The Surge of Methamphetamine: Understanding the Effects of Use and Treatment Options

As the use of methamphetamine increases, understanding the serious and often life-threatening effects of this man-made drug and effective treatment approaches is essential.

This page will explore the growing problem of methamphetamine use in the United States, the health problems associated with its use, and how meth addiction is effectively treated.

How Common is Meth Use in the United States?

In 2021, 0.9% of people 12 or older in the U.S. reported using methamphetamine, with 0.6% Americans in the same age group using meth in the past month when surveyed.1

Serious health complications involving meth use are a common concern:

  • Methamphetamine was the most common type of substance associated with substance use-related ED visits nationwide from April 1, 2019 to October,15, 2020.
  • 15% of all drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved methamphetamine and fifty percent (50%) of those deaths also included an opioid.2
Methamphetamine use has been surging recently. However, there are many useful treatment options to battle addiction.

(DAWN and Methamphetamine December 2020)

Twin Epidemics: Rising Rates of Methamphetamine Use among Opioid Users

As with opioids such as heroin and other illicit drugs, methamphetamine is also sometimes laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that causes fatality in small doses. Fentanyl or other cheap synthetic opioids are sometimes added to street methamphetamine to make the drug appear more potent.3

Methamphetamine, benzos, and cocaine were present in 63% of opioid deaths from July 2017-June 2018. Half of those cases also involved fentanyl.4

These disturbing trends suggest that the serious and potentially lethal effects of opioid use may be further compounded by the surge in methamphetamine use.4

Shift in Production and Distribution

In recent years, the production and distribution of this man-made drug has shifted dramatically. The sharp drop (80%) in domestic laboratory incidents from 15,256 in 2010 to 3,036 in 2017 and is due largely to the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 – an act requiring pharmacies and other retail stores to log the purchase of products containing pseudoephedrine and limit the number of products that an individual can purchase per day.6,7

Most methamphetamine in the United States is now produced by Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) that are believed to control 70%–90% of domestic production and distribution. According to the DEA, about 90% of the meth found in the United States is produced in Mexico and 80% of precursor chemicals used in Mexican meth come from China8,9

Methamphetamine is often smuggled into the United States in powder or liquid form and then transformed into crystal meth by super conversion laboratories.10  Meth is also being pressed into a pill form intended to resemble ecstasy and enhance the drug’s appeal to new users.11

Effects & Dangers of Meth Use

Methamphetamine directly assaults the brain and central nervous system, producing serious and potentially life-threatening psychological and physical health effects in both the short and long term.

Short-term effects of meth use include:5

  • Increased wakefulness, physical activity, alertness, energy, hypersexuality and euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cardiovascular problems, including rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure
  • Cognitive Impairment in thinking, learning, comprehension, and memory
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and convulsions may occur with methamphetamine overdose, and if not treated immediately, can result in death
  • Impaired judgment leading to high-risk behaviors

Long-term effects of meth may include:5

  • Severe dental problems
  • Weight loss.
  • Psychosis.
  • Aggressive or violent behavior.

Between 15 and 28% of patients admitted to a hospital for meth psychosis need hospitalization for more than two-to-three months following admission. Tragically, psychosis symptoms can last anywhere from six months to 12 years following abstinence.  Chronic psychosis can occur in users with no premorbid psychiatric risk factors.  Additional long-term effects include cardiovascular complications and dysfunction, changes in brain structure and function, deficits in thinking and motor skills, increased distractibility, memory loss, and mood disturbances.12

Treating Patients with Methamphetamine Use Disorder

Meth addiction is treatable, though it may require professional help. Evidence-based treatment approaches, such as behavioral therapy and peer support have helped many people get sober and lead fulfilling lives in recovery.

Don’t let addiction take control of your life any longer. Call us today at to learn more about addiction treatment at AdCare. There are two inpatient AdCare facilities, one inpatient drug rehab center in Massachusetts, and one inpatient drug rehab center in Rhode Island. AdCare also offers outpatient treatment and has sister facilities across the United States as well. Call today to learn more about our comprehensive addiction treatment options.

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