How Meth Affects the Brain

Man in treatment learns about how meth affects the brain

It’s devastating to watch someone you care about struggle with the disease of addiction. Meth side effects can be especially difficult to cope with, as they can cause people to exhibit violent and erratic behaviors. To learn more about how meth affects the brain and how our meth abuse program in Nebraska can help, call Northpoint Omaha today at 402.685.9404.

What Is Meth Addiction?

Methamphetamine (meth) is a stimulant that can cause immediate feelings of euphoria and a rush of energy. Meth is a derivative of amphetamine but is even more dangerous because the brain and body absorb the stimulants in meth more readily.

Meth addiction is one of the fastest-growing drug epidemics in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), with about 2.6 million people over the age of 12 reporting using meth in the past 12 months.

This substance can be injected, smoked, snorted, or taken orally. Some of the meth side effects and warning signs include:

  • Needle marks on the arms, hands, legs, feet, or neck
  • Intense scratching or picking at hair or skin
  • Anger, irritability, violent behavior
  • Hallucinations, paranoia
  • A hoarse cough
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sinus or lung infections
  • States of euphoria followed by depression or fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Jerky, “twitching” movements

Permanent brain damage is one of the most serious meth side effects. If you suspect someone you know is using methamphetamine, intervention could prevent them from experiencing long-lasting cognitive and psychiatric problems.

Effects of Meth on the Brain

Meth triggers the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for producing dopamine, which is a pleasure-inducing chemical. When people use meth, an excess amount of dopamine gets released into the brain, causing a sense of euphoria.

However, continued use can damage the dopamine neurons, causing the person to feel depressed or experience paranoia and hallucinations.

Short-term effects of methamphetamine on the brain include:

  • Increased energy
  • Alertness
  • A sense of euphoria

Extended use may also cause other brain issues, such as:

  • Impaired decision-making
  • Slowed motor skills
  • Personality changes
  • Reduced mental flexibility
  • Structural changes in the brain areas associated with memory and emotion
  • Impaired verbal skills and verbal learning

Using meth can also damage cells in the brain called microglia. Microglia are responsible for fighting infection and cleaning up damaged brain cells. When microglia can no longer do their jobs, they can destroy healthy brain cells.

What Is Meth Doing to Your Mental Health?

The long-term effects of meth on mental health are another issue of concern. Many people who use meth experience depression and anxiety between doses or even months after withdrawal.

Other neurological problems associated with methamphetamine are an increased risk of stroke, an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, repetitive behaviors, and confusion.

The effects of meth may be reversed with the right treatments, but those who have meth use disorder increase their risk of permanent brain damage the longer they continue to use the substance. Because meth affects the memory and decision-making areas of the brain, it can be especially difficult to convince those who have addictions that they need help.

Find Support at Northpoint Omaha

Finding effective treatment for meth addiction as soon as possible can make all the difference in a person’s recovery. Because methamphetamine is so highly addictive and because it can cause permanent damage to the brain and other systems, delaying treatment can be a fatal mistake.

At Northpoint Omaha, we understand that the decision to seek treatment is a difficult one. Every patient at Northpoint Omaha receives the skilled, compassionate care and support they need to heal from addiction and meet their wellness goals. Call Northpoint Omaha at 402.685.9404 today for more information about how meth affects the brain and how our addiction recovery programs can help.