Meth Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

Meth addiction can rob you of your health, your dignity, and your hope for a better tomorrow. At Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you will reconnect with your best self, and begin to build the foundation for a more promising future.

What is Meth Abuse?

Learn More About Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine is an extremely potent stimulant that has strong effects on the central nervous system. Developed from amphetamine, methamphetamine has similar effects including increased sociability, sense of self-confidence and self-esteem and a euphoric mood. However, the amount of the drug that reaches the brain is significantly greater than when the same amount of amphetamine is taken. It is also longer lasting and is more damaging to the central nervous system than amphetamines. By the time the negative effects have become evident however, the person has become addicted and developed a serious problem with tolerance such that they are taking much larger amounts than when they started taking the substance. This means that even when someone realizes they need to stop taking the substance due to the serious health effects they are experiencing, they have difficulty committing to this goal or seeking help due to the reluctance to lose whatever positive effects remain and the fear of withdrawal symptoms.


Statistics on Meth Abuse

Lifetime prevalence rates for methamphetamine use in those aged 18-25 was estimated at 3.4% while estimates for ages 26 and older was 5.3%. Incidence rates for new cases diagnosed in the past year for those aged 18-25 was .7% while for those ages above 25 was estimated at .4%. No gender differences have been reported.


Causes of Meth Abuse

Genetic Factors-

  • Heritability Individuals who have first degree relatives with an addiction disorder are more likely to develop a methamphetamine use disorder. This is particularly the case when the relative was addicted to a stimulant type of substance. The highest rates of genetic inheritance are, not surprisingly, found in individuals who have a first degree relative with a methamphetamine use disorder.
  • Personality –Inborn temperamental qualities are the building blocks of personality characteristics. Certain personality characteristics are more likely to be associated with the development of methamphetamine abuse than others. For example, those who have a preference for a high activity level, novel experiences, more neurotic, less open to others, less agreeable and less conscientious. Initially, methamphetamine can help individuals with some of the less desirable characteristics.

For example, at low to moderate doses it can increase conscientiousness, attention to detail and the ability to concentrate. It can also improve mood to the point that people feel more comfortable around others and thus, be more open in social interactions and more agreeable. This reinforces use of the substance, however, as tolerance develops and more of the substance is needed to achieve the desired affects, the individual begins to experience more negative effects than positive ones. Over time negative personality changes often occur leading the individual to become increasingly destructive, and potentially aggressive.

Brain Chemicals and Structures– There is a specific neurotransmitter (a chemical involved in neural communication) in the brain that when released results in an upsurge of pleasure. Specific areas in the brain have structures responsible for high levels of dopamine production. Methamphetamine has a strong effect on these areas of the brain and causes a large amount of dopamine to be released, resulting in the reward center registering a large rush of pleasure. We all enjoy feeling pleasure and it is understandable why for some individuals this large increase in that feeling can become addicting.

Environmental Factors

  • Peer Pressure – We all want to fit into a social group and be accepted by our peers. Sometimes we may be willing to do things we otherwise wouldn’t in order to continue to belong to a particular group. Depending on the peer group we want to belong to, we may develop the belief that methamphetamine use allows us to become part of a particularly desirable group. This peer group isn’t necessarily a negative or for example, gang related group. Often times, those who are striving to achieve high levels of academic or other types of success may take methamphetamine to become part of a group of high achievers and maintain their status within the group.
  • History of Unhealthy Life Experiences – We want to feel good emotionally and physically in our lives, however some of us aren’t raised in situations where we learn the skills and coping abilities to make this a reality. Thus, we may find ourselves in a chronic state of pain throughout our lives. Having no other way to cope we often struggle through unhealthy alternatives. Drawn to people with similar life experiences who may have discovered the perceived positive effects of methamphetamine on their mood and physical functioning, many are tempted to try the substance, feeling they have nothing to lose. When they discover how methamphetamine takes away the pain they are feeling for brief periods of time they are predisposed to continue using it to prevent their emotional and physical distress from returning. Even though over time methamphetamine is more likely to numb all emotions than to continue producing positive emotions, numb is perceived as still being an improvement over the pain and distress they previously experienced.
  • Negative Life Events – Some people experience numerous negative life events and either never developing the ability to cope with such events or there are simply too many occurring in too short a period of time thus, overwhelming the individual. For some people, it feels as if they simply can’t get out from under all these negative events and become hopeless about the future. They seek out any potential means to escape from their life for a while. Methamphetamine allows them to do this and prevents them from needing to learn alternate strategies to cope with life.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Meth Abuse

A number of disorders co-occur with methamphetamine abuse disorder. These include:

  • Other Substance Related Disorders – in particular those involving sedating properties used to overcome the negative side effects of the methamphetamine
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Adult Onset)
  • Gambling Disorder
  • Cardiopulmonary problems may occur due to the increased stress placed on the heart

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Abuse

There are numerous symptoms that develop as a result of methamphetamine abuse.

Psychological/Mood Symptoms

  • Euphoria
  • Emotional blunting
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Impaired judgment
  • Illusions or delusions in the absence of delirium

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Stereotyped Behavior
  • Increased or decreased energy and activity level
  • Aggression

Social Symptoms

  • Interpersonal Problems
  • Divorce
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Loss of desire for social relationships

Physical Symptoms

  • Heart problems
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Perspiration or chills
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of appetite with significant weight loss and possible malnutrition
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures

Effects of Methamphetamine Use Disorder

  • Short term and long term memory problems
  • Inability to experience emotions
  • Inability to function in a timely manner
  • Significant anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Violent behavior
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Skin Sores
  • Tooth Decay and Tooth Loss
  • Malnutrition


Withdrawal Symptoms of Meth Abuse

The withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of methamphetamine include:

  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Increased appetite
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Vivid unpleasant dreams
  • Cravings
  • Increased agitation or motoric retardation

Due to the intense pleasurable rush experienced from the very first time it is used often leads to addiction developing very rapidly. At Blue Ridge we understand how difficult it is to give up this substance. Our experienced, well trained and compassionate staff are committed to being there when you need them and understand the doubts you may feel and re-experience during treatment. We are here to help.

Blue Ridge is a wonderful place! They saved my husband's life and helped give him a fresh start.

– Abigail
Marks of Quality Care
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • PsychArmor
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)