Understanding Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, produces an intense high or sense of euphoria after it is used. However, this high quickly fades and can lead to negative feelings of anger, paranoia, or anxiety. Similar to heroin and cocaine, meth increases the amount of dopamine produced and released in the brain. Meth addiction can develop quickly due to the fast-acting nature of the drug and the effect it has on the brain.

Meth is a versatile drug that can be eaten, snorted, smoked or injected. It can either be a bitter, white power or a clear or white shiny rock. While many people use meth for the rush of energy and pleasurable feelings it can induce, it can also contribute to conditions such as insomnia, aggression, mood swings, confusion, anxiety and hallucinations. In addition to impacting the brain’s reward system, it can also have a negative effect on emotion, memory, and motor skills.

What Comes First, Drug Addiction or Mental Illness?

It is not always easy to determine whether drug addiction or mental illness came first. Many times, there is not a clear cause, but rather they influence one another. For instance, a person may start using meth as a way to cope with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety and develop an addiction. On the other hand, the effects of meth use can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or other mental illnesses making them more noticeable or enhancing the severity.  What is important is that both conditions are identified and treated together at a facility like 1st Step Behavioral Health to support recovery.

How Addictive is Meth?

Meth can be extremely addictive due to the way that it impacts the brain. Meth affects the brain’s reward system and how it produces and processes dopamine. The surge of dopamine that occurs results in an intense euphoria that people seek. However, with continued use, this can quickly turn into addiction and alter the way the brain perceives pleasure. The body builds up a tolerance and higher doses are needed to achieve the same effects. Intense cravings can also occur. According to 2012 data, more than 12 million people had tried meth at least once in their life, and while not everyone develops an addiction, the risk exists.

Causes of Meth Addiction

While some people turn to meth as a way of coping with mental illness, others may use it out of curiosity or peer pressure. They are attracted to the intense euphoria and surge of energy that it can produce. Meth is a stimulant so it increases heart rate and makes people feel more energetic and excitable. Once they start using meth, they continue using it because the like how it makes them feel and what to recreate this feeling.

The causes of meth addiction are a combination of genetics, environment, and social factors. All of these things come into play when a person develops an addiction. Some people’s genetics put them at a higher risk for addiction than others. However, that is not the only deciding factor. Their lifestyle, stress levels, relationships, mental health, and other factors all contribute as well. There is no way of knowing for sure whether a person will develop a meth addiction.

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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction?

The effects of meth take hold rather quickly. It does not take long for euphoria to occur and the person to feel more energetic, but then this can spiral into more unpleasant and less desirable effects. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of meth addiction can enable family and friends to get their loved one into treatment before their addiction become more severe. Some common signs and symptoms of meth addiction include:

  • Intense Euphoria
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia

Other Signs of Meth Addiction

  • Anxiety
  • Increased energy
  • Heightened alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Excessive itching
  • Sores
  • Stained or rotten teeth

Family members or friends may notice that the person seems to be hyperactive and always on the go. They may talk quickly and have a poor appetite. The meth can make their skin break out or causes sores. People with meth addiction often feel like there are bugs crawling under their skin and may pick or scratch frequently.

How Do You Know if There is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Just because a person has a meth addiction does not necessarily mean that they have a mental illness and vice versa. However, it is not uncommon for these conditions to occur simultaneously due to similar areas of the brain being affected. When both a substance use disorder and mental health disorder are present, this is known as a co-occurring disorder.

It can be difficult to differentiate between the two because the symptoms may overlap. In addition to the signs of meth addiction, family and friends may notice that the person also shows signs of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental illness. The only way to know whether a co-occurring disorder truly exists is through comprehensive evaluations and assessments conducted by a licensed professional. Many addiction treatment facilities screen for both substance abuse and mental illness so that they can create more effective treatment plans to address each client’s individual needs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Meth Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

After a co-occurring disorder has been identified, it is important to get the person into dual diagnosis treatment for meth addiction and mental health disorders. This enables them to receive treatment that is geared toward their unique needs and which addresses the impact that meth addiction and specific mental illnesses have on one another. Dual diagnosis treatment can reduce the risk of relapsing because the client has a better understanding of how to cope with both conditions and how they are interrelated.  Treatment includes a combination of therapy, counseling, support groups, exercise, education, holistic activities and more to create a more comprehensive recovery plan.

Learn More About How to Get Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with meth addiction or a co-occurring disorder, there is help available. 1st Step Behavior Health will work with you along each step of the way to provide the level of high quality care and drug addiction treatment that you need for recovery. Contact us today!