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Short- and Long-Term Effects of Meth

Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth, is a powerful stimulant drug that people use for its energy-enhancing and euphoric effects.1

Meth use can result in a range of adverse health effects and is associated with several risks, including overdose and addiction.1 According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2.5 million people aged 12 and older used meth in the past year, and 1.6 million people had a meth use disorder in the past year.2

If you or a loved one uses meth, you should know the effects and risks associated with the drug. This page will help you learn more about:

  • Short- and long-term effects and risks of meth.
  • Risks of using meth with other substances.
  • How to get help for meth addiction.

Short-Term Effects and Risks of Meth Use

Meth causes a powerful “high” that typically lasts 5 to 30 minutes, while other effects, such as increased energy, can last up to 12 hours.3 This can vary depending on how a person ingests meth (e.g., injecting, smoking, snorting, swallowing in pill form).1, 4 Because the short-term effects of meth begin and dissipate relatively quickly, a person may take meth in a “binge and crash” pattern of use, sometimes for days at a time.1

Common short-term effects of meth include:1, 3, 4

  • Increased activity and wakefulness.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Tachycardia (e.g., rapid heartbeat).
  • Hypertension (e.g., high blood pressure).
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Restlessness.
  • Mydriasis (e.g., dilated pupils).
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Bizarre, erratic, or violent behavior.
  • Hallucinations.

Meth use is associated with several cardiovascular problems, such as irregular and rapid heart rate and heart attack, and neurological problems like seizure.1, 4 Severe meth intoxication can lead to overdose, which can result in convulsions, hyperthermia (e.g., extremely high temperature), and death.1, 4

Long-Term Effects and Risks of Meth Use

Chronic meth use can have significant consequences and can impair functioning in many areas of a person’s life.1 People who use meth repeatedly may experience tolerance to the drug’s pleasurable effects.1 This can result in needing higher or more frequent doses of meth to achieve the same effects and subsequent withdrawal symptoms when a person cuts back or stop using the drug.1 Symptoms of meth withdrawal include anxiety, depression, fatigue, and intense cravings for meth, which can lead to ongoing use to avoid these symptoms.1, 4

Long-term effects of meth include:1, 3, 4

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Memory loss.
  • Mood disturbances.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Aggressive or violent behavior.
  • Extreme weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Intense itching, leading to sores from scratching.
  • Severe dental problems, including gum disease, mouth sores, and tooth decay (e.g., “meth mouth”).
  • Psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, and repetitive motor activity.

The long-term effects and risks of meth use can vary depending on the route of use. For example, injecting meth increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases like hepatitis and HIV, while smoking meth can lead to severe dental problems.1, 4

No matter how a person ingests meth, studies suggest chronic meth use causes severe functional and structural changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory.1 This may explain why long-term meth users often suffer from cognitive and emotional problems.1

Long-term meth use can lead to addiction, diagnosed by medical professionals as a stimulant use disorder.4 Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite the harmful consequences this has on a person’s life.4, 5 In addition to mental and physical effects and risks, addiction can lead to financial, occupational, and legal problems, as well as difficulty with relationships.4, 6

Risks of Combining Meth and Other Substances

People who use stimulants such as meth often use other substances (e.g., polysubstance use), particularly with sedative properties to reduce the unpleasant side effects of methamphetamine.4 Combining multiple substances, such as meth and alcohol or meth and opioids, can have dangerous consequences.7

Combing meth with other stimulants (e.g., cocaine, khat, MDMA, and prescription stimulants such as ADHD medications) can increase a person’s blood pressure and heart rate to dangerously high levels. It also increases the risk of brain and liver damage, heart attack, and stroke.7, 8 Combing meth with alcohol or opioids can be dangerous and unpredictable as meth masks the depressant effects of these substances, increasing the risk of a life-threatening overdose.7, 8   

Unfortunately, meth overdoses have increased in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meth overdose deaths increased from 24,576 in 2020 to 32,856 in 2021.9 Around 50% of meth overdoses involve an opioid, most commonly the highly potent, synthetic opioid fentanyl. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are often added to meth, which can be particularly dangerous if a person does not realize they are taking meth that contains this additive.10

Getting Help for Meth’s Effects & Addiction

If you or a loved one are struggling with meth addiction, help is available. Meth addiction is a treatable condition, and people can recover and live healthy, productive lives.1, 11

While not always necessary, treatment may begin with detox, which can help patients withdraw from meth as comfortably and safely as possible and facilitate the transition to ongoing treatment.11 While there are no FDA-approved medications for meth addiction, treatment often involves various behavioral therapies.1 Specific behavioral therapies involved in meth addiction treatment can include:1, 11, 12

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches patients ways to change their behaviors, expectations, and thoughts related to substance use while learning how to manage stress and triggers.
  • Contingency management (CM). CM provides positive reinforcements (e.g., vouchers to exchange for tangible goods) as rewards for desirable outcomes, such as negative drug tests.
  • Motivational interviewing. This patient-centered approach works to help patients resolve their ambivalence about change and strengthen their motivation.
  • 12-step facilitation therapy. This increases motivation to participate in 12-step groups, which are associated with positive long-term outcomes.

Treatment can vary in duration, intensity, and setting, and no one-size-fits-all treatment approach is suitable for every patient.11 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), effective treatment should be individualized to a patient’s needs and consider any medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems as well.11

American Addiction Centers (AAC) help you navigate recovery. You can contact AAC at to speak to a caring admissions navigator about your rehab options or fill out the form below to find out if your insurance covers detox and treatment.

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