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How Addictive is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive psychostimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, which is used to help patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. But meth hits the brain much faster with more intensity, and it is often laced with other drugs that make it difficult to determine its potential effects.

Methamphetamine is also known as meth, crystal meth, crystal, blue, ice, and speed.

Over the last decade, crystal meth has increased in popularity in North America as a growing number of clandestine drug labs have started producing it. This mass production is a serious public health, legal, and environmental concern.

Like most substances, detoxing from meth is challenging. Recovering from a meth addiction tends to be even more difficult than recovering from other drug addictions because of how intense meth is. The safest way to recover and cope with the withdrawal symptoms is with help from a professional.

If you or a loved one is struggling with methamphetamine use, seek medical advice immediately. Here’s what you should know to get started.

How Do People Get High on Meth?

People get high on meth for a few reasons and in a few ways. It can offer a form of escapism from reality and give the user a sense of extreme euphoria. But the reality is much darker than it may seem on the surface. Meth use can be deadly.

Meth looks like glass fragments or bluish-white shiny rocks that can be smoked, swallowed (in pill form), snorted, or injected as a dissolved powder. However it’s consumed, a meth high comes on and fades away quickly, which causes people to take repeated doses of the drug. This is called a “binge and crash” pattern of drug use that can easily turn into an addiction.

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What Does a Meth High Feel Like?

Methamphetamine affects the brain by increasing the amount of dopamine it produces. Dopamine affects the body’s movement and motivation, and it reinforces rewarding behaviors. Because of this rapid release of dopamine in reward areas of the brain, meth users are inclined to keep using. 

The different stages of a meth high include:

1. Rush

Meth causes a rush, which is the feeling people get when they first ingest it. This is due to the release of dopamine.

2. High

The high happens when the meth hits the central nervous system (CNS). When the effects of methamphetamine kick in, users will experience a high.

3. Binge

Meth users may binge on meth, meaning they’ll repeatedly use it since the effects come on and wear off quickly.

4. Tweaking

Tweaking refers to the compulsive and disorganized behavior that meth users tend to exhibit after large or repeated doses. This includes erratic physical motions, unpredictable mood swings, and violent outbursts.

5. Crash

The crash is what happens when a meth user comes down from their high. The effects of meth start to wear off quickly, causing unpleasant crash symptoms (e.g., aches and pains, fatigue, depression, and suicidal thoughts). This entices them to use meth again and again.

6. Hangover

A meth hangover is the uncomfortable and even dangerous feelings that occur after coming down from a high. Meth users will typically feel physically and mentally unwell after using. The severity of the hangover depends on how much and how often they use, as well as other health factors.

7. Withdrawal

Withdrawal happens when a drug user is in the process of detoxing. Since they have become addicted to the drug, they may experience adverse effects while weaning off of it.

Several months can pass before the user realizes they are in withdrawal. Once they are able to feel again, they normally relapse. Meth does so much damage. It takes a while for the brain to start healing itself.

8. Other Feelings

People use meth for many reasons — whether it’s to escape reality as a coping mechanism or just to experience a high. Therefore, meth use, the come-downs, and the withdrawal period of recovery may trigger other feelings that are difficult to deal with alone. This is why it’s important to reach out for professional help if you or someone you know suffers from meth addiction.

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You can overcome any struggle – including your substance abuse problem - if you have the right help from qualified professionals. Give yourself the freedom of recovery by turning things around today.

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Dangerous Side Effects of Meth Use

The side effects of meth use range from short-term to long-term:

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of meth use include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased wakefulness
  • Increased energy for physical activity
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tremors
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation

Long-Term Effects

The short-term effects of meth use include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Dental problems (also known as “meth mouth")
  • Intense itching
  • Skin sores
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Anger and behavioral problems
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attack
  • Changes to brain functioning
  • Changes in the brain's dopamine system linked to reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning skills
  • Death

Symptoms of Meth Abuse & Addiction

The symptoms of meth abuse and addiction vary but can be very severe and even fatal. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Severe weight-loss
  • Dental health problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Behavioral problems
  • Sleeping issues
  • Heart complications (which can lead to heart attacks)
  • Neural damage
  • Death

Meth Addiction Treatment & Resources

There are treatment options available throughout the United States if you or someone you know has a meth addiction. The meth withdrawal process can feel scary and may even be unsafe at times. It’s important to reach out for medical help to begin the road to recovery with professional support. Some options include the following:

  • An inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation treatment center
  • Detox support groups
  • A holistic treatment program
  • A faith-based treatment program
  • Therapeutic communities
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Address Your Addiction

Don't let addiction control you. Give yourself the power to get help for your addiction today.

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Resources

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Barr, Alasdair M, et al. “The Need for Speed: an Update on Methamphetamine Addiction.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1557685/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 July 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

“SAMHSA's National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357): SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” SAMHSA, www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.

Related Pages

Crystal Meth: Side Effects, Addiction Symptoms & Risks

Meth Sores

Meth Overdose

Smoking Meth

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