The Signs and Symptoms of Meth Use and Addiction

At the last count, during 2019, over 16,000 people died of meth overdoses in the USA. 

Meth is short for Methamphetamine, which is a powerful, stimulant with highly addictive qualities. It acts on the central nervous system to create feelings of euphoria.

If someone you know is experimenting with this drug, they might play it down as an occasional ‘treat’ or claim they have the matter in hand.

Denial is one of the top defense mechanisms addicts use to convince themselves everything’s okay. Yet, all types of addictions show signs and symptoms eventually.

Here’s how to recognize if someone’s meth use is out of control.

Why Do People Become Addicted to Meth?

Addiction is a complex phenomenon. It’s widely believed that genetics might play a role in shaping the addict’s predilection for overdoing things.

Some schools of thought theorize that an inability to cope with trauma may lead to seeking escape in substance abuse and other behaviors.

So, it’s difficult to say whether people who aren’t engineered for addiction could become dependent on meth. What we do know is that this drug has pleasant effects that could lead people to use it repeatedly.

The Effects of Meth

When you take meth, it causes a range of chemical reactions that affect the brain and central nervous system. 

Meth stimulates the brain to release large quantities of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of euphoria. Other people report that meth dampens their emotions, bringing temporary relief from uncomfortable feelings.

Either way, it’s easy to see why meth users will willingly repeat the experience. 

This sense of euphoria can also create feelings of confidence, power, and productivity in some users. On the flip side, other users may become inexplicably paranoid and fearful.

Some of the side effects of meth include sensations of feeling hot or cold, nausea, and vomiting. However, repeated meth users tend to play down these unpleasant reactions as a small price to pay for the euphoric rewards.

Continued use of meth despite the drawbacks is a sure sign that someone’s becoming addicted. 

How to Tell if Someone’s Addicted

When someone becomes addicted to a behavior or substance, it starts to consume their entire existence. They lose interest in work and their favorite hobbies and spend all their free time finding, using, and recovering from their drug of choice.

They’ll withdraw from family, shirk their responsibilities, and show 

Before long, every addict starts to get into trouble. They might skip work or school or start to underperform. Inevitably, this can get them into trouble with the law or cause them to lose their job. 

Signs of Meth Use

It’s easy to mistake these instances of temperature fluctuations and digestive disturbances for a spell of influenza. However, continued bouts of these upsets can indicate that they have a problem with meth.

Other common physical signs someone is using meth include:

  • Dilated pupils and rapid, jerky eye movements
  • Twitching of the face muscles
  • High temperature and excess sweating
  • Tremors or jerky twitchy body movements
  • Tooth decay and skin sores
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Excessive excitability and excess energy
  • Rapid speech and talkativeness
  • Headaches and insomnia

A doctor can clarify whether these symptoms are due to illness or anxiety, and prescribe an effective treatment. So, a reluctance to visit a health specialist for clarification of these issues is another sign that your friend could have a problem.

Behavioral Signs of Meth Addiction

You might notice unexplained behavioral changes that indicate someone’s addicted to meth too. A meth high produces marked changes in behavior and emotions.

These are:

  • Restlessness or hyperactivity
  • Unpredictable, impulsive behavior
  • Violence and aggression
  • Irrational beliefs and paranoia
  • Anxiety, nervousness, and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleeplessness for days on end

When the high starts to wear off, they might experience crashing lows and feel depressed, irritable, and even exhausted. These high and low reactions become progressively worse and can seem like schizophrenia at times. 

Meth Use Can Cause Psychosis

Tweaking is a common sign of advanced meth addiction. It happens when an addict reaches the end of a meth binge and they’re no longer achieving the high they desire.

They become so desperate for their fix they experience extreme anxiety, paranoia, and insomnia. Lack of sleep and the resultant mental damage can lead to a temporary loss of sanity or psychosis. 

Psychosis is one of the most severe symptoms of meth addiction. It’s also fairly common, about 40% of meth users experience psychosis at times. 

When an addict experiences a psychotic episode, their perceptions and thoughts become distorted.

They struggle to tell what’s real and what isn’t and may hear or see things that aren’t there. They might believe things that are obviously false and have a hard time relating to other people. 

This kind of behavior can quickly cause problems for the addict and everyone around them. They could end up in jail, injure themselves, or lose their job. 

Schizophrenia vs Meth-Induced Psychosis

Meth-induced psychosis is like schizophrenia in many regards, with a few key differences.

People who suffer from schizophrenia experience problems thinking clearly and start to see things differently from before. They might notice things in more detail too i.e. they experience a warped sense of reality.

Those who have meth-induced psychosis hallucinate, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. Those going through either of these psychoses can’t understand why nobody else sees what they do and feel agitated and upset by this.

Physicians can treat schizophrenia with drugs, but meth-induced psychosis is usually a temporary affliction. 

How long does meth psychosis last? There’s no set time frame for a meth-induced psychotic episode, but it usually subsides once the addict successfully makes the break from their habit. 

How to Deal With Meth Addiction

Many of the symptoms associated with meth addiction are simply signs that the addict is withdrawing from their last dose and need another hit.

Prolonged use of any drug, including alcohol, causes physical dependence which means the body and brain start to rely on the substance for important functions.

For instance, constantly using stimulants like meth can disrupt the brain’s ability to maintain consistent levels of dopamine. So when the addict suddenly stops using meth, the brain can’t continue to function normally.

Since many of these withdrawal symptoms can become dangerous if left untreated, all meth addicts should undergo a medically supervised detoxification process. 

Not only is this safer for the addict, but it can also help them stay off the meth when the withdrawal symptoms become unbearable.

Defeating Denial

The first step toward helping an addict is getting them to admit they have a problem. This is a delicate procedure and can often backfire on well-meaning friends and family members who try to help.

Your loved one may turn on you and cut all ties, making it impossible to help them. 

One of the best times to approach an addict is when they’re feeling particularly low after a bender. They’re more likely to listen to reason when it’s obvious that the meth is what’s causing them distress. 

If you decide to stage an intervention, remember this isn’t a time to throw blame and accusations at your loved one. The trick is to take a calm but firm approach and offer solutions rather than allow things to escalate into a conflict.

You can approach a local rehab center or your local branch of Narcotics Anonymous for help and advice for dealing with an addict.

Finding a Suitable Rehab Facility

If you get your loved one to agree to a stint in rehab, don’t think that’s the end of the story. They’ll need your ongoing support if you want them to stick to the program and achieve lasting sobriety.

Considering this, it’s best to choose a rehab center close to home, so you can visit them at the appropriate times and help them if they need anything. 

Although inpatient rehab’s often the best option for those with severe addiction, don’t discount outpatient treatment centers. These facilities suit addicts who aren’t too far gone and are fully committed to their recovery.

A Final Word on Meth

You might wonder why chemists would invent a drug with such terrible side effects and addictive qualities. Yet, like most synthetic drugs, meth use wasn’t always associated with the recreational aspects of this drug.

It originally came about as a treatment for weight loss, narcolepsy, and asthma. During WWII both sides used it to keep troops awake during long-winded confrontations.  

Unfortunately, the news about the euphoric capabilities of meth spread quickly, and the drug soon acquired a large fan base, supplied by a host of illegal meth producers. 

Do you have more questions about health and lifestyle issues? Explore some more of our articles for the information you need. 

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