People affected by a meth (methamphetamine) addiction typically face a broad range of physical and mental health issues that severely impair their ability to lead stable lives or feel any sense of wellness. If you suspect a friend or loved one has an addiction to the drug, a proactive response on your part may be crucial. However, many of the potential signs of meth use also have other explanations, and it’s possible to mistake these signs for drug-related issues.
Mental and Behavioral Changes
People addicted to methamphetamine can undergo a wide array of changes in their mental status and behavior. Common examples of these changes include:
- Mood instability or unusual changes in mood
- Altered sleeping patterns that include bouts of sleeplessness and unusual sleepiness
- A declining interest in physical appearance, and
- An anxious or confused mental state
Habitual users may also develop psychosis, a profound change in mental health that includes delusional, frequently paranoid thought patterns and various forms of hallucinations. Instead of being signs of meth addiction, all of the mental and behavioral alterations mentioned here can potentially indicate the presence of a clinical mental illness. For example, mood instability is a symptom of conditions that include bipolar disorder and certain types of personality disorders. Changes in normal sleeping patterns appear in an even larger number of mental health conditions. Psychosis can indicate the presence of any one of several illnesses, including schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder and a specific form of major depression called major depressive disorder with psychotic features.
Some of the physical changes associated with meth addiction may also have other causes. For example, some habitual users of the drug lose a great deal of weight, largely as a result of changes in their eating habits. Weight loss is a common symptom of a wide variety of mental and physical conditions as well, including depression, certain eating disorders and the red blood cell disorder anemia. While hallucinating, some meth addicts obsessively pick and scratch their skin as part of an attempt to eliminate imaginary insects. Similar behaviors occur in people affected by a diagnosable mental health condition called excoriation disorder.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Meth Addiction?
As a rule, doctors rely on a totality of symptoms when diagnosing meth addiction (officially a form of a larger condition called stimulant use disorder). Of special importance are signs that point to a physical dependence on the drug. Such signs include:
- Frequent cravings for methamphetamine
- An inability to limit intake of the drug
- Rising tolerance to the effects of the drug, and
- The appearance of withdrawal symptoms when intake of the drug stops or tapers off sharply
The Meth Project: How to Spot a User http://www.methproject.org/answers/how-can-i-tell-if-someone-is-using-meth.html#Signs-of-Use National Institute on Drug Abuse: Methamphetamine – Drug Facts https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine National Institute on Drug Abuse: Methamphetamine – What Are the Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse