Meth Addiction Myths

Learn more here about the top 10 meth addiction myths and facts.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine (also known as meth, blue, crystal, and ice) is a chemical drug with a high addiction profile. It carries out its effect via the body’s central nervous system.1 Methamphetamine was first created in the early twentieth century. It was intended to be used as a nasal decongestant and bronchial inhaler. However, its potency had an extensive and more damaging effect on the central nervous system than expected. Because of its addiction-causing propensity in small doses, it’s no longer used medically.1
However, it’s essential to note that this same tendency of meth to cause addictions has made it a substance of abuse. Methamphetamine boosts energy, suppresses hunger, and reduces the desire for sleep.

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Why It's So Addictive

Methamphetamine has been associated with potentiating the release of large amounts of dopamine in the body. Dopamine (also known as the pleasure neurotransmitter) plays an essential part in the body’s risk and reward system. Impulses transmitted by dopamine contribute to sensations of pleasure and euphoria. As a result, when someone consumes/takes meth, they experience an intense feeling of euphoria (due to large amounts of dopamine released).

Subsequently, individuals who use meth begin to take the drug to replicate that feeling of pleasure. However, there’s a danger to this repeated meth use. Methamphetamine usage can become so habitual that it becomes compulsive. This is because consistent meth use alters the brain’s decision-making areas. Usually, getting high is made consciously in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. However, after several meth doses, this “decision” transfers to the hindbrain, which is in charge of non-voluntary actions like blinking and breathing. This results in loss of “conscious” control of drug use and invariably leads to abuse and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction

Meth Addiction Myths
Addiction to meth can have several adverse short-term and long-term effects. These effects could vary depending on the chemical makeup of the individual and the intensity of the addiction.

Short-Term Symptoms

Short-term meth addiction symptoms include the following:

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Hyperthermia
  • Agitation
  • Impaired mental function
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression/excitability
  • Euphoria
  • Reduced appetites
It’s important to note that because individual body physiology also plays a part in addiction to meth, other meth addiction symptoms not listed here may be observed.

Long-Term Symptoms

Long-term meth addiction symptoms are usually more severe/serious than short-term symptoms. They could include:
  • Aggressive tendencies
  • Problems with memory and verbal learning
  • Outbursts of violence
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Lack of focus
  • Movement, motor control, and coordination disturbances
  • Mood swings
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Delusions
Meth mouth and other signs like drastic weight loss are also long-term meth addiction symptoms.

Top 10 Meth Addiction Myths & Facts

There are several meth myths relating to the drug itself and the individuals who use it that keep them from seeking assistance. Therefore, this emphasizes the need to differentiate between facts and myths about methamphetamine.

Helping people with meth addiction and their loved ones understand the truth about methamphetamine will enable them to understand the condition better and feel more comfortable reaching out for help. Some of these meth myths are based on some interesting facts about meth. Some of these meth myths include:

Meth Helps You Focus at Work

Initial meth use has improved attention, information processing, learning, and memory. That’s hardly unexpected because one interesting fact about meth is that the prescription form of methamphetamine (Desoxyn) is licensed to treat severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These observed effects of meth have given rise to the myth about meth helping people focus at work when the opposite is true in the long run.
The truth about methamphetamine is that it isn’t an excellent concentration enhancer for work or school use. It might affect attention and performance over time, not to mention the associated behavioral changes accompanying continuous meth use.

A Meth High Can Last for Days

Many people take to meth because the long highs appeal to them. You may have seen someone embark on a meth binge for several days on television, and the fact is that it does occur in real life. However, this isn’t because a single meth high persists for days.
A meth high only lasts for about 8 and 12 hours. To achieve that “inter-day high,” meth abusers re-dose as often as they need to, which might be twice or three times every day. So for meth highs to last for days, people have to take repeated doses.

It Causes Holes in the Brain

Several websites dedicated to methamphetamine usage say that a sign of meth use over time is “holes” in the brain, meaning irreversible harm to the brain’s structure that can never be repaired.
On the other hand, current imaging studies show little evidence of methamphetamine having such effects in the brain, instead indicating anomalies in several brain areas that are often impacted by drug misuse. The prefrontal cortex, which is engaged in higher-level reasoning, and the basal ganglia, connected to various processes, including behavior, emotion, and cognition, are two of these areas.
So no, while it’s true that meth may affect normal brain functioning, it doesn’t cause holes in the brain.
Meth Use Doesn't Have Side Effects
This meth myth is false. The truth about meth use is that it has several hazardous adverse effects. Signs of meth use are divided into long-term effects and short-term effects. Signs of meth use range from insomnia and aggression to more severe ones like stroke, seizures, and psychosis.
Individuals Who Use Meth Can't Recover Their Brain Function
Meth addiction alters the brain’s structure with changes such as damage to dopamine receptors and areas like the basal ganglia and frontal lobe. It’s also true that all of these changes could negatively impact your brain function.

