Understand the signs, symptoms, and treatment for methamphetamine addiction

Origins Behavioral Healthcare: Meth
Origins Behavioral Healthcare: Meth


Methamphetamines or “meth” are one of the most powerful and devastating of all illicit drugs. Meth is generally found in a white powder or glass-like form, referred to as “crystal meth.” It is a central nervous system stimulant that is usually snorted or smoked. Crystal meth can also be injected, inhaled, or consumed orally.

Chemically, meth works by flooding the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. The resulting euphoric blast can overwhelm the user, ultimately rewriting neural pathways and sowing the seeds for a painful addiction.

The myriad of social, emotional, physical, and behavioral issues resulting from addiction to meth are vast. Relationships often suffer as a result of the user’s unpredictable mood swings, and the person may consistently avoid regular responsibilities and obligations. As grades and work output drop, unemployment, financial strain, and homelessness can result. Meth use can lead to risk-taking behaviors and possible suicidal behaviors.

With over 35 years of experience, Origins’ team of multidisciplinary professionals is skilled in treating the methamphetamine addiction with a variety of advanced clinical, medical, and spiritual interventions.

Prevalence of Use

As of 2015, around six percent of the American population (aged 12 and older) had tried meth at least once according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that over 100,000 people received medical treatment in an emergency department for meth abuse in 2011. The American Journal on Addictions published studies showing that around 40 percent of people seeking treatment for methamphetamine use also reported struggling with anxiety.

Mood and anxiety disorders co-occur with substance use disorders at rates as high as 50 percent according to the NIDA.

Signs of Use

For those addicted to meth, the drug often becomes the center of the user’s life. Meth affects an individual’s physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of wellbeing.

Physical signs and symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Dehydration
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Skin abscesses (particularly at injection sites)
  • Osteoporosis (degradation of teeth and bones)
  • Decreased libido
  • Loss of skin elasticity

Psychological and behavioral symptoms include:

  • Social isolation
  • Hiding drug use from others
  • Dangerous, risky behaviors
  • Impulsivity
  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Violent behaviors
  • Aggression
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Intently-focused attention (known as “tweaking”)
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Sensations of bugs crawling underneath the skin
  • Paranoia

Withdrawal Symptoms

While meth detox is not usually as dangerous as alcohol or benzodiazepine detox, meth-induced psychosis generally arises during the withdrawal process. The resulting psychosis can be painful or cause the user to harm themselves or others. The experience is often referred to as being “spun,” and it requires the supervision of trained medical professionals. Meth users may experience delusions, paranoia, and extreme irritability. Visual and auditory hallucinations are also commonly reported. These disorienting experiences can also cause users to incessantly pick at themselves, resulting in skin abrasions that can become infected.

Other symptoms of meth withdrawal include:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts/suicide
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased sleeping
  • Teeth grinding
  • Night sweats

Origins’ skilled medical team includes doctors and psychiatrists, as well as a dedicated nursing staff that is available to patients 24 hours a day. Whether you’re suffering from methamphetamine addiction, co-occurring disorders, or other medical concerns unrelated to addiction, we can help.

Learn more about our medical services here.

Medical Detox as a Launchpad

Medical detox is only the first step toward recovery from addiction and does not guarantee ongoing sobriety. Often, people fail to remain sober following detox without additional sophisticated medical care from trained professionals and effective clinical substance use disorder programming. Stimulant use disorders are mental illnesses — and there is no one cause of addiction. When all aspects of a person’s mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing are addressed, complete recovery is possible.

Treatment Modalities

Methamphetamine users are often trauma survivors. Whether the trauma resulted from the dangerous lengths people go to obtain the substance, or if from childhood, drug users experience trauma at higher rates than the general population. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that the sooner someone receives help for meth use, the better the long-term prognosis.

It is important for an individual to remain in a comprehensive addiction treatment program long enough to form healthy habits, allow new brain connections to form, and learn techniques to improve one’s quality of life. The trauma-informed care approach used at Origins Behavioral HealthCare is particularly helpful when selecting treatment modalities to enhance recovery.

Origins’ staff treats co-occurring disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Our psychiatrists, doctors, and psychologists work together to create a plan for rehabilitation that includes cutting-edge, evidence-based neurological interventions to heal and retrain the brain as well as medications for co-occurring disorders and robust counseling sessions. Examples of these treatment modalities include:


  • Neurofeedback
  • Biofeedback
  • Trauma therapies
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Recreational therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Wellness activities, yoga and massage
  • Nutritional coaching
  • 12-Step and spiritual programming and support

Effects on the Brain

Methamphetamine makes a person feel good. It affects dopamine levels in the brain, flooding neurotransmitters and disrupting normal functioning. In addition to regulating the brain’s ability to feel pleasure, dopamine affects a person’s motivation, movement, memory functions, learning, and reward processing. Taking meth repeatedly builds up tolerance and requires higher doses more often to feel the same effects making it difficult to feel happy without meth.

Drug dependence forms quickly with chronic meth use and even faster with binge use.  Escalating dosages result in changes in how the brain functions and alterations to its chemical makeup and circuitry. Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and a loss of the ability to control how much and how often meth is taken can occur. The brain’s health becomes affected.

Contact Origins Behavioral HealthCare

Origins Behavioral HealthCare is dedicated to helping our patients achieve lifelong, sustainable, and complete recovery. We provide effective, evidence-based care that enacts real, lasting change for our patients.

Today is the day you break the cycle of addiction for good – start your journey to freedom and fulfillment by calling Origins Behavioral HealthCare at 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.