Meth Effects & Warning Signs

Methamphetamine, often referred to simply as meth, is a powerful drug in a class of drugs known as stimulants. Stimulants increase the activity of the central nervous system and, when used recreationally, can cause powerful feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Meth is normally snorted, smoked, swallowed, or injected, and it produces a high by increasing the amount of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, that are being released in the brain. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of pleasure, and this increase in the amount being released results in the feeling of being high. Because of meth’s ability to cause these powerful and pleasurable feelings, people who use it are at a high risk for developing an addiction.

An addiction to meth can bring an array of negative and possibly fatal consequences. Loss of job, loss of relationships, and even loss of life are all possible. Fortunately, there is hope available for those battling a meth addiction at Keystone Treatment Center.

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Statistics

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have used meth and half of those who use it (the equivalent of about 600,000 people) have used it within the last week. People who use meth are at a four-and-a-half times greater risk of death than their non-using peers. Meth use is also the most common substance use disorder for which people seek help, accounting for 90 percent of drug-related treatment activity.

Causes and Risk Factors for Meth Addiction

Developing an addiction to any substance, including meth, is a complex process and is not the result of any one factor. Instead, an addiction arises out of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. These factors include:

Genetic: A substantial body of research suggests there is a link between genetics and an individual’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. People with family members who use meth are more likely to use meth themselves. Studies of identical and fraternal twins have found that when one identical twin is a substance abuser, the other identical twin has a higher likelihood of using than would be the case with fraternal twins.

Environmental: Along with genetic influences, environmental variables can also affect a person’s risk for developing a meth use disorder. People who are around other meth users are more likely to develop a meth abuse problem. In addition, people who are exposed to chronic stressors, such as poverty, violence, abuse, and homelessness, are more likely to turn to meth. A personal history of trauma, abuse, or neglect also increases someone’s risk for developing a substance use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness or substance use
  • Personal history of mental illness or substance use
  • Exposure to severe chronic stress, such as violence, abuse, poverty, or homelessness
  • Childhood history of abuse or neglect

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Abuse

The signs and symptoms of meth abuse vary depending on one’s personality and length and severity of abuse. Although each person may have different signs and symptoms of meth abuse, the following are some of the most common:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Irritability or explosive outbursts
  • Changes in temperament, such as becoming erratic or withdrawn
  • Lying or stealing
  • Change in relationships
  • Not keeping up with responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Decaying teeth (“meth mouth”)
  • Acne or other skin conditions
  • Sores, track marks, or puncture wounds from injecting the substance
  • Tics or muscle spasms
  • Change in sleep patterns

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor memory
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Poor judgment or decision-making
  • Impulsivity
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Alternating between hypomania and depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Emotional swings
  • Suicidal ideation
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Meth Abuse

Meth abuse can profoundly affect someone’s life in a negative way and, in some cases, can even result in death. The following are some effects of meth abuse if it remains untreated:

  • Loss of job
  • Academic problems
  • Financial problems
  • Homelessness
  • Strain on relationships
  • Isolation
  • Loss of child custody
  • Deterioration in health and physical appearance
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Infection, such as hepatitis or HIV
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Death from suicide or overdose

Co-Occurring Disorders

People who use meth often do so as an attempt to cope with other disorders or stressors. As such, they may meet criteria for some of the following disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of withdrawal: With continued abuse, a meth user’s body becomes accustomed to meth, even to the point of not being able to function without it. Should that person then discontinue the drug, his or her body must undergo an incredibly uncomfortable and possibly dangerous readjustment to operating without it. This process is known as withdrawal, and can include the following symptoms:

  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Extreme cravings for the drug
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Tics and muscle spasms
  • Suicide attempts

Effects of meth overdose: Over time, meth has less of an effect on a person’s body because the person becomes less and less sensitive to it. As a result, someone who uses meth must take more of it to achieve a high. Sometimes this cycle of taking more and more of the drug can result in a person ingesting more of it than his or her body can process, resulting in an overdose. An overdose is a potentially life-threatening situation. If you or someone you know has been using meth and exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Loss of consciousness or coma
  • Death
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