Warning Signs of Crystal Meth Use

Crystal Methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth, is a highly addictive, illicit drug linked to significant health risks. It is estimated that approximately 1.6 million adults have used crystal meth in the past year, with about 52.9% of those individuals meeting criteria for a methamphetamine use disorder1.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system by increasing dopamine levels in the brain2. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in feelings, motivation, and pleasure2. Methamphetamine use causes the rapid release of dopamine to the reward areas of the brain which results in making the user want use the substance again.  The influx of dopamine is also responsible for the “rush” or feelings of euphoria that occur immediately after use. Methamphetamine can come in a pill, powder, or crystalized form and can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected.

The Effects of Methamphetamine Use

Methamphetamine use results in a variety of short-term and long-term behavioral, physical, and psychological effects. The initial effects of methamphetamine can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Someone who is using methamphetamine, even in small doses may experience effects similar to other stimulants, such as2:

  • Increased wakefulness and/or physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid/Irregular Heartbeat
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Dilated pupils and rapid eye movements
  • Tics

Common long-term effects of methamphetamine use include2:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Severe dental issues
  • Extreme itching or picking of the skin
  • Sores on the skin
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia/Strange Sleeping Patterns
  • Aggression/Agitation
  • Mood Swings
  • Memory Loss
  • Erratic/High Risk Behaviors
  • Legal Involvement

In addition to the effects listed above, continued methamphetamine use causes changes to the structure of the brain which have been associated with reduced coordination and impaired learning ability2. Also, consuming high doses of methamphetamine may result in overdose.  Overdose from methamphetamine can result in death due to stroke, heart attack, more organ issues related to overheating1.   

If use is discontinued, some of these effects will reverse or disappear.  However, studies have shown that certain effects from methamphetamine use are irreversible, even after a prolonged period of abstinence from the substance. 

Recognizing Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine dependence can take over someone’s life very quickly.  Understanding and recognizing the warning signs of crystal meth use disorder is crucial in helping those impacted get the help they need. Signs of methamphetamine dependence can include:

  • Spending significantly more time on obtaining and using methamphetamine
  • Using in larger quantities
  • Engaging in high risk behaviors as a result of their use
  • Unable to discontinue use of methamphetamine on their own
  • Developing physical or psychological issues due to their use 
  • Neglecting their relationships and responsibilities
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or intense cravings

Experiencing any of the warning signs of crystal meth use above is an indication that it’s time to get help. If you or someone you love is struggling with methamphetamine abuse, help is available.  Inpatient treatment, support groups, and therapy can all help individuals struggling with a methamphetamine issue.  To learn more, contact Greenbriar Treatment Center at 1-800-637-4673. 

Resources

  1. Jones CM, Compton WM, Mustaquim D. Patterns and Characteristics of Methamphetamine Use Among Adults — United States, 2015–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:317–323. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912a1external 
  2. NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine on 2022, June 14

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