Methamphetamine Addiction

What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?

Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that takes the form of a white, odorless powder. Meth is the most common name for methamphetamine but it is also known as crystal, chalk, and ice. It can be abused in several forms including orally, smoked, snorted or dissolved. Methamphetamine’s effects happen quickly, creating an intense high that fades fast. This results in repeated uses to try to achieve the same result.

Methamphetamine sometimes has medical merit as a treatment for ADHD and other conditions, but in these cases it is prescribed at a very low dose. It is prescribed by doctors rarely because of the high potential for abuse.

What are the symptoms of methamphetamine use?

Methamphetamine increases the levels of dopamine in the brain, leading to immediate feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Methamphetamine’s intense reaction is sometimes called a “flash” or a “rush” and trying to achieve the same level of reaction leads to addiction.

There are many physical symptoms of taking meth:

  • Increased wakefulness
  • Increased physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

People addicted to meth also exhibit physical symptoms that are more visible on the body and are harder to cover up. These symptoms include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • Skin sores caused by scratching

Excessive meth leads to harmful and disruptive mental symptoms. These conditions can alter judgement and inhibition and can lead people to make risky decisions.
Some of these symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Delusions

Health Risks

People who abuse methamphetamine have a high risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These dangerous diseases can be easily passed through unsanitary needle use and through unprotected sex. Continuing to abuse methamphetamine after contracting HIV/AIDS, can result in the faster progression of its consequences.
For more information on the risks of contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS through substance abuse, visit AIDS.gov.

Treatment Approaches

Although there are medications that exist that treat the surface causes of addiction, there are no medications that treat the effects of meth or that keep people from using the drug. The best treatment option for someone with a methamphetamine addiction is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy programs focus on identifying causes of addiction and modifying an addict’s lifestyle and environment to dissuade the person from using again.
Below are some examples of behavioral therapy programs:

      • The Matrix Model: This 16-week behavioral therapy treatment combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing and encouragement. This combination of therapies is very effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.
      • Motivational Incentives: Programs use motivational incentives to keep patients on right path and in treatments. The incentives are prizes or vouchers that are rewarded to patients as they reach sobriety milestones in their therapy. Patients are given urine tests that determine if they have maintained sobriety. The prizes are usually points or chips that can be exchanged for more valuable things. This approach is widely used in therapies and rehabilitation centers and has been proven very effective.
      • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This therapy is most helpful when used alongside other methods. This method helps prevent relapse by educating the patients on addiction and helping them identify the triggers in their lives that lead them to taking drugs. Solutions and coping methods are offered on an individualized level so that steps can be taken to avoid triggers when they appear. Addiction stems from a wide variety of risk and environmental factors, but this method aims to aid patients realize that they can beat the addiction and be in control of their actions.
      • Therapeutic Communities: Therapeutic communities or residential programs are rehabilitation centers where people suffering from addiction can stay for extended periods of time to get active treatment. Here, patients are surrounded by support from doctors, staff and other patients. These centers often also provide supportive services that help recovering addicts reintegrate back into society when their stay is over.
      • Recovery Support Groups: Local support programs like Crystal Meth Anonymous are good resources for people who want the support of others but cannot afford to go to a residential community. Support groups often utilize motivational incentives and 12-step programs to encourage sobriety. Participants are encouraged to share open conversations about addiction and encourage one another’s journey. To find a Crystal Meth Anonymous group in your area, use the organization’s website to find a local meeting.

Although behavioral interventions are proven to be effective, the most effective treatment is the integration of more than one approach into healthy and positive lifestyle changes.

If you are seeking help for a methamphetamine addiction and want to find behavioral health treatment services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a locator that allows you to search for treatment facilities in your area.

View Sources Last Edited: May 10, 2018

Sources and Citations

  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-treatments-are-effective-methamphetamine-abusers
  • http://www.azdhs.gov/bhs/recipients/addiction.htm
  • https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/methamphetamine.html
  • http://www.methproject.org/action/get-help.html
  • https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/meth-nps