What Are the Effects of Meth
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Francine Mends, MD on August 13, 2020
Do you know what meth addiction looks like? Whether you’re at risk yourself or you’re worried about a loved one, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of meth addiction.
Methamphetamine use disorder, or MUD, afflicted almost a million adults and teens in 2017. Sadly, the majority of addicts go without treatment. Would you know the signs of meth addiction if you saw them in yourself or a friend?
Meth is a stimulant drug that causes your central nervous system to become overstimulated. With more stimulation, you experience effects like increased energy, elevated mood, and euphoria.
But that’s not all. The signs of meth addiction, withdrawal, and health effects start to emerge the longer you’ve used the drug.
What are the Signs of Meth Use?
If you’re worried about a loved one, you may be wondering if meth use is what you’re seeing. In the short-term, meth use causes mental effects that include:
- Euphoria, or the feeling of being high
- Obsessive behavior
- Rapid thinking
Meth causes physical health effects, too. Those effects include:
- Dilated pupils
- High heart rate
- High blood pressure
Most people also experience a lack of appetite and insomnia. You might notice that someone who’s using meth goes days without eating or sleeping.
These short-term effects last until the dose of meth wears off. That could be 8 hours to 24 hours depending on:
- The potency
- The purity
- The dose
- Your tolerance
- Other drugs you use at the same time
What are the Behavioral Signs of Meth Addiction?
Once addiction sets in, you may notice behavior changes. If you have meth addiction, your entire life begins to center around finding and using meth.
You might notice behavioral signs such as:
- An obsession with finding and using meth
- Spending too much time getting, using, and recovering from meth
- Neglecting social relationships, work responsibilities, and interests to use meth
- Neglecting self-care, including nutrition, hygiene, and healthcare
- Getting into financial trouble because meth affects your ability to keep a job
- Being secretive and distant about how you spend your time
If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, meth addiction could be the problem.
What are the Physical Symptoms of Meth Addiction?
The longer your meth addiction keeps developing, the more apparent physical signs will become. When you’re addicted to meth over a long period, you may develop physical symptoms such as:
- Blood vessel problems: Meth addiction affects the way your body moves blood. This can lead to an increased risk of stroke or other blood vessel problems. If you inject meth, the risk includes blood infection and sepsis.
- Dehydration: People who use meth regularly tend to be physically active without rehydrating often. This can lead to life-threatening electrolyte problems, which affect the heart and other body systems.
- Heart problems: Heart palpitations and heart failure are common troubles with meth addiction. Long-term stimulant use can cause electrical problems in the heart, leading to irregular heart rhythms or a heart rate that’s too fast.
- Low body weight: Anorexia is common in people that have meth. Using meth removes your drive to eat food, which lets you keep burning calories without replenishing them. Many meth users lose dramatic amounts of weight before they enter recovery.
- Malnutrition: Meth affects your ability to feel hunger, and it increases the rate at which your body processes food. The combination of effects can lead to nutritional problems, which can cause issues with nearly every body system.
- Metabolic problems: Any stimulant drug that you use long-term can affect your metabolism. People who develop meth addiction are more likely to develop problems with their metabolism, including electrolyte problems.
If you have a meth addiction, you’ll develop tolerance and withdrawal, which are physical signs:
- Tolerance: Tolerance is a physical sign of addiction that happens when you use meth repeatedly. After a few meth uses, you stop feeling the effects so strongly. This leads to compulsive dosing as you take higher and higher amounts to feel euphoric.
- Physical dependence: Tolerance leads to physical dependence. When you re-dose frequently or use higher doses, your body begins to rely on meth to function. Without meth, you start to feel depressed, tired and sick.
- Withdrawal: If you can’t stop using meth without experiencing intense sickness or depression, then you’re feeling the effects of withdrawal. When you stop using meth after you’ve developed an addiction, your body responds by making you feel like you physically need more meth to function.
Together, tolerance, dependence and withdrawal are the most surefire signs of meth addiction.
More Signs of Meth Addiction
If you’re looking for signs of meth addiction in your loved one, make sure to look out for signs in their living space.
Someone who uses meth may hide items in their living space or even leave them in plain sight if they are discreet enough. Items that might indicate a meth addiction include:
- “Rigs” or collections of syringes, needles, tourniquets, bongs, pipes, and other items used to consume meth
- Baggies with waxy white, ivory, gray, or blue residue used to hold meth
- Crumpled foil or crushed soda cans with scorch marks, used to smoke meth
- Torch lighters which are larger and more conspicuous than classic Bic lighters
You might even find actual meth, which ranges in appearance from an off-white powder to blue chunky crystals that look like rocks.
Finally, the smell of meth is very distinctive. Meth can smell ammonia-like, like burning plastic, or even like cleaning chemicals. You may smell it in someone’s room, but if they use meth regularly, it can begin to affect their body odor.
What are Signs of Health Problems from Meth?
When you use meth long-term, you can develop health problems from it. The signs of meth-related health problems from long-term use include:
- Brain problems including problems with self-control, risk assessment, and decision-making
- Psychotic symptoms that include paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions
- Heart and blood vessel problems such as irregular heartbeat, feeling anxious or developing clots and circulation trouble
- Nerve problems such as tremors, shaking, or spasms, which can be an indicator of meth-related Parkinson’s disease
- Nutritional problems including anorexia, low body weight, and malnutrition
- Stroke symptoms, including numbness, confusion, trouble speaking, or trouble walking
If you have signs of health problems related to meth, you need treatment for meth addiction. These signs and symptoms can turn into long-term health problems. Without treatment, meth addiction can cause permanent health damage.
What are the Symptoms of Meth Overdose?
A meth overdose is the deadliest sign of addiction. If you or a loved one is overdosing on meth, it’s vital to call 911 immediately.
The signs of meth overdose include:
- Agitation, panic, or fear
- Chest pain
- Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- High or low blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Hallucinations or delusions
Meth overdoses can cause death without treatment. Call 911 immediately if someone you know is having a meth overdose. Meth is the 4th leading cause of drug overdoses according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Don’t let yourself become another statistic.
We would love your feedback.
Was this article helpful?
Let Us Help
Use our form below to speak with an addictions specialist today. Let our team of experts in the addiction field help point you in the right direction.