How Methamphetamine Affects Your Brain and Body

Methamphetamine, most commonly referred to as “meth,” is a highly addictive recreational drug that is abused by people of all ages.

It goes by many different street names, including ice, glass, crank, speed, and chalk. People with meth abuse issues often smoke, snort, or inject the drug intravenously. It usually comes in the form of small crystal-like rocks and can be blue or white in color.

Meth is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Because it’s so concentrated, meth users feel an immediate, long-lasting euphoric effect. Meth users often explain feeling more motivated, more confident, and even more intelligent when they’re high on the drug.

However, meth use—short term or long term—can lead to extensive damage in the brain and body. In addition to the mental and physical effects, prolonged meth use can even increase a user’s risk for certain health conditions, like stroke, heart attack, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis.

Statistics on Meth Use

In 2017, roughly 1.6 million people reported using meth, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The same year, about 964,000 people over age 12 struggled with a methamphetamine use disorder, which caused health problems or affected their work, school, or home life. In comparison, there were only 684,000 people who reported having a meth use disorder in 2016.

Overdose is possible after a large dose of meth. In 2017, roughly 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved a substance in the methamphetamine category. Meth overdoses can be fatal because the drug affects the heart, brain, and other vital organs. Meth overdoses cannot be reversed with another substance like an opioid overdose can be.

Although meth can be found in all parts of the country, it’s one of the only illegal drugs that has a strong regional concentration. Meth abuse is most often found in the western and midwestern states, including California, Nevada, Nebraska and Oklahoma. One survey found that over 70% of local law enforcement agencies from several pacific and west central regions said meth was the biggest drug threat to their area.

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Generally speaking, it’s very difficult to hide the symptoms of meth use, and the long-term side effects can develop in just a few weeks. Addicts often experience a wide range of severe symptoms that can be life-threatening and may require professional treatment. Some of the most common symptoms of meth abuse are:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors or convulsions
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Significant weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Erratic behavior

Using meth consistently also changes a person’s physical appearance. Some of the noticeable physical ailments include:

  • Skin sores
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Weight loss
  • Thinning/patchy hair
  • Dry/cracked skin
The physical symptoms of meth use are significant. However, meth also has a profound impact on the brain, which can lead to mental health disorders. Data shows that roughly 40% of adults who use amphetamines have a lifetime history of depression. Over 75% of meth users say they have symptoms of anxiety, and 46% of regular meth users report experiencing psychosis. Hallucinations, aggressiveness, and paranoia are also long-term side effects of meth.

Withdrawal from Meth

The symptoms of meth use typically subside when the drug is fully out of the body.

But the euphoric effects of methamphetamine only last about 8-12 hours. Once the user starts to come down from the high, they get an intense craving for more. That’s one of the reasons why meth is so addictive and difficult to give up.

Many meth users also experience “tweaking” from time to time. Tweaking is essentially an episode where a person will feel intense cravings and feelings of extreme mental distress. Some users experience delusions, as well as severe depression and anxiety. Tweaking can be followed by crashing, where a person deals with even more significant mental health effects, as well as exhaustion and lack of appetite.

Even one missed dose of meth can cause an addict to experience extreme physical and mental side effects. As a result, it’s recommended that meth addicts seek professional treatment when withdrawing from the drug. Many substance abuse recovery centers offer inpatient detox programs that are overseen by a medical professional. It’s never recommended for a meth addict to quit the drug cold turkey because of the life-threatening side effects.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

It can be difficult to overcome meth addiction, but with the right treatment, many people make a full recovery. Most people with a severe meth addiction start treatment in a detox program, where they are treated by a medical professional. Doctors may administer mild stimulants to reduce physical side effects, or SSRIs to manage the person’s mental health symptoms.

Once the detox process is complete, recovering addicts move onto a partial hospitalization program (PHP), this is the highest level of outpatient care and can often be accompanied by a sober living home. In the PHP level of care clients attend treatment at the facility 5 days a week for 6 hours per day. These programs rely heavily on individual therapy, group therapy, accountability, health and nutrition, and relapse prevention. The next step is to enroll in an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or outpatient drug rehab program (OP) where recovering addicts learn the skills they need to reenter society. Continuing with individual and group therapies, relapse prevention, case management and more, clients attend treatment fewer days per week. IOP and OP treatment help bridge the gap between more intensive inpatient our PHP treatment and re-entering society independently. This phase is crucial in long-term recovery and success for many in recovery from methamphetamine addiction.

At Nexus Recovery, we treat individuals who have a history of meth addiction. Every treatment program is personalized to the individual client based on their unique needs. Our team is trained in a variety of therapy modalities, as well as holistic services, case management, and medication management, to treat the addiction from multiple angles.

In addition to partial hospitalization, we offer an intensive outpatient program, a standard outpatient program, and an aftercare program. Our facility also has gender-specific treatment programs that employ different treatment modalities for men and women. You can see what our past clients have said about their time at Nexus Recovery on our testimonials page.

Methamphetamine addiction is a serious disorder, and it can be fatal if it goes untreated. If you or someone you love is struggling with a meth addiction, contact us today.

If you or a loved one are suffering from meth addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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