Methamphetamines Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Methamphetamine?

Brain Neurons in meth addictionMeth (Methamphetamine) is a powerful and intense synthetic stimulant that is used to reach a quick “high” (an intense euphoric reaction to a drug). It is not considered to be physically addictive, but it is exceptionally psychologically addictive.

When injected or smoked, the meth immediately produces a rush of dopamine (dopamine controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers) which is released in the brain and causes an intense high or “flash.” The effects are short lived, only a few minutes, but it is considered to be tremendously pleasurable.

It is a white, bitter-tasting, odorless crystalline powder that dissolves easily in alcohol or water. It’s potency can lead to meth addiction.

Methamphetamines were widely used by the Japanese Kamikaze pilots in World War II. In 1960, meth began to be injected and thus its abuse increased. In the 1990s, the Mexican drug cartels began to mass-produce methamphetamine in large illegal laboratories that were set up in California.

Now, meth can be cooked up on the stove making it even easier to acquire. Meth is now often produced by traveling secret labs set up in trailers or RVs (recreational vehicles). These traveling meth labs can move from place to place making it more difficult for authorities to stop the production of methamphetamines.

Meth is not only dangerous due to its addictive properties, but it is exceptionally dangerous because of its ingredients. Some of the standard elements that compose meth include drain cleaner, antifreeze, rat poison, battery acid, and kerosene.

When this mixture of poisons in methamphetamine is consumed, it attacks and begins to destroy the brain and central nervous system. These toxic ingredients also affect a person’s dental structure. It produces what is called “meth mouth.”

Meth mouth is the deterioration of an abuser’s teeth and gums, and the roots decompose from the inside out. This dangerous drug has several other nicknames such as speed, chalk, redneck cocaine, ice, crystal, crank, and glass.

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

It is a difficult process to treat a methamphetamine addiction. Even though the addiction is psychological and not physical, it is still a difficult road to travel. The deep depression and inability to feel pleasure make it difficult for someone to stay in recovery.

This torment leads to relapses because the person addicted to meth knows that their pain will go away with one more shot, pill, smoke or hit. Currently, there are not any pharmacological aids to help with the effects of methamphetamine withdrawal.

The most effective way to overcome a methamphetamine addiction is through a meth treatment rehab center that uses behavioral therapies and continuing support. The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem, and it cannot be fixed alone. The next step is to ask for help. The assistance to overcome a methamphetamine addiction is available, and people want to help.

Meth Addiction Statistics

Unhappy Man With Clasped HandsMethamphetamine abuse has been growing over the past decade. The concentration of the drug used to be in Hawaii and the west coast, but it is rapidly moving east. Treatment admissions for methamphetamine abuse have also increased substantially.

In 1992, there were approximately 21,000 treatment admissions in which methamphetamine/amphetamine was identified as the primary drug of abuse, representing more than 1 percent of all treatment admissions during the year. By 2004, the number of methamphetamine treatment admissions increased to greater than 150,000, representing 8 percent of all admissions [1].

Other statistics that address meth usage are:

  • According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 10.4 million people age 12 or older (4.3 percent of the population) have tried methamphetamine at some time in their lives. Approximately 1.3 million reported past-year methamphetamine use, and 512,000 reported current (past-month) use [2].
  • In 2009, 1.2 million Americans age 12 and older had abused methamphetamine at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2].
  • The 2005 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of student drug use and attitudes reported 4.5 percent of high school seniors had used methamphetamine within their lifetimes, while 8th-graders and 10th-graders reported lifetime use at 3.1 and 4.1 percent, respectively [3].
  • The Monitoring the Future Study showed that 1.2% of 8th graders, 1.6% of 10th graders, and 1.0% of 12th graders had abused methamphetamine at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [3].
  • The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which collects information on drug-related episodes from hospital emergency departments (EDs) throughout the Nation, has reported a greater than 50 percent increase in the number of ED visits related to methamphetamine abuse between 1995 and 2002, reaching approximately 73,000 ED visits, or 4 percent of all drug-related visits in 2004 [4].

