Methamphetamine Addiction Causes and Effects

Sunrise Recovery Ranch provides meth addiction treatment rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life, without addiction.

Understanding Meth

Learn about meth and substance abuse

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Creating powerful feelings of euphoria and a feeling of disconnection from one’s environment in those who use it, meth works by increasing the brain’s available supply of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This high can last between 6 to 12 hours depending on the method of ingestion. And because meth is so powerful, using it can sometimes result in addiction after only a few doses. Continued use of this dangerous drug can also cause extreme disruption to a person’s ability to function effectively in his or her life.

Thankfully, an addiction to meth is not the end of the story. With proper treatment and the help of a dedicated treatment staff, it is possible to overcome an addiction to meth and retake control of one’s life.


Meth addiction statistics

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders indicates that in a given year, approximately 0.2 percent of adults use amphetamine-type stimulants such as meth. Furthermore, people aged 18 to 29 are much more likely than older adults to use meth, and males are more likely than females to use stimulants like meth by injecting them.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for meth addiction

Meth addiction is a complex and multifaceted process with many different influences and risk factors. Researchers have discovered that the following factors may increase a person’s chance of developing an addiction to meth:

Environmental: A person’s environment can significantly affect his or her chances of becoming addicted to meth. People who were exposed to stimulants like meth while in the womb, as well as those who grew up with parents who used meth, are at increased risk of developing a meth addiction. Other environmental risk factors, such as exposure to community violence, growing up in an unstable home, spending time with meth users and dealers, and having another mental health condition, can also increase a person’s risk of becoming addicted, especially among women.

Risk Factors:

  • Being diagnosed with co-occurring bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, or other substance use disorders
  • Having poor impulse control
  • Presence of conduct disorder during childhood
  • Family history of stimulant abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

Though an addiction to meth manifests differently depending on individual personality factors and the nature of an individual’s meth use, the following are some common signs and symptoms of an addiction to meth:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Taking larger amounts of meth, or using over a greater duration, than one originally intends
  • Inability to reduce or control one’s use of meth
  • Spending much time or effort obtaining meth, using it, or recovering from use
  • Failing to keep up with obligations at home or work due to meth use
  • Continuing to use meth despite multiple interpersonal problems caused by use this drug
  • Continuing to use even in situations where it is physically hazardous
  • Continuing to use despite knowing that meth use is causing problems in one’s life

Physical symptoms:

  • Needing to use larger and larger amounts of meth to achieve a high
  • Decrease in effectiveness when continuing to use the same amount of the substance

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Having strong desires to use meth

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Avoiding important social, recreational, or occupational activities in favor of using meth


Effects of meth addiction

If a person’s meth use continues untreated, he or she is at risk of suffering from a number of severe negative consequences, which may include:

  • Damage to nasal membranes and respiratory system
  • Puncture wounds or infection at injection sites
  • Contracting infections or diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis, from sharing needles or engaging in risky sexual activity
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Being the victim of drug-related violence
  • Legal difficulties
  • Birth defects and complications (should meth abuse occur while one is pregnant)
  • Neurocognitive impairments
  • “Meth mouth,” which can include gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Death, either from suicide or overdose

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

People who struggle with an addiction to meth may also struggle with one or more of the following mental health disorders:

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

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal & overdose

Effects of meth withdrawal: If a person should discontinue using meth after a long period of use, he or she may experience a collection of extremely unpleasant effects as his or her body readjusts to functioning in the absence of the drug. These effects, known as withdrawal, may include:

  • Slowed movements
  • Shaking, tremors, or jitteriness
  • Increases in appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Vivid or unpleasant dreams
  • Tiredness or lethargy

Effects of meth overdose: As a person continues to use meth, his or her body may begin to require larger doses to achieve a high. While pursuing a high, if a person ingests more than his or her body can handle, he or she can experience a potentially-fatal overdose. Signs and symptoms of an overdose may include:

  • Confusion or delirium
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Irritability, agitation, or aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Convulsions
  • Stroke
  • Seizure

Common Names

Slang terms for methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is commonly referred to on the streets as

  • Crystal meth
  • Crank
  • Meth
  • Ice
  • Glass

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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  • Department of Health Care Services

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