What are the Symptoms and Treatment for Methamphetamine Abuse?

Methamphetamine (also commonly referred to as meth, crystal meth, and ice) is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Methamphetamine was first synthesized in the 1890s, though its rise as a commonly abused substance in the United States did not occur until a century later.

Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Department of Justice, which means that the drug meets the following criteria:

  • High potential for abuse
  • Currently accepted for medical use in treatment in the United States
  • May lead to severe psychological or physical dependence

Methamphetamine has been described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as a drug whose abuse can lead to “devastating medical, psychological, and social consequences.”

Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine most commonly appears in a powder or crystallized rock form. The drug’s coloring usually ranges from whitish to yellowish depending upon the quality and purity of the sample. After being ground into a finer powder or heated into a liquid form, methamphetamine may be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected.

According to the 2009 edition of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1.2 million Americans ages 12 or above reported having abuse methamphetamine at least once in the previous 12 months.

The 2010 Monitoring the Future study (MTF) revealed that 1.2 percent of 8th graders, 1.6 percent of 10th graders, and 1.0 percent of 12th graders had abused methamphetamine at least once in the 12 months prior to the survey.

The initial effects of recreational meth abuse include enhanced alertness, energy, and a sense of euphoria. However, methamphetamine abuse can quickly lead to the following health problems:

  • Anhedonia — an inability to feel pleasure without meth
  • Malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and mineral deficits
  • Memory problems and verbal learning deficits
  • Hallucinations (auditory and visual)
  • Erratic, aggressive, and violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Anxiety, irritability, and paranoia
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Meth mouth — severe tooth decay

Methamphetamine Addiction

Because methamphetamine is such a highly addictive substance, even short-term recreational use can quickly lead to physical dependency upon the drug.

Meth abusers are likely to develop tolerance for the drug, which means that they will need to ingest increasingly larger amounts of methamphetamine to experience the same high. Because methamphetamine is such a powerful drug, meth addiction is likely to cause significant financial, legal, social, and health damage.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of addiction (in addiction to tolerance and the presence of painful withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the addictive substance) is that individuals will continue to abuse the drug even after this behavior has resulted in negative consequences.

The nature of methamphetamine addiction makes it difficult if not impossible to overcome without professional assistance or, at the very least, participation in a structured support group.

Treatment for Methamphetamine

Treatment for methamphetamine abuse or addiction depends upon several factors, including the age and gender of the patient, the length and severity of the patient’s drug problems, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders.

Treatment for meth abuse or addiction may be done on an outpatient, residential, or partial hospitalization basis.

Treatment for meth abuse or addiction may include the following therapies and techniques:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • 12-Step education
  • Relapse-prevention instruction
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

If you or someone you know is wrestling with methamphetamine abuse, call our free helpline today at (844) 543-3242.

Information used with permission from CRC Health Group.


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