Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a mental health condition characterized by patterns of irresponsible, impulsive, aggressive and remorseless behavior. The poor impulse control seen in individuals with antisocial personality disorder can lead to risky behavior, including illicit substance use. Substance use is widespread among individuals with antisocial personality disorder and complicates symptoms and treatment options.

According to recent estimates, the lifetime prevalence of substance use disorder in those with ASPD is 83.6%. Another recent national survey found that people with ASPD are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder more than their lifetime. Individuals with chronic cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use are more than 28 times more likely to suffer from ASPD.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that impacts the central nervous system. Meth addiction is a dangerous, debilitating substance use disorder that is further complicated by co-occurring mental health conditions such as antisocial personality disorder.

A recent study found that 71.4% of male meth patients had antisocial personality disorder and individuals with ASPD were 1.68 times more likely to suffer from meth addiction. Over 6% of patients hospitalized for meth-induced psychosis have antisocial personality disorder.

Can Meth Use Cause Antisocial Personality Disorder?

More research is needed to determine whether meth can cause antisocial personality disorder on its own. However, some evidence suggests that meth use can contribute to antisocial personality disorder development and symptoms. Sensation seeking is a trait shared by both antisocial personality disorder and substance use.

Sensation seeking, characterized by a willingness to participate in risky behavior without concern for adverse consequences, is believed to have both a biological and a social basis. Chronic substance use may contribute to antisocial personality disorder by alienating individuals from social activities. Shared genetic factors may contribute to substance use disorders and mental health conditions such as antisocial personality disorder as well.

Individuals with ASPD commonly begin using alcohol and drugs at an early age, during a time when their brain is still developing. Thus, meth use early in life may negatively impact brain development and contribute to the development of antisocial personality disorder.

Meth causes increased dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical released in the brain that relays information between neurons. ASPD is characterized by an overreactive dopamine system, suggesting that meth use may contribute to the development of the condition by raising dopamine levels. Meth also damages dopamine nerve terminals, which can lead to the impaired impulse control seen in antisocial personality disorder.

Can Antisocial Personality Disorder Lead to Meth Abuse?

The mechanisms underlying antisocial personality disorder may increase the likelihood of meth abuse and addiction. For example, the impulsive, risky behaviors that characterize antisocial personality disorder may increase the intensity and length of meth use. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder commonly refuse to adhere to social norms, leading them to repeatedly commit illegal acts such as the use of illicit substances.

Scientists identified that a particular area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is smaller in people with antisocial personality disorder. This same area of the brain is thought to be involved in meth dependence, indicating a possible link between the two conditions.

Does Meth Affect Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms?

Since antisocial personality disorder involves problems with impulse control and reckless behavior, the use of substances that also impact decision making can increase symptoms.

  • Antisocial personality disorder symptoms include:

    • Reckless disregard for the well-being of other people
    • Refusal to adhere to social norms
    • Impulsive behavior
    • Lack of empathy
    • Drug abuse or alcohol abuse

The use of stimulants such as meth can intensify the impulsive behavior and aggression seen in antisocial personality disorder. The refusal to conform to societal norms and a lack of respect for the law may also lead people with antisocial personality disorder to repeatedly commit illegal acts. As altered dopamine levels contribute to antisocial personality disorder, meth use may also worsen ASPD symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.

By worsening symptoms, meth use can increase the risk of severe antisocial personality disorder complications such as criminal acts, violent behavior or self-harm. Thus, treatment for meth addiction is critical in shielding ASPD patients from severe consequences.

Treatment Options for ASPD and Co-Occurring Meth Addiction

Treatment for antisocial personality disorder and co-occurring meth addiction is complex and requires a varied therapeutic strategy. Both conditions must be addressed together to achieve successful treatment. The pattern of manipulation and dishonesty that characterize ASPD can make it challenging to seek help independently.

An individual with ASPD may need the encouragement of friends or family to seek treatment. ASPD treatment typically involves a combination of cognitive therapy, medications to reduce both aggressive behavior and psychotic symptoms and group therapy. Although individuals with antisocial personality disorder may lack the motivation to improve, cognitive therapy helps them understand how they create their problems and harm those around them.

Meth addiction treatment involves medical detox, psychotherapy, and group or individual therapy. Meth addiction treatment can occur on an inpatient, outpatient or partial hospitalization program (PHP) basis. An impulsive lifestyle counseling (ILC) program, a short-term, highly structured psychoeducational intervention, increases the effectiveness of treatment for substance use disorders in patients with antisocial personality disorder. ILC helps raise the patient’s awareness of their behavioral problems and how they impact themselves and others.

Key Points: Antisocial Personality Disorder & Meth

Some important points to remember when it comes to antisocial personality disorder and meth use are:

  • People with antisocial personality disorder experience higher rates of meth addiction
  • Meth use can worsen antisocial personality disorder symptoms
  • Antisocial personality disorder can increase the risk of meth addiction
  • Successful treatment for co-occurring antisocial personality disorder and meth addiction is possible with a combination of therapy, detox, and medication

If you or a loved one live with meth addiction and antisocial personality disorder, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative who can guide you through the initial steps of addiction treatment. You deserve a healthier future, call today.