Amphetamine & Methamphetamine Dependence

Amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence has become a common drug use disorder because of how intensely the drug stimulates the central nervous system.

Amphetamine dependence can permanently change the makeup of someone’s brain from extreme lack of sleep, appetite, and the ability to feel pleasure is shown to be changed for good too.

The journey to recovery can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Our team of experienced professionals at Aspen Behavioral Health can help you as you make your way to sobriety.

What is amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence?

Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth, is an intensely powerful drug that affects a person’s central nervous system when it is consumed.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that crystal methamphetamine got its name because it almost looks like tiny pieces of glass with a bluish-white colored rock. When broken down, it appears to be quite similar to amphetamine. Methamphetamines are used to help manage attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.

Am I dependent on amphetamines and methamphetamines?

Amphetamine dependence can begin to appear when the drug is:

  • being smoked
  • swallowed (pill)
  • snorted
  • Injected when the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

Typically, the “high” from consuming amphetamines or methamphetamines begins quickly and fades just as fast. People have been known to binge every few hours on amphetamines or methamphetamines, also known as a “run”, during these binge events, sleep and food are almost forgotten.

What are the causes of amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence?

Methamphetamine increases large amounts of dopamine to the brain, a natural chemical made in the body. This natural chemical, dopamine, is responsible for body movement, motivation, and overall happiness.

The ability of methamphetamines to increase the release of large amounts of dopamine to reward areas of the brain helps to establish addictive behaviors further. This makes the user want to keep using as they are rewarded with a sense of euphoria and extreme happiness.

Methamphetamines, even when consumed in tiny amounts, are still addictive, can be responsible for a variety of health problems similar to using cocaine or other amphetamines.

Here are some of the following short-term effects of methamphetamine dependence:

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity
  •  decreased appetite
  • faster breathing
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature

When should I consider getting clean from amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence?

The long-term effects on people who show signs of methamphetamine use disorders are a much higher chance of getting an infectious disease like HIV or hepatitis B or C. Typically these diseases are contracted when blood or other bodily fluids remain on shared needles or on other drug-use equipment. Methamphetamine dependence has shown that it can permanently change someone’s ability to make decisions or judgments, which can lead to risky behavior, such as unprotected intercourse, which leads to a higher risk of infection.

The long-term effects of methamphetamine dependence can have many negative consequences, including:

  • extreme weight loss, sleeping problems
  • addiction, violent behavior, anxiety
  • severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • depressive disorders
  •  irregular heartbeat, increased chance of a heart attack
  • changes in brain structure and function
  • confusion, memory loss, addiction
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren’t

The consistent use of methamphetamines has been shown to completely change the brain’s ability to provide dopamine to the brain. Because of that, people show a lack of coordination and problems with their speech.

Studies also showed that people who had used methamphetamine over the long term had problems with their brain’s surrounding memory and emotions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse did a study that discovered that those who used methamphetamines even just once have a much higher chance of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affect movement.

Are there health effects from exposure to second-hand methamphetamine smoke?

Recently, researchers do not officially know whether breathing in second-hand methamphetamine smoke can get a person high or be responsible for any other health problems. So far, research has shown that people can test positive for methamphetamines even after a short exposure to second-hand smoke.

Can a person overdose on methamphetamine?

Yes, overdosing on methamphetamine can happen. An overdose can occur when a person consumes too much methamphetamine and has an adverse reaction to the drug, resulting in severe harm or death. In 2017, it was reported that 15% of all drug overdoses were because of methamphetamines, with 50% of those involved synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is sometimes added without the user knowing.

How can a methamphetamine overdose be treated?

Methamphetamine overdoses can potentially result in a person having a stroke, heart attack, and organ failure.

Medical professionals must focus on treating the overdose by:

  • restoring blood flow to the affected part of the brain (stroke)
  • restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
  • treating any issues with the organs

What are some symptoms of withdrawal for amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence?

A high number of individuals have stated that during their withdrawal they have feelings of depression, apathy, and hopelessness.

Here are some other typical withdrawal symptoms:

  • extreme sense of fatigue and excessive sleepiness
  • increased appetite for food and some dry mouth, with periodic episodes of jitteriness
  • depression, apathy, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide
  • extreme cravings for more meth
  • psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions

It is important to note that many people find they have intense cravings for amphetamines and methamphetamines during their time of withdrawal. The American Addiction Center has done some research that shows the more intense the cravings for the drug the increased chance of relapse for the patient.

How do I find help for amphetamine and methamphetamine dependence?

Research is constantly being done to find new ways to treat methamphetamine dependence and use disorders. At the moment, FDA-approved medications are available to treat methamphetamine use disorders.

There are medications available and effective therapy treatments to help alter past addictive behaviors. Some of the most successful treatment types are listed below:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, this therapy type looks to help patients recognize triggers and change their behaviors.
  • motivational incentives, this treatment type uses a reward system such as vouchers and cash prizes to identify positive behavior.

The research for improved treatment types and medications is constantly being improved as time goes on, improving the odds of recovery from methamphetamine dependence.

Everyone’s journey to recovery is unique and different, it can be challenging, but it does not need to be done alone. Some resources that are entirely confidential and free can be found at:

Talk to a recovery professional at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

Suppose you or someone you know is fighting methamphetamine dependence. In that case, there are many treatment options available that have medical professionals to guide you or your loved one every step of the way.

Aspen Behavioral Health, located in sunny West Palm Beach, is a rehab center that helps people regroup, detox, and find support as they start their journey to sobriety. Take that first step and talk to one of our Aspen Behavioral Health specialists today.


National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Methamphetamine Drug Facts”, May 2019, Retrieved from www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

MedLinePlus, “Methamphetamine”, Retrieved from medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html      

Medical News Today, “Methamphetamine: What you should know”, June 28, 2018, Retrieved from www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309287

American Addiction Center, “Meth Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms & Timeline”, July 7, 2021, Retrieved from americanaddictioncenters.org/meth-treatment/withdrawal


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