Methamphetamines increase levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. When someone experiences a surge of dopamine it makes them want to repeat the action that caused the release of dopamine.

When dopamine is released because of methamphetamine use, the high associated with it is reinforced as a positive experience despite the fact that it poses many dangers. Also referred to crystal, crank, ice or speed, meth is a potent drug that even in relatively small amounts can cause an increase in wakefulness and energy.

Long-term use of meth is associated with several  negative outcomes including:

  • Severe dental decay (called meth mouth)
  • Sensations of intense itchiness (often lead to open sores due to scratching)
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety

Meth and anxiety are frequently associated because of the potential for developing anxiety after long-term use of meth and experiencing anxiety during meth withdrawal. However, methamphetamine intoxication and anxiety have several characteristics in common. The sensations experienced by someone using methamphetamine and someone experiencing anxiety in many cases are similar. Both methamphetamine use and anxiety cause rapid heart rate, shakiness, increased blood pressure and elevated body temperature.

Do People Use Meth to Cope with Anxiety?

Drug use is more prevalent among people with mental health conditions like anxiety. Some people may turn to substance use to cope with their mental health symptoms while other people may develop a mental health disorder as a result of changes in the brain structure and chemical composition from drug use. Someone with an anxiety disorder, however, is unlikely to turn to meth to cope with anxiety symptoms. Someone with anxiety may try meth, not necessarily as a means of coping with anxiety.

Can Meth Cause Anxiety?

Developing anxiety after meth use is common as a short-term side effect during intoxication. Researchers have attempted to answer the question of “Can meth cause anxiety?” Some studies have indicated that over three-quarters of chronic meth users experience anxiety disorder symptoms after meth use.

Long-term studies have not been conducted to determine whether anxiety is present after abstinence from meth use. For people with a history of anxiety, meth use may intensify anxiety symptoms. Effects of meth intoxication such as rapid heart rate may be mistaken for the onset of a panic attack and as result cause significant anxiety.

Treating Anxiety from Meth Addiction

Co-Occurring anxiety and meth abuse require treatment for both disorders at the same time for recovery. While initially detoxing from meth it may be beneficial to use a benzodiazepine to reduce anxiety but long-term use of benzodiazepines is not recommended.

Benzodiazepines have a high potential to cause addiction and therefore raise several concerns for treating withdrawal from substance use. Using medications such as antidepressants, talk therapy, or a combination of the two seems to increase someone’s chances for recovery. Ongoing support is needed following initial detox because anxiety from meth use is likely to be long-lasting.

Key Points: Meth and Anxiety

Some relevant facts to remember about meth and anxiety include:

  • Whether anxiety or methamphetamine use comes first, treating an anxiety disorder and co-occurring substance use disorder requires a trained professional
  • Long term meth use may cause physical and mental side effects
  • Substance use is more common among people with mental health disorders
  • Anxiety is a common short-term side effect of meth use
  • Meth can intensify pre-existing anxiety

If you or a loved one struggles with meth addiction and anxiety, help is available at treatment centers across the country. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders. For more information about our care options, reach out to a representative today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine abuse? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-methamphetamine-abuse

Su, H., Zhang, J., Ren, W., Xie, Y., Tao, J., Zhang, X., & He, J. (2017). Anxiety level and correlates in methamphetamine-dependent patients during acute withdrawal. Medicine, 96(15), e6434.

Glasner-Edwards, S., Marinelli-Casey, P., Hillhouse, M., Ang, A., Mooney, L.J., and Rawson, R. (2010). Anxiety disorders among methamphetamine-dependent adults: Association with posttreatment functioning. American Journal of Addiction, 19(5), 385-390.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Methamphetamine. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

Meth and Anxiety
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