However, it’s not true that individuals who use meth can’t recover their brain function. These structural changes that lead to decreased brain functioning might be challenging to treat, and recovery may take time. Still, it’s possible to recover brain function with the right therapy and medication.

It's Easy to Hide Meth Addiction
Myths about meth concerning how easy it is to hide meth addiction are very untrue for the most part. This is because many telltale signs of meth use are simple to spot. Meth has various long and short-term effects visible to others around you.
Adverse effects of meth usage such as euphoria, increased activity, insomnia, reduction in appetite, extreme weight loss, and dental problems (meth mouth myth) are all symptoms of meth usage easily spotted by people around individuals who use meth. As such, meth addiction can actually be tough to hide.
Meth Is Instantly Addictive
Another of the several meth myths is that it’s instantly addictive. The fact is that the best way to avoid being addicted to a substance is never to take it in the first place. However, the length of time it takes to develop a meth addiction varies widely from person to person. One of the interesting facts about meth is that some people may develop an addiction to meth quickly, while others may be able to take it infrequently for an extended period before becoming dependent.
You should note that generally, methamphetamine has a high and fast addiction profile due to its ability to release large amounts of “feel good” dopamine into your system. So while a single use of the drug might not result in addiction, there is a very high possibility that subsequent uses will.
Crystal Meth Can Cause Cancer

Does meth cause cancer? Although there is no documented cause and effect link between meth and cancer, it has well-known acute toxic effects on the brain and liver. According to a 2019 study published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal, there is some evidence that meth damages two types of DNA in humans, leading to the assumption that the drug may cause adverse health effects (such as cancer and infertility) in individuals who use meth long-term.

Individuals who use meth may also be more likely to get cancer due to the chemicals used in illegal laboratories to produce the drug. These substances usually include a variety of common home compounds known to cause cancer in humans, such as benzene.2
Meth Makes You Better at Socializing
Methamphetamine, like most addictive chemicals, may provide individuals with feelings of pleasure, confidence, and strength that are beyond what they are used to. This means that meth can make individuals feel more extroverted, conversational, and confident in social situations (not in all cases do these attributes indicate meth use). Still, it can also make them act strangely. Also, the drug can have both short and long-term side effects that are unpleasant and hazardous.3
Individuals Who Use Meth Can't Recover
Again, this meth myth is untrue. Although methamphetamines addiction profile can make it a challenging drug to withdraw and recover from, recovery is very much possible with the right therapy, medication, and support.

Meth Withdrawal

As with other drugs/substances of abuse, meth withdrawal can be challenging and complex. This is because withdrawal is usually characterized by several, sometimes severe, withdrawal symptoms. As a general rule, the longer someone has been on meth, the more severe their withdrawal symptoms are. The same may be said for age, with older persons often having more severe symptoms than younger people.4
On average, complete meth withdrawal might take a few weeks to many months. Usually, the severe withdrawal symptoms subside in a couple of days.
Signs and Symptoms of Withdrawal

Although everyone’s meth withdrawal symptoms are unique, several indications and symptoms are typical. They include

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Increase in appetite
  • Strong meth cravings
Coping and Relief
Finding methods of dealing/coping with meth withdrawal symptoms is vital to avoid the possibility of a relapse and distract from the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Some of these coping mechanisms include:
  • Avoid trigger situations or circumstances
  • Exercise
  • Stay busy; make sure to distract yourself with something
  • Eat healthily
Long-Term Treatment

There are several long-term treatment options for meth addiction. The most common, most widely used of these methods is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy used in the treatment of meth addiction is divided into two main types: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management.

Family education, individual therapy, and 12-Step support groups are other long-term treatment options that can be employed.

Get Help for Meth Addiction Today

Meth Addiction
Detox

Detox is usually the first step of meth addiction treatment. It involves slow tapering of meth doses to reduce toxicity in the body and reduce the severity of meth withdrawal symptoms. Additional medication is often prescribed to take care of accompanying withdrawal symptoms.

Medically-Assisted Treatment
Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a therapy option commonly employed in managing addictions. It involves using medications such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone (in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies) to provide a whole-person approach to treatment.
Rehabilitation

During meth addiction detox and rehabilitation, treatment may either be inpatient care or outpatient care. Inpatient care allows individuals with a meth addiction to be placed under constant supervision. This makes it possible to control therapy outcomes and effectively manage withdrawal symptoms and signs. Outpatient therapy will enable individuals to maintain their usual daily routine and activities while simultaneously operating and adjusting to the “new reality” of daily living without meth use.5