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Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

Are you able to recognize the signs and symptoms of meth addiction in yourself or someone you care about? Certain symptoms, such as headaches, are present during other diseases or chronic conditions. So, how can you be sure? And how can you help a meth addict get treatment?

Here, we outline symptoms of meth addiction and options for treatment. Then, we invite your question and comments about meth at the end.

Symptoms of meth addiction

The classifications for and definitions of “addiction” are found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders and are published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM codes are mostly used by mental health professionals to describe the features of a given mental disorder and indicate how the disorder can be distinguished from other. Any meth user who meets the DSM criteria for methamphetamine addiction requires intensive treatment. So the question is, how can you recognize a meth addict? DSM criteria for addiction include:

1. Craving, or an intense desire or urge for meth that may occur at any time but is more likely when in an environment where the drug was obtained or used

2. Loss of control, characterized by:

  • using meth in larger amounts or over a longer period than was originally intended
  • a persistent desire to cut down or regulate meth and/or multiple unsuccessful efforts to decrease or discontinue use
  • spending a great deal of time obtaining meth, using meth or recovering from meth use

3. Negative consequences to social life, characterized by:

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  • a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • continued meth use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of meth
  • lack of interest in important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of meth use
  • withdrawal from family activities and hobbies in order to use meth

4. Risky use, characterized by

  • recurrent meth use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • continued meth use, despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by methamphetamine

5. The development of tolerance to meth or withdrawal symptoms upon cessation; although neither is necessary for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder, these conditions can be present.

Meth addiction signs

Are the other, more practical ways to evaluate a person’s potential addiction to meth? Yes. You can also evaluate a person’s general health to check for meth dependence and related addiction. Because meth increases body metabolism and gives the feeling of immense energy and euphoria, followed by the awful crash, the body is literally exhausted and not able to maintain a regular body rhythm. Fatigue is evident in a meth addict’s face. Further, “meth mouth” is the term given to addicts caused by the deteriorating teeth.

Additionally, a meth addict’s mood easily shifts from one extreme to another and secrecy is high, especially before dosing. Meth addiction is very strong, therefore you can easily distinguish withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may last for days with occasional use and weeks or months with chronic methamphetamine use. Symptoms which occur during meth withdrawal and are signs of dependence on meth include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • increased appetite
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • mental confusion
  • restlessness
  • severe cravings
  • sleeping problems
  • suicidal intentions
  • lucid dreams

Meth addiction symptoms: Can they be treated?

Yes, meth addiction symptoms can be treated. How to start? Consider planning an intervention. But, remember, you do not need to be alone in this. Gather a team of addict’s family, friends and colleagues, people who would care about the person struggling with addiction. During a formal intervention, these people gather together to confront the person about the consequences of addiction and ask the addict to accept treatment.

The intervention points out specific examples of destructive behaviors and their impact on the addicted person and loved ones. You talk directly with the addict, offering a per-arranged treatment plan with clear steps . The end of an intervention is the hardest, when each person promises what will do if the meth addict refuses to accept treatment. This is often the hardest part where emotions get involved and the intervention’s goal slips out of hands.

Once an addict agrees to seek treatment, there are various of options for treating methamphetamine addiction. Meth addiction has been evidenced to respond well to psychological and behavioral treatment. However, treatment will depend of the resources, facilities, clinics, and professionals in your area as well as time limitations, the overall physical and psychological condition of the meth addict. The most commonly practiced meth addiction treatment techniques include:

  1. 12-step support group participation
  2. Case management services
  3. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  4. Contingency management
  5. Family therapy
  6. Infectious disease (Hepatitis B and C, HIV, etc.) education
  7. Matrix model treatment
  8. Motivational interviewing/enhancement therapy
  9. Pharmacological education with current and accurate information about methamphetamine

When it comes to facilitation of these techniques, meth addiction can be treated by inpatient, or residential, and outpatient meth addiction treatment. All outpatient services employed for methamphetamine addicts, should consist of at least 6 hours of treatment per week. Because of the nature of meth addict, treatment episodes are recommended over a period of at least 3-6 months, followed by one year of after care treatment.

Signs of meth addiction questions

Do you still have questions about the signs and symptoms of meth addiction or what to do about them? If there is something specific you would like to ask us, please feel free to post your question in the comments section below. We will try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital: DSM V Substance Use Disorders
South Dakota Department of Social services: Protocols for Meth Users
U.S Clinical Trials: Study of Medical Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction (BUP PGx)
The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP): Interventions

Photo credit: Neil Kremer

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12 Responses to “Signs and symptoms of meth addiction
Jim
4:23 am October 11th, 2014

