Causes & Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Since 1957, Azure Acres Treatment Center has given hope to individuals struggling with meth addiction and its lasting effects. Azure Acres provides residents high-quality alcohol and drug abuse treatment near Santa Rosa, California.

Understanding Meth Addiction

Learn about meth addiction

Methamphetamine, which is also known as meth, is a powerfully potent substance that is highly dangerous. Meth, which is a stimulant substance, works to increase the activity of (or “stimulate”) the central nervous system. Stimulants can include everyday substances like caffeine, prescription pills like Ritalin and Adderall, and illegal substance such as cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and amphetamine. Meth is most commonly snorted, smoked, dissolved and injected, or orally consumed. When consumed, this substance produces an intense rush of pleasure. This rush is the result of the meth increasing the dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is connected to motivation and pleasure, that is being released in the brain. This effect is often what causes users to continually abuse this substance, which can lead to the development of an addiction. Despite the potential for addiction to develop, there are treatment options available for those who have become addicted to meth.


Meth addiction statistics

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that nearly 0.2% of the population of those aged 12 and up have abused amphetamine-type stimulants within the past year. The intravenous use of these substances is said to be three to four times more common in men than in women, however, this statistic only applies to those who inject this drug. Data collected from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) shows an increased estimate, with 0.4% of the population (or 1.2 million people) having used meth within the past year.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for meth addiction

As with most other mental health conditions and substance use disorders, there are a variety of factors that can impact one’s likelihood of developing a meth use disorder, including:

Environmental: Those who were prenatally exposed to meth or were exposed during their childhood are much more likely to abuse it later on in their lives. Additionally, those who have witnessed community violence, were raised in unstable homes, struggle with mental health conditions, and/or who socialize with meth dealers and users are much more likely to abuse this substance that those who do not have these factors in their lives.

Risk Factors:

  • Exposure to trauma
  • Experiencing community violence
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Impulsive personality
  • Having an unstable home environment
  • Being around meth dealers or users
  • Exposure to meth in the womb
  • Presence of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Personal history of other substance use disorders

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

Those who are battling meth use disorder may exhibit a variety of signs and symptoms of their abuse, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending a great deal of time using meth, obtaining meth, or recovering from meth use
  • Being unsuccessful in attempts to reduce meth use
  • Continuing to use meth even though use is having a negative psychological or physical effect on the person
  • Using meth even in situations where use may be physically hazardous
  • Using more meth, or using it over a longer period of time, than a person intends
  • Neglecting social, occupational, or recreational activities or obligations in favor of using meth

Physical symptoms:

  • Abnormally slow or fast heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Experiencing tolerance, wherein a person requires a larger dose of meth in order to achieve a high
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Sweating or chills
  • Weakness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormally slow or fast movement
  • Weakness
  • Withdrawal, which involves a series of uncomfortable symptoms that one experiences when attempting to discontinue meth use

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Cravings for meth
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Continuing to use meth despite experiencing significant interpersonal problems resulting from meth use


Effects of meth addiction

If an individual’s meth use continues to go untreated, he or she might be at risk for a number of consequences, including:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores, known as “meth mouth”
  • Heart attack
  • Engaging in illegal or dangerous activities to earn money to buy more meth
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Violent injury from associating with drug trafficking
  • Nasal irritation or bleeding
  • Respiratory problems
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Contracting HIV or other sexually-transmitted infections from sharing needles or engaging in risky sex while high
  • Puncture marks or “tracks”
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

Unfortunately, those with meth use disorder might also meet criteria for other mental health disorders, including:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Gambling disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal and overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal: If an individual uses meth for a long period of time and then tries to stop his or her use, he or she will trigger the onset of withdrawal symptoms as his or her body readjusts to the lack of meth in the body’s system. These symptoms can include:

  • Slowed thought processes
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Oversleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed movement
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams

Effects of meth overdose: If an individual consumes more meth than he or she is capable of handling, an overdose will likely occur. Meth overdoses are tremendously dangerous and can be deadly. If an individual who has been abusing meth begins displaying the following symptoms, obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Agitation

Take a free online Assessment

An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction.

I have been in and out of treatment for years and could not remain sober for more than a couple years sometimes no more than 60 days. I attended groups and one on one therapy with my counselor there and this time something magical happened for me there. Azure Acres saved my life -- check this place out if you are looking for treatment!

– Former Patient