Signs & Effects of Meth Abuse

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with meth addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of meth addiction treatment.

Understanding Meth

Learn about meth and substance abuse

Methamphetamine, more commonly referred to simply as “meth,” is a stimulant that is derived from amphetamine. Found in the form of white or yellowish powder, pills, or crystals, meth can be smoked, injected, snorted, or swallowed. The effects that a person receives from using meth are ones of euphoria and are produced almost instantaneously. Meth use causes `the brain to release excessive amounts of dopamine, which is a chemical responsible for controlling one’s feelings of pleasure. Through this dopamine release, people not only experience increased feelings of well-being, but also become unable to feel pain. The longevity of the high that a user experiences after using meth can vary, but can last up to 12 hours, making it especially appealing.

People begin using meth for a variety of reasons. Some have been known to use the substance because of the potent stimulant effect that it has on a person’s brain. Methamphetamines can heighten energy, increase alertness, and improve concentration. Others have admitted to initially experimenting with using the drug due to the fact that it has a high likelihood of inducing rapid weight loss. Regardless of the reason why a person begins using meth, the dependency it causes occurs very rapidly, negatively impacting the user’s ability to maintain appropriate daily functioning and without proper treatment can have life threatening consequences.


Meth addiction statistics

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the worldwide production of amphetamine-type stimulants, including meth, to be at approximately 500 metric tons per year, with an estimated 24.7 million abusers using these substances worldwide. Additionally, in America, it has been said that approximately 600,000 people use methamphetamine every week. In the Midwestern part of the United States alone, meth abuse is believed to make up 90% of all drug cases.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for meth addiction

The reason why some people who try meth become addicted to it while others do not is believed to be the result of a combination of different factors. The most prominently cited of these factors include:

Genetic: Addiction itself has a strong genetic component, as one’s susceptibility to developing an addiction increases if he or she has a family member who struggles with an addiction. Variations in the composition of different genes can also increase or decrease a person’s level of resistance to addiction.

Physical: When a person becomes addicted to methamphetamine, the pathways inside his or her brain become altered as a result of the nerve cell changes that are brought on by the use of the drug. As the substance enters the brain, it causes a rapid release of the chemical dopamine which causes a surge of pleasurable feelings.

Environmental: The environment in which a person spends the majority of his or her time can play a crucial role in whether or not he or she will try using meth. For example, in areas where meth use is prominent and the drug is easily accessible, people are more likely to experiment with the drug than are individuals who do not have such easy access. Also, individuals who have a turbulent home life tend to be at a higher risk for experimenting with substances as a means of trying to find something that they can have control over, or to find something that can numb the strife that they experience on a daily basis. Even the seemingly innocent ideas of experimentation can result in addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Personal history of drug use
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Presence of an undiagnosed mental illness
  • Peer pressure
  • Level of accessibility to the substance

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

The signs and symptoms that are displayed by people who are abusing methamphetamine will vary depending on the frequency in which one uses, the amount that one uses, and the length of time that one has been using. Some warning signs that may indicate that an individual is abusing meth may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Random bursts of sporadic hyperactivity
  • Sudden, unprovoked physical aggression
  • Chaotic behavior
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Failing to go to work or school
  • No longer participating in things one once enjoyed
  • Incessant talking / rapid speech or not talking at all

Physical symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Uncontrollable twitching or muscle spasms
  • Foul body odor
  • Decaying teeth
  • Excessive acne
  • Development of sores on the skin

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Extreme confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Lack of ability to reason
  • Poor judgment
  • Learning difficulties
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Episodes of prolonged mania
  • Psychosis
  • Episodes of severe depression
  • Unwarranted feelings of fear
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Loss of interest in things one used to be interested in


Effects of meth addiction

As is true for the signs and symptoms of meth use, the long-term effects of abusing this substance will vary depending on the extent of the use and the length of time the use has occurred. The severity of the effects will range from person to person, but all can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. Examples of the effects that prolonged meth abuse can have on a person may include:

  • Homelessness
  • Financial strain
  • Destroyed relationships
  • Job loss / chronic unemployment
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Permanent weakening of one’s immune system
  • Drastically negative changes to one’s personal appearance
  • Untimely death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Meth addiction and co-occurring disorders

The presence of a mental illness can impact whether or not a person is at risk for developing an addiction to substances like meth. Some of the most common mental illnesses known to co-occur with an addiction to meth include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • Abuse of other substances

What sets us apart?

We understand the many pressures, concerns, and frustrations that can accompany the effort to find the best treatment option, and we are dedicated to doing all that we can to make this a more efficient and effective process.

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Optional Family Involvement

I was treated with respect and staff showed me love, and understanding from day one till leaving out the door! I received courage, motivation, open eyes, and my heart. Thank you staff, for bringing me back to life.

– Former Resident
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