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Meth Addiction Signs, Symptoms, and Side Effects

by | Published on Oct 12, 2021 | Drug Addiction, Stimulants Addiction

Drug addicts with syringe on black background

The effects of meth addiction are among the most dangerous of all addictions. The symptoms are easy to spot because they change people’s behaviors and physical appearance. Substance abuse deeply affects someone’s brain and body, so meth addiction signs are visible in various ways. Read on to learn more about meth abuse symptoms, side effects, and how to find help for addiction. 

Meth Addiction Signs and Symptoms

The physical and psychological effects of meth addiction are some of the most harrowing. Some of the early signs of meth addiction include:

  • Rotting teeth or “meth mouth”
  • Intense scratching
  • Thinning body
  • Acne
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion 

Physical Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Long-term use of methamphetamines can lead to obvious physical signs that point to someone abusing drugs. About 1 in 3 meth users report noticing a significant impact on their appearance. These symptoms include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Skin sores
  • Burns
  • Hair thinning
  • Extreme weight loss 
  • Extreme tooth decay
  • Rapid breathing
  • Exaggerated mannerism
  • Nasal damage
  • Track marks 
  • Increased libido
  • Intense scratching 

Psychological Symptoms of Meth Abuse

The initial symptoms of meth abuse and behavioral and psychological. At first, most people experience a sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. As people try to hide their substance abuse, they often become more secretive and withdraw from their loved ones and friends. 

Over time, methamphetamine alters how a user thinks and feels, turning the recreational use of meth into a significant life priority. This is mostly because people will struggle with “the crash,” a period in which the body is deprived of the dopamine that meth supplies, causing extreme exhaustion. This crash phase can last anywhere between one to three days, and it’s one of the most noticeable signs of meth abuse. 

Some psychological signs of meth abuse include:

  • Hyperactivity 
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden violent outbursts 
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 
  • Tweaking

Tweaking is a unique psychological symptom of meth addiction. People experiencing tweaking can no longer achieve a high from using the drug, and they struggle to achieve the same feelings of euphoria they once did. People report feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin, have difficulty sleeping, and can stay in a state of psychosis for days. 

Behavioral Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Initially, individuals abusing meth will attempt to hide the abuse, which is why withdrawal and loss of interest are the first recognizable signs. However, once addiction unfolds, it will become more challenging to hide their abuse as other physical and psychological signs become apparent. 

The most common behavioral symptoms include:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Stealing
  • Lying
  • Eating disorders
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Also, most people abuse meth involves some drug paraphernalia, thus finding paraphernalia in someone’s belongings is a key indicator. They often use these instruments for cooking meth, making it easier to recognize. Some paraphernalia linked to meth abuse include:

  • Needles
  • Syringes
  • Burned spoons
  • Cotton balls
  • Tinfoil
  • Metal pipes
  • Plastic pen casings
  • Drinking straws
  • Razor blades
  • Small mirrors 

How Common Is Meth Abused?

People can take meth in different ways, such as snorting, injecting, or smoking it. Because of this, meth is available in other presentations. Crystal meth is the most common way of abusing meth, and it’s usually smoked. 

About 63% of meth users smoke it, another 44% snort it, and 27% inject meth. Still, half of the meth users try multiple methods over their lifetime. 

As of 2015, one of the last surveys available, about 6% of people aged 12 and older had tried meth at least once. Of those, most people tried crystal meth. Unfortunately, between 2005 and 2019, meth overdose deaths skyrocketed by 150%, while the number of people increased by 43% in the same period. 

Long-term Effects of Meth Abuse

When people use meth recreationally for an extended period of time, the brain becomes dependent on its effects and creates a need for its use. This dependence can eventually become an addiction – by far the most dangerous long-term effect of meth abuse

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that causes long-term changes in the brain. The drug is toxic to nerve terminals and can cause damage to t the brain cells where dopamine is released. Prolonged meth abuse can cause permanent damages in the brain’s pleasure center, which makes it increasingly tricky for meth users to experience any pleasure without the drug.  

Other possible effects of meth abuse include:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Heart disease
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin infections
  • Impaired cognition
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Psychosis
  • Inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia) 

Take Our “Am I Addicted to Drugs?” Self-Assessment

If you’re unsure whether you or a loved one is addicted to drugs, take our free self-assessment quiz below. The evaluation consists of yes or no questions that serve as resources to assess the severity of a substance use disorder. The test is confidential, free, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. This isn’t intended to replace medical advice or seek help from a drug rehab treatment facility.

Recognizing Withdrawal Symptoms & Addiction

It’s common for people addicted to methamphetamine to attempt quitting from time to time. When they do this without assistance, they’re likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms that lead to psychological symptoms that can be challenging to hide. Along with intense cravings, meth withdrawal involves:

  • Severe headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 

To diagnose a meth use disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) says an individual must meet more than two of the following criteria within 12 months:

  • Using meth in otherwise dangerous situations, such as driving
  • Neglecting persona, professional, or academic responsibilities
  • Experiencing social or interpersonal problems caused by meth abuse
  • Needing more and more of the drug to experience the same feeling
  • Spending large amounts of time and money abusing meth
  • Failing to control or quit altogether
  • Experiencing drug cravings
  • Continuing meth use despite having physical or psychological consequences
  • Giving up previously enjoyable activities to use or get meth

Taking the Next Steps

Meth is a highly addictive drug that can be an extremely dangerous drug. If someone you know is showing signs of meth abuse, you must try to talk to them about the importance of seeking help. Inpatient rehab, individual counseling, and support groups can help individuals struggling with a methamphetamine addiction find sobriety. 

Common signs of methamphetamine abuse also involve using alcohol and drugs to intensify the effects of meth. Individuals addicted to meth often struggle with other mental health disorders and need a dual diagnosis treatment center to focus on recovery from their drug abuse.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our meth addiction treatment programs are personalized to meet your needs. Contact our admission specialists today at 866-308-2090 and learn more about our rehab programs. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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