Causes of Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine affects the brain and the central nervous system. The addiction is caused by the powerful rush of euphoria or “flash” that one feels when abusing meth.

The dopamine in the brain spikes and floods the brain and provides an intense feeling of goodness. At the same time, the dopamine receptors are being eroded. Therefore, the normal amounts of dopamine that make someone feel happy or good are no longer sufficient.

Now, extra methamphetamines are needed to make the person feel the rush and more is needed just to feel tolerable after the drug effects have worn off. It has been pointed out that a person can become addicted to meth after the first use due to its extreme euphoric rush and instantaneous changes in the brain.

The immediate intense rush or “flash” caused by methamphetamines only lasts for a few minutes but is said to be tremendously enjoyable. It is this high to which abusers become addicted. Frequently triggers such as traumatic life effects, an eating or mood disorder, or other substance abuse provide the initial impetus to meth addiction.

Signs of Meth Addiction, Use, and Dependence

Sad man with meth addictionMeth abuse does not create a physical dependency, but it quickly develops into a vicious psychological addiction.

The quick and intense euphoric feelings that are felt and the changes in the brain lead the abuser to have a mental dependency on meth.  There are signs that are exhibited when a person is high on methamphetamines.

These are some examples of the signs:

  • Euphoria
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Severe dental problems
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea

Methamphetamine Effects

As a powerful stimulant, methamphetamine presents some side effects that affect the physical and psychological features of the body. It is fast-acting intense “high” (powerful euphoric feelings a drug creates) leads users to often abuse meth.

In addition to the psychological and physical effects, methamphetamine abuse can have negative social consequences. Some of the psychological effects that can be revealed are:

  • Euphoria
  • Bizarre and erratic behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Hyper excitability
  • Anxiety
  • Amnesia
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme mood changes

Some of the physical effects of meth use are:

  • Changes in brain structure
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss
  • Respiratory failure
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in brain function
  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Severe dental problems
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Increased blood pressure

Negative social consequences from addiction to methamphetamines:

  • Loss of home
  • Loss of family and friends
  • Loss of career
  • Financial stability
  • Loss of self esteem

With continued abuse of methamphetamines, some of these unwanted effects can be felt for over two years and some can become permanent. Meth is a powerful drug with a powerful addiction. It will rule the abuser’s life.

Methamphetamine Withdrawal

House in TexasMethamphetamine addiction does not produce the major physical withdrawal symptoms like that of heroin, but going through the psychological withdrawal associated with meth is extremely difficult.

The methamphetamine increases the dopamine levels in the brain, dopamine is a chemical that is released that produces powerful feelings of goodness, euphoria, etc., and at the same time decreases the existing dopamine receptors in the brain.

So, when a person stops using meth, the dopamine levels drop sharply and the user sinks into a depression and is unable to feel pleasure. Other withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, an increased appetite, excessive sleeping and continual thoughts of suicide.

These symptoms can last for days or months. The duration and intensity of the withdrawal are dependent on the amount and length of time the methamphetamines are abused.

More Articles About Methamphetamine

    • Methamphetamine is arguably one of the most destructive illicit substances being trafficked throughout the world today. It causes deterioration of the body’s blood vessels and tissues and actively prohibits the body from being capable of repairing itself. Learn more about how it damages your body here.
    • Methamphetamines are an extremely addictive drug that can cause serious irreparable damage to the brain. People who become addicted to meth begin to experience changes that include major physical, cognitive, and psychological changes. There is more brain related damage caused by meth abuse that can cause people to act out aggressively.

While alcohol is the widest controlled substance used on collegiate campuses, stimulants are the class of drugs that are most extensively used among college students. Methamphetamine, an illegal drug similar to amphetamine, is an extremely addictive stimulant that is finding its way into the hands of many college students today.


[1]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –
[2]: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) –
[3]: Monitoring the Future Study –
[4]: Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) –

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 28, 2018
Published on, Help Guide for Substance Abuse