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Meth Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Getting Help

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that increases activity in the central nervous system (CNS) and is often used recreationally for its effects like increased alertness and energy. However, meth misuse can produce adverse effects and even lead to meth addiction.1 Approximately 2.6 million people reported using methamphetamine in the United States between 2019 and 2020 alone.3
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What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant drug with a chemical structure that resembles amphetamine, the drug from which it was derived.3 The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated meth as a Schedule II stimulant drug due to its high potential for misuse.2 Illicit use stems from people covertly manufacturing the drug in small labs or houses using pseudoephedrine, an active ingredient found in certain cold medicines.3 The drug typically comes in powdered form or a pill that can be swallowed.2 Other routes of administration often associated with meth addiction include smoking, injecting, or snorting the drug.3

Dangers and Effects of Meth Use

Meth misuse is dangerous, especially when consumed consistently over time. Serious psychological and adverse health effects can accompany short- and long-term meth use, including:

  • Psychosis.1
  • Aggressive or violent behavior.1
  • Seizures.1
  • Tooth decay.1
  • Cardiovascular damage.1
  • Skin sores, often due to picking behaviors associated with drug intake.5
  • Brain damage.1
  • Depression.5
  • Damage to the kidneys and liver.5
  • Respiratory problems.1
  • Abscesses or infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS if injected.1

When consumed at high doses, meth misuse can be fatal. Meth overdose can trigger seizures, and if left untreated, may result in death.1 If someone is experiencing an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately.

What Are the Signs of Meth Addiction?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), includes an overview of signs and symptoms associated with substance use disorders like meth addiction, which is classified as a stimulant use disorder. The manual helps physicians determine if a stimulant use disorder diagnosis is appropriate for a given person.6

Find Help for Meth Addiction

The most common meth addiction treatment is behavioral therapy.3 The goal of behavioral therapy is to change specific behavioral patterns that are damaging and that have contributed to meth misuse.7 Therapists support people in replacing problematic behaviors with helpful techniques to reduce distressing feelings or urges.7 Behavioral interventions that may be used in treating meth addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational incentives.3 The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any medication to treat meth addiction specifically.3

Frequently Asked Questions

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