Meth Addiction Causes

Learn about the causes of meth addiction, its signs, impact on the body, and therapy options.

Meth Addiction

Meth addiction is defined as the inability to resist consuming meth despite the possible adverse physical, psychological, and social consequences.
Causes Of Meth Addiction


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Understanding Meth

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance that mediates its activity via the central nervous system (CNS). Methamphetamine is also known as crystal meth or meth, ice, crank, or crystal. It usually looks like clear, gleaming crystals or hard blue-white rocks. Crystal meth is often smoked, snorted, or injected to provide a long-lasting rush or high that makes the individual feel unstoppable, energized, and ecstatic/euphoric. This feeling is the cause of meth addiction.

One primary reason crystal addiction remains a significant health concern today is that it can be made inexpensively by combining a variety of chemicals, many of which are interchangeable. This easy accessibility is one of the causes of meth addiction. One method of curtailing the spread and use of meth drugs and other illicit drugs is to prevent its distribution; however, this method has only recorded limited success where meth is concerned. This is because meth drugs can be made from a combination of so many chemical substances (including battery acid and ammonia), making them easy to manufacture and distribute.

Why It's So Addictive

Why is meth so addictive? Meth causes individuals to feel as if they can accomplish anything. This state is known as the “Superman effect.” The culprit responsible for this is dopamine. Dopamine (also known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter) is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for transmitting information between neurons. As a result, the brain releases dopamine, contributing to emotions of pleasure and fulfillment as part of the body’s reward system.1
Reports from several pieces of research state that intake of meth drugs results in a tremendous spike of dopamine levels in the body (1250 units). To help you put this into the proper perspective, consider that sex and cocaine use only result in spikes of 200 and 300 dopamine level units. This extreme “high” that occurs due to increased dopamine levels is primarily responsible for the addictive properties of meth.

From the first time a person uses meth (meth drugs), there is a high dopamine rush in the body (and the body records its effect). The body tries to “relive” these high levels with subsequent meth administration, but this is often impossible. Also, tolerance to meth develops fast; the individual will have to continue increasing the dose of meth they take to achieve the same feeling. Needless to say, this causes meth addiction (and accompanying meth side effects). If too much of the drug is ingested, overdose is the result.

Meth Addiction Causes

There are several causes meth addiction at any given time. These factors include:


Several family and twin studies prove that genetics play an essential part in the causes of meth addiction. This probably has something to do with the body’s rate of metabolism.

Frequency and Duration of Meth Usage

As earlier stated, the frequency and/or duration of methamphetamine abuse play a considerable part as one of the causes of meth addiction. More often than not, meth abusers are the way they are because they have used meth for an extended period. This repeated abuse becomes habit-forming, and this eventually leads to addiction.2 Other causes of meth addiction include:
  • Absence of social support
  • Psychological causes
  • Wrong use of prescription medicine
  • History of meth abuse or neglect
  • History of compulsive behavior
  • Socio-cultural influences

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine abuse results in many physical, psychological (mental), and behavioral symptoms. Some meth addiction symptoms are mild, but others are more severe. Usually, more severe meth addiction symptoms occur with long-term meth use.

Physical Signs

Physical signs of meth abuse are usually observed when the person in question (the individual) is new to the drug or is just getting progressively dependent on it. Some of these physical signs of meth abuse include:
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Meth mouth (rotted teeth)
  • Stroke
  • Convulsions
  • Intense scratching
  • Damage to the liver
  • Acne or sores on the face
  • Reduced body immunity
  • Significant increase in libido
  • Droopy face
  • Death

It should also be mentioned that crystal meth abusers are at a high risk of contracting STIs such as HIV. This is because they’re not likely to use any form of protection (due to the effects of the drug).

Psychological Signs

Meth is linked to a wide range of adverse psychological effects. The propensity of meth to enhance dopamine levels in the brain causes an initial feeling of euphoria when consumed. However, dopamine is about much more than pleasure; it also plays a significant role in the memory and learning process.
Continuous meth misuse will overwhelm the brain with dopamine, creating an imbalance in the brain’s natural dopamine levels and dopamine-related functions over time. As a result, persons who abuse meth are likely to have memory issues, difficulty learning new motor skills and other tasks, and poor visual memory in the long run.
Psychosis and its symptoms (delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, and irritability) are common psychological signs of meth abuse. In addition, the intense scratching observed as a physical symptom may also be linked to psychosis.
Behavioral Signs
There are also behavioral signs related to meth use. Because this drug is so addictive, it only takes a short while before it consumes the attention and focus of the abuser. This means that relationships are affected as the abuser is focused on getting “more.” In fact, one of the most evident behavioral indications of addiction is self-involvement with meth to the expense of crucial relationships and commitments.
Other behavioral signs that may be associated with meth abuse include:
  • Increased sexual activity
  • Increased violent impulses and behaviors
  • Hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable are now avoided
  • Obsession with “seeking the next high”
  • Increased involvement in dangerous activities
The Dangers of Meth Addiction
There are several short-term and long-term effects of meth use. However, more often than not, the long-term effects of meth use tend to be more serious/severe than the short-term effects.
Immediate Side Effects
Immediate/short term effects of meth addiction include:3
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Hyperthermia
  • Agitation
  • Impaired mental function
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression/excitability
  • Euphoria
  • Reduced appetites
Long-Term Health Effects
Long-term effects of meth use usually result from several months/years of meth use accumulating. They could include the following:
  • Violent or aggressive outbursts
  • Mood swings that are severe and extreme
  • Psychosis
  • Weight loss
  • Dental problems (meth mouth)
Anxiety, abscesses, sores on the skin, and insomnia are also long-term effects of meth use.4
Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth addiction treatment might be challenging due to the severity of meth’s side effects and the drug’s potency. However, treatment is possible with the right therapy and meth addiction medication. Approaches to meth addiction treatments include counseling and treatment (with meth addiction medication), contingency management interventions, and the use of specific therapy models like the matrix model. Aftercare and support groups may also play a significant part in treating meth addiction.

Treatment for Meth Addiction
Counseling and Therapy
Therapists assist recovering meth addiction individuals in identifying the underlying causes of meth addiction usage and provide the emotional support required to address those difficulties. Individuals learn how to manage the urge to use meth in times of stress or boredom and understand the thought and behavioral patterns that led them to take the substance in the first place through therapy.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been particularly beneficial in the treatment of methamphetamine abuse addiction as well as co-occurring depression and anxiety disorders. In addition, narrative therapy (another form of therapy used in the treatment of addiction) is used to help recovering addicts figure out how their stories have influenced their drug use and how to change their beliefs and behaviors.

Contingency Management Interventions
Contingency management intervention is a highly successful treatment for substance abuse and disordered thinking. Contingency management is a behavioral treatment in which people are rewarded or reinforced for showing good behavior change.5
Matrix Model
The matrix model is another treatment option available for people struggling with meth addiction. This therapy model is a 16-week treatment program that combines behavioral therapy with family education, counseling, a 12-Step program, drug testing, and the promotion of non-drug-related activities.6
After-Care and Support Groups

Support for post-rehab meth addiction therapy individuals is essential for staying sober. Popular support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous have a record of being sources of support for recovering methamphetamine abuse individuals.

Both of these organizations have 12-Step programs that assist recovering individuals in working through their addictions by taking an inventory of their daily lives, making restitution to those affected, and aiding and supporting others via sharing personal stories.