Know the Risks of Meth
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.
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.
Meth can make you feel like you’re losing your freedom. But recovery is possible. Watch one man’s message about meth use and recovery.
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 (PDF | 471 KB) 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 of Meth
Even taking small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects, including:
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Faster breathing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
- Erratic, aggressive, irritable, or violent behavior
Long-term Health Risks of Meth
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
- Premature osteoporosis
- Severe dental problems
Many people who could benefit from treatment do not know they have an addiction or do not think treatment will work for them. However, with the right treatment plan, recovery is possible. If you, or someone you know, need help to stop using substances – whether the problem is methamphetamine, alcohol or another drug – call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, or use the SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to get help.
References and Relevant Resources
- Find Treatment
- Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator
- Tips for Teens: Methamphetamine | Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (PDF | 253 KB)
- 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health | SAMHSA
- Counselor’s Family Education: Manual Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People with Stimulant Use Disorders | SAMHSA (PDF | 1.1 MB)
- Methamphetamine | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Drug Facts: Methamphetamine | NIDA
- NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin – Methamphetamine | NIDA (DOC | 40 KB)
- Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011-2016 | Centers for Disease Control and Preventiom (PDF | 336 KB)