Hello,
I have absolutely no experience with meth abuse or addiction in general. My partner had been sober from meth addiction for almost five years in August. Sadly, he relapsed due to several life stressors. At any rate, he has apparently used intermittently since August; although slightly more often last week (first week of October). Last use according to him was October 4th or 5th (I am writing this message on October 10th). He has started outpatient treatment starting two days ago. He has had body aches most of the week and sleep issues (which I believe is normal for withdrawal). However, starting yesterday and worsening into today, he has experienced diarrhea and high fever (as high as 102 this morning). Per his request, I brought my partner to the ER this afternoon/evening due to these symptoms but he did not want to report any meth use to the medical staff even though I requested that he be totally honest so they can care for him properly. He stated he really has not used that much meth recently. He does not feel this is at all related to withdrawal. To the medical staff, he probably appeared relatively normal. To me, he was extremely anxious and very, very focused on his symptoms. He told me he was worried he might die. Blood tests were normal. Awaiting stool sample results probably tomorrow. Here are my questions:

1) Can these be symptoms related to withdrawal even though he has not been using long and not using much meth (again, according to my partner)?

2) Should I have said something to his treating physician? I feel disappointed in myself tonight that maybe I might regret not sharing this information… If this happens again, I believe I will not hesitate to state all the medical facts – on his behalf.

Thanks for reading.
Jim

12:59 pm October 17th, 2014

Hello Jim. 1) It’s hard to tell whether his symptoms were from the withdrawal or not. It depends on how long he’s been using and how much.
2) I think it would have been better if you told the doctors the truth. At least then, they would have known what to treat him for.
How is he now?

Jim
1:36 am October 18th, 2014

Hello, thanks for your reply. He is feeling much better; thanks for asking. It does sound like he really had not used that much meth during the last month, so, it’s doubtful that his symptoms were related to meth withdrawal. I had to reach out and ask about this though. I was in a tough spot and one which I had never experienced before. Glad to have come across this website – I have learned a lot.

Jim

3:39 pm October 22nd, 2014

I’m so glad that he’s feeling better, Jim. Thank you for the feedback and for writing to say he’s doing fine. If you ever need help with anything else, feel free to write us again :)

Melissa
11:11 am February 16th, 2015

Are the symptoms of a meth hangover related to an addiction to it? The shitty, painful, irritating feeling the next morning can lead to craving it but once starting to feel better (without any drugs) and after a good long nap i do not crave anymore. What would that be considered?

3:08 pm February 18th, 2015

Hi Melissa. After single use and after meth’s effects start to wear off, the next thing you experience is “a crush”. This is when your brain and body are trying to get stabilized and back to homoeostasis. But, this is not meth addiction. When you become dependent or addicted to meth and use it for a longer period of time, withdrawal symptoms and cravings can last for a very long time.

cheema
12:20 pm May 18th, 2015

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant. Decreased appetite. Increased activity and wakefulness…

en-en
7:44 am June 24th, 2015

Is it possible that a chronic meth user can cope up or recover from addiction w/o undergoing tretment or rehabilitation,my son had been to rehabilalitation center one year ago but now i think he was a chronic user,what will i do?thank you and God bless

en-en
8:07 am June 24th, 2015

He’d been out of a treatment center one year ago but now I think he was a chronic user,my husband said that its all depend on the user to stop using because he’d been in the center before but as soon he’s out he return again from using meth until now he was using meth everyday,what will happen to him if we will not send him to a treatment center.thank you.

9:39 am June 24th, 2015

Hello en-en. It is very difficult to stop using meth without help, because the cravings are intense and difficult to cope with unless you have the skills. Do you know how to find treatment? You can try calling the trusted hotline number on our site and talk with a consultant…they are there 24-7. Please let us know how it goes…but meth addiction is best treated in an inpatient or outpatient addiction setting.

Ashley
1:26 am April 11th, 2016

I think my mom has been addicted to meth since I was 10 years old (I’m 22 now).
I think she’s going through a withdrawal right now but I’m not sure. I’ll leave a description.

Sleepiness: She’s just sleeping and when she wakes up all she does is scream. She frequently goes through these cycles of being awake and productive for several days and then sleeping and being b*tch for several days.
Paranoia: I went into the kitchen to clean up the mountain of trash that has accumulated and she asked if I was purposely being so loud to make a point. I wasn’t. As I was cleaning up the trash, I was watching a youtube video with people talking and laughing and she said it sounded like people were laughing at her and making fun of her. She then yelled at me to turn it off.
Then she went back to sleep.
Irritable: Everything irritates her.
Lucid dreams: I heard her crying and saying “no” and “f*ck” in her sleep earlier today.
Teeth rot:I noticed two of her teeth were missing a few months ago. I asked her what happened to her teeth and she said she hit her head on the counter and they fell out… But they were on opposite sides of her mouth. I’ve also seen her mouth foaming like a rabid dog before.

These actions are pretty normal to the point where everyone pretty much ignores them.
We don’t know how to help her and I don’t know how to get help.
Please give me guidance and a reliable and FREE rehab program in SA, TX.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
4:19 pm April 14th, 2016

Hi Ashley. Call the helpline on our site to speak with a trusted treatment consultant. Also, you may use SAMHSA’s treatment locator:
https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/TreatmentLocator/faces/servicesSearch.jspx

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