Methamphetamine has many chronic psychological effects. These effects include confusion, concentration difficulties, hallucinations, fatigue, memory loss, irritability, paranoia, panic reactions, depression, anger, and psychosis. Sleep problems or insomnia may make these symptoms worse.
Methamphetamine Intoxication symptoms usually diminish one to two days after drug use has stopped. Symptoms include euphoria, grandiosity, restlessness, hyper vigilance, talkativeness, repetitive behaviors, and hallucinations, which can be visual, auditory, or tactile (e.g., feeling that bugs are crawling on you).
Methamphetamine use is often associated with violence. This usually occurs at the end of a binge, when the meth user is starting to crash and feeling sadness, emptiness, extreme frustration, and irritability. Paranoia and hallucinations may be present. In many cities in the Western United States, 30 to 40 percent of male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine in 2003.
Methamphetamine users have cognitive deficits, particularly after they stop using. Actively using meth addicts have difficulty learning and recalling information. The ability to recall and recognize information is more impaired 12 weeks after stopping use than at the time the person was an active user. Six months after stopping use, verbal memory (e.g., remembering what people say) remains impaired, while visual memory (e.g., remembering what you see) returns to normal. It can take up to two years for cognitive functions to return to normal.
Methamphetamine withdrawal is an uncomfortable state. While meth users usually don’t need medication to help them withdraw, they are often experiencing symptoms of depression, fatigue, agitation, confusion, lack of energy, paranoia, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. These acute withdrawal symptoms can last from two days to two weeks.
Drug Treatment for methamphetamine addiction is as effective as for other drugs. It is a myth that drug treatment for methamphetamine is not effective. A recent evaluation of Proposition 36 individuals referred to drug treatment showed no difference in any of the outcome measures when compared to users of other drugs of abuse. This included drug treatment completion rates, urinalysis data, and retention in drug treatment rates.
Methamphetamine users may have difficulty engaging in drug treatment. While engagement is an issue for most people entering drug treatment, it may be particularly difficult due to the withdrawal symptoms and cognitive impairment specific to methamphetamine use.
It’s important to address the specific needs of methamphetamine users early in drug treatment. Monitor withdrawal symptoms, discuss nutrition and sleep needs, and address medical and dental problems. Assess psychological symptoms of withdrawal and treat, if necessary.