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Meth Addiction: Signs, Symptoms & Statistics

As the opioid epidemic gains popularity among American citizens, another problem continues to brew under the surface. The meth boom began in the mid-1980s, and it’s still wreaking havoc in rural communities throughout the U.S. In its wake, it created a wave of theft, prostitution, and disease.

However, the use of meth began declining at the beginning of the new millennium, as laws were passed that prevented access to the primary ingredients of meth.

For instance, pharmacies started limiting the amounts of pseudoephedrine that could be purchased over the counter. In response, many meth users turned to opioids and newer stimulants.

While these new laws slowed down the production of meth in American communities, Mexican drug cartels started ramping up production in their own super-labs. Since these cartels were already distributing heroin and cocaine, they used their established networks to start distributing meth in massive quantities.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has made the research of meth addiction a top priority.  Some drugs have shown promise in rats, and a regulatory process has been expedited to see whether it’s safe in humans. The initial results seemed promising, but it’s far too early to tell if it will be a “miracle drug” in the ongoing war against the meth epidemic.

What Is Meth?

meth use in riverside

Methamphetamine (better known as meth) is a powerful stimulant that works on the central nervous system (CNS). It provides the body with a feeling of euphoria and increased energy and libido. Meth is a white crystalline drug that can be ingested by snorting, smoking, or injecting it. Meth is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high risk of abuse and addiction. It’s illegal for all usage, including medicinal.  Nevertheless, many individuals use it recreationally, especially in nightclubs and party scenes.

Meth affects multiple receptors in the brain, and it inhibits the uptake of certain neurotransmitters.

In fact, it can cause permanent damage that affects a person’s ability to learn, and it can generate psychoses. Many studies have verified its long-term effects on the parts of the brain that control memory and emotion, which is one of the reasons why meth users have a greater risk of relapse.

What Are the Signs of Meth Addiction?

Meth addiction has catastrophic effects on the mind and body. While the use of some drugs are harder to detect, meth tolerance comes with a unique set of warning signs, which include:

  • Cravings
  • Numerous attempts to stop using it
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia (which can be extreme)
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Compulsive jaw-clenching
  • Paranoia (which can be extreme)
  • Abnormally fast heart rate
  • Seizures

If you experience more than one of the symptoms listed above, you could have a substance use disorder. If you’re worried that a loved one is developing a meth addiction, here are some signs:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased physical activity
  • Sweating
  • Unpredictable or compulsive behavior
  • Isolation
  • Bath breath

What’s Involved in the Treatment of Meth Addiction?

One of the most difficult decisions an individual can make is admitting they have a problem and committing to the pursuit of a better life. As previously mentioned, meth addiction has one of the highest risks of relapse, which is rooted in the permanent brain damage it can cause. In order to allow the best chance for success, a user must commit to an extended stay in treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the best outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment.

In the continuum of care, the first portion of treatment is a medical detox. Meth is a powerful drug that chemically and psychologically controls the user. In order to ensure safety during withdrawal, addiction specialists recommend starting with this intensive level of care. During the withdrawal process, stimulants aren’t inherently dangerous, but the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. Detox will give the client 24/7 access to a professional staff, so they can cleanse the drug from their system and maintain their dignity.

Once the staff ensures you’re stable after you detox, they’ll release you into the next stage in the continuum of care, which could differ among clients. The factors involved in this decision include the severity of the addiction, the length of the use, and the ability to live in a suitable environment outside of the treatment facility. The staff could place you in residential treatment, which would mean you’d stay onsite for up to 90 days. You’ll be attending various therapies that are designed to get to the root of your addiction, which will help you achieve long-lasting sobriety.

If the staff deems you as having a low risk of relapse, you could be placed in outpatient treatment. This option will allow you to commute to therapy sessions, which works well for users who are students or have full-time jobs.

How Dangerous Is Meth?

Meth is one of the most dangerous drugs on this planet. It has a wide range of effects that can harm the user and those around them. “Meth psychosis” occurs when a user hasn’t slept in days and becomes delusional. Someone in this state will be extremely paranoid, so they could hurt themselves or someone else. Meth also causes serious cognitive impairments that can last for years after usage has stopped.

Meth addiction can also have terrible effects on the body. For instance, users can experience dramatic weight loss and eating disorders. Meth smokers can get a condition called “meth mouth,” which literally causes the user’s teeth to rot.

Meth Abuse Statistics


  •     In 2012, over 1.2 million people used meth, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  •     In 2011, 103,000 people visited emergency rooms due to meth overdose and complications.
  •     Between 2010 and 2014, deaths caused by meth overdoses doubled.


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Why California Highlands Addiction Treatment?

Is your loved one struggling with meth abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). How Long Does Drug Addiction Treatment Usually Last? from

Meth Destroys. (n.d.). Life After Meth. from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What Treatments Are Effective for People Who Abuse Methamphetamine? from

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