Signs and symptoms of meth addiction

What does a meth addict look like? Severe cravings, restlessness, and anxiety can characterize meth addiction. More on how you can help a meth addict here.

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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:

  • 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
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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