Meth use can also cause visual and auditory hallucinations, such as the sense that there are bugs crawling beneath the user’s skin. This leads to the scratching and picking often associated with meth use.

Meth powder on table with plastic bag and a small pipe

Long-term Effects of Methamphetamine Use

The long-term effects of chronic meth use are devastating and can include:

  • Destruction of teeth and gums
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Psychosis, even when not using the drug
  • Decreased motor skill
  • Memory loss
  • Increased anxiety, confusion, and mood disturbances

There is also an increased risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections. There is evidence that methamphetamine use speeds the progress of HIV.

Methamphetamine & Adolescents

Because adolescents’ brains are still developing into their mid-20s, they are at increased risk of developing long-term complications from meth use. Due to increased risk-taking behavior, they may also be at greater risk for experimenting with a substance like meth.

It is important to educate teens and young adults about the dangers of methamphetamine. Teens may also mistakenly take methamphetamine, not realizing that other drugs, such as Ecstasy, are laced with the substance.

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

If you suspect that your loved one may be using methamphetamine, it is crucial to seek help immediately. We have a full continuum of care including medical detox, residential treatment, day treatment and intensive outpatient programming. With a clear picture of what is going on, we can help your loved one get the treatment that they need. Recovery is possible. Reach out today.

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Online Treatment Programs

Our virtual IOP program offers the same programming that we offer in person, all online – this is ideal for those who live too far to drive to an addiction center, have transportation issues, or have health concerns that make in-person treatment challenging.

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We’re available 7 days a week to help answer any questions you may have.