Meth Addiction: Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects

Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Meth is one of the street names for the drug methamphetamine. It is a common drug of abuse in the United States and can be made from substances available for purchase. Meth causes a euphoric high in users by prolonging the amount of time that dopamine remains in brain cells (neurons), triggering the reward system of the brain for long periods.

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance and is available as the prescription drug Desoxyn. However, it is very unlikely that a physician in the United States would prescribe Desoxyn to anyone because of its high misuse potential. However, when used appropriately, Desoxyn treats attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and it can be prescribed for weight loss.

Meth symptoms of abuse can range in severity from mild to severe and usually depend on the length of use. Being able to identify the symptoms, signs and side effects can help people identify addiction in themselves or loved ones.

Symptoms of Meth Abuse

Meth is a powerful stimulant. It gives its users energy and generates feelings of euphoria. Some other desirable effects are decreased appetite, weight loss and improved focus.

Meth addiction can start by itself or can be bridged from an Adderall addiction after a person’s Adderall prescription runs out. Methamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall) have very similar chemical structures. The only difference is that methamphetamine absorbs into the brain easier than amphetamine does. If someone is addicted to Adderall and their prescription runs out, they may seek out methamphetamine and find that it gives them a greater euphoria.

Some symptoms of meth use are:

  • Euphoria
  • Excessive confidence
  • High body temperature, or sweating
  • New onset anxiety
  • Stealing or borrowing money often
  • Talkativeness

Since the drug affects everyone in different ways, people may exhibit different symptoms when they abuse meth to get high.

Side Effects of Meth

Even though the high is a desired side effect of meth use, the drug can cause many less-desirable side effects. These side effects usually do not occur on the first or second use, but they eventually show up with repeated use or abuse of the drug.

  • Different sleeping patterns – they may stay awake for days
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disregard for personal appearance
  • Erratic movement (e.g., twitching, facial tics)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Picking at hair or skin
  • Psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations

Another meth side effect that is not so obvious: the impact on the community. When meth is produced, it is usually done so in a meth lab, which is a location that is used to manufacture methamphetamine. Meth labs are dangerous and are often run by people that are using the drugs themselves, which can lead to impaired judgment — a bad combination when working with volatile chemicals. Explosion and toxic gas releases are common in these labs. Meth labs are a danger to the communities they are in.

Side Effects of Long-Term Meth Abuse

Long term effects of meth use stem from the aforementioned symptoms. When the body is exposed to methamphetamine for longer periods, some specific effects begin to develop.

  • Accelerated aging – Meth can impact the skin in a few ways. First, it tends to dehydrate the person, so their skin becomes a little thinner than normal. Meth abuse can cause itching and picking at the skin, creating open sores. When the body is in a dehydrated state, it is harder for the skin to fight off infection. These aspects can contribute to the appearance of accelerated aging.
  • Broken or rotten teeth – Prolonged meth use floods the brain with abnormal levels of dopamine. When people shower and brush their teeth, some dopamine is released in the reward centers of the brain. When a person uses meth, there is either so much dopamine that bathing is not a rewarding experience or the reward pathways are so damaged that personal hygiene no longer provides any positive reaction.
  • HIV or HepC if needles are used – When someone abuses meth, their drug-seeking behavior becomes the most important task. Therefore, they may start taking greater risks to attain the drug, including the use of needles which are sometimes shared. Often these needles come from other users with HIV or Hepatitis C infections. These diseases transfer through the blood easily.
  • Weight loss – Someone using meth may feel hot because it increases processes in the body that release energy. This release comes out as heat and then sweat. Sweat and water make up a large portion of a person’s body weight. In addition, someone using meth has little appetite. These two factors combine to cause unintended weight loss over time.

Signs of Meth Overdose

Overdosing is a life-threatening medical emergency. Knowing the signs of a meth overdose enables you to recognize when one occurs and react quickly. Call emergency assistance immediately if you believe a person is overdosing. Some signs of meth overdose are:

  • Chest pain
  • Coma
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular or stopped heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Stroke

If you live with a meth addiction and you would like to learn more about methamphetamine addiction treatment, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield. A representative is available to talk to you about specific programs for your needs. You deserve a healthier future, call today


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    Barr, Alasdair M. “The Need for Speed: An Update on Methamphetamine Addiction.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 2006. Accessed April 30, 2019.

    Food and Drug Administration “Desoxyn Package Insert.” Ovation Pharmaceuticals, 2007. Accessed May 6, 2019.

    MedlinePlus. “Methamphetamine Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed April 30, 2019.

    Santos, Ariel P. “Methamphetamine Laboratory Explosions: A New and Emerging Burn Injury.” The Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation, 2005. Accessed April 30, 2019.

    U.S. Department of Justice. “What Is a Methamphetamine Laboratory?” 2004. Accessed May 6, 2019.