Methamphetamine (meth) is a synthetic stimulant that is addictive and can cause considerable health adversities that can sometimes result in death. Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally and is often used with other substances. Someone using meth may experience a temporary sense of heightened euphoria, alertness, and energy. This is because meth increases the amount of dopamine, a natural chemical, in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcing rewarding behaviors. Meth rapidly releases high levels of dopamine into reward areas of the brain, making people want to continue to use meth.
Meth not only changes how the brain works, but also speeds up the body’s systems to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels—increasing blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates. People who repeatedly use meth may also experience anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, and mood disturbances. Meth can make you feel like you’re losing your freedom. But recovery is possible.
Through evidence-based treatment and support, it is possible to live life free from meth. While there are currently no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat meth addiction, behavioral therapies can be effective. One example is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people cope with situations that may prompt drug use. Another example uses motivational incentives in the form of vouchers or rewards that the person can earn as encouragement for not using meth or other substances.
The Rise of Meth Use in the United States
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of fatal overdoses involving meth and other stimulants has increased significantly. According to SAMHSA, about 2 million people aged 12 years or older use meth in any given year, while about 500 people each day try meth for the first time. Short-term effects even taking small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects, including:
Increased blood pressure and body temperature
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
Erratic, aggressive, irritable, or violent behavior
Long-term Health Risks
Chronic meth use can lead to many damaging, long-term health effects, even when people stop taking meth, including:
Permanent damage to the heart and brain
High blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death.
Liver, kidney, and lung damage
Anxiety, confusion, and insomnia
Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior (psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after meth use)
Intense itching, causing skin sores from scratching.
Severe dental problems