Methamphetamine, or meth, is a central nervous system stimulant. It comes in three forms: powder, pill, and bluish-white rocks called “crystal meth.” Chemically, it resembles amphetamine, a medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
Methamphetamine use often leads to methamphetamine addiction. Also called substance use disorder, addiction is a serious disease that requires professional treatment.
How Does Meth Work?
People use meth by snorting or injecting the powder form, swallowing the pill form, or smoking crystal meth.
No matter how you use it, meth enhances the amount of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) associated with motivation, movement, memory, attention, and reward.
How Long Does Meth Stay In Your System?
Meth has a half-life of between 9 and 24 hours. Half-life is the time it takes for a drug’s presence in your body to decrease by half.
The exact length of time meth stays in your system depends on factors like age, weight, and the amount of meth you used.
Effects Of Meth
Meth causes a rush of increased wakefulness, confidence, and euphoria (extreme joy). However, it also causes a variety of unpleasant side effects, including:
- mood swings
- loss of appetite
- faster breathing
- rapid or irregular heart rate
- trouble sleeping
- increased body temperature
- high blood pressure
In addition, long-term meth use increases your risk of various health problems.
For example, you may contract bloodborne illnesses like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C if you share drug paraphernalia or have unprotected sex with multiple partners.
This type of risky sexual behavior is common among people who use meth because the drug boosts libido and impairs judgment.
The drug can also cause psychosis, which is a feeling of disconnection from reality. Symptoms include paranoia (experiencing extreme suspicion not based in reality), delusions (holding beliefs not based in reality), and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there).
Many people who use meth hallucinate that bugs are crawling on or under their skin. They then scratch excessively, leaving sores.
Other Health Issues
Other health issues caused by long-term meth use include:
- burns on lips or fingers from frequently holding hot meth pipes
- severe tooth decay and gum disease (“meth mouth”)
- extreme weight loss and malnutrition
- memory loss
- permanent heart or brain damage
- liver, kidney, or lung damage
- heart attack
Can You Overdose On Meth?
Yes. Overdose can occur when you use too much meth. Common signs of meth overdose include:
- changes in blood pressure
- extreme energy
- trouble breathing
- chest pain
- stomach pain
- loss of consciousness
When left untreated, a meth overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack, organ problems, or death.
Some drug dealers lace meth with other dangerous drugs, such as the opioid fentanyl, without telling the buyer. These substances make overdose more likely and more fatal.
Signs Of Meth Abuse & Addiction
The two main signs of meth addiction are tolerance and physical dependence.
Tolerance means your body becomes less sensitive to meth over time. You’ll then need more frequent and higher doses to feel the desired effects.
Physical dependence means your body relies on meth to function normally. If you stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- intense cravings for meth
Other signs of meth addiction include:
- avoidance of friends and family
- avoidance of work or school
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- decline in personal hygiene
- inability to stop using meth despite wanting to
Meth Addiction Treatment Options
For most people, meth addiction recovery starts with medical detox.
During detox, a team of health care professionals will help you gradually stop using meth. They might also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.
After detox, you can enter an outpatient or inpatient treatment program. Outpatient care is recommended only for people with milder addictions and strong support systems at home. Inpatient care works well for people with moderate-to-severe addictions.
Whether you choose outpatient or inpatient care, you’ll have access to services such as:
The most common types of therapy for meth addiction include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a mental health professional can help you identify drug use triggers and develop healthy coping skills
- group therapy, in which you can learn important recovery strategies alongside other people recovering from drug addiction
- contingency management, in which you’ll receive rewards, such as cash or gift cards, for progressing in your recovery
Activities like exercise, yoga, meditation, art, and music can strengthen your health and make recovery easier. They can also help you avoid relapse after you leave the treatment center.
Your doctors can help you create a personalized aftercare plan to prevent relapse. Depending on your needs, your may plan may include strategies such as support groups, therapy, and employment assistance.
Researchers continue to study new treatment methods for meth addiction. For example, a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that people who took the medications naltrexone and bupropion experienced fewer cravings for meth.
This method requires more research before it can gain widespread use, but it looks promising.
If you or a loved one struggles with methamphetamine addiction, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist to learn about our substance abuse and addiction treatment programs.