One Million Meth Addicts

Dark crowded street

Meth addiction is skyrocketing, despite the clearly harmful nature of meth use. Why is meth growing in popularity? And what can people do to curb this problem?

When people think of methamphetamine, the first thing they likely think about is the terrible side effects of meth use. When someone has been abusing meth for some time, the evidence of such a destructive dependency is quickly apparent. Weight loss, tooth and gum decay, sunken eyes, sores on the skin, dilated pupils, psychosis, damage to the brain, liver, kidney, heart, and lungs, etc. The list goes on and on.

Yet despite the horrors of meth addiction, more people are using this drug. In fact, use is skyrocketing. As overall consumption goes up, more people are adversely affected by the drug and more people die from it.

Meth Use is on the Rise, Affecting the Society’s Most Vulnerable

Currently, more than one million Americans actively use meth in the United States, a clear indicator that interest in the drug is once again on the rise. A report in U.S.News states that of the roughly 1.6 million users, at least 53 percent admit to being firmly addicted to the substance, and 22 percent admit to injecting it.

Meth use is on the rise, in part, because more opiate addicts are now seeking out meth when they can't get hold of their usual drug of choice. Meth use is also soaring among adults with limited incomes, among the uninsured, and among those with lower levels of educational attainment.

The need to address the spike in meth use couldn’t be more clear, and public health officials are beginning to sound the alarm on the subject. According to Dr. Christopher Jones, “Based on the available data, there is an urgent need to expand state and local prevention and response capacity, expand linkages to care, and enhance public health and public safety collaborations to combat rising methamphetamine availability and related harms, and to do so in tandem with efforts already underway to reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality.” Dr. Jones is an associate director at the CDC's Injury Center. He’s led much of the research efforts that have determined the scope of meth use in the United States.

“… Illegal drugs are cheaper, more potent, and more easily available than ever. People use methamphetamines because they crave their effects, to enhance or counter the effects of other drugs like opioids, and because prevention efforts are scarce and treatment is expensive, stigmatized and simply in short supply.”

Linda Richter, an official at the Center on Addiction in New York City, also provided valuable insight into the growing meth problem, particularly as pertains to who is affected most. “It's those struggling with mental health problems, those who use or are addicted to other substances, those who are poor or lack health insurance, and those living in non-metro or rural areas who are the hardest hit. Illegal drugs are cheaper, more potent, and more easily available than ever. People use methamphetamines because they crave their effects, to enhance or counter the effects of other drugs like opioids and because prevention efforts are scarce and treatment is expensive, stigmatized and simply in short supply.”

But What Is Methamphetamine?

Meth effect

Most people have heard of meth and the effects it has on those who use it, but few know much about the drug itself. Meth is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant. It is a synthetic, man-made drug, with the exact chemical composition of the substance depending largely on the lab in which it is made. Once consumed, meth has a direct effect on the central nervous system. The drug immediately surges activity within the brain, heart, and lungs, causing a rush of euphoria, increased energy, and sometimes a feeling of indestructibility.

Once in the bloodstream, the poisonous chemicals in meth immediately begin to harm the body. Meth can cause memory loss, aggression, heart damage, psychotic behavior, brain damage, strokes, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, convulsions, cardiovascular collapse, and even death. Meth use burns up the body’s natural resources, creating powerful cravings and a compelling desire to consume more meth. Meth is so potent and so addictive that it only takes one use to become addicted.

The Effects of Meth—The Drug That Erodes Your Body Bit by Bit

The signs and symptoms of meth use are apparent and devastating, both externally and internally. Here is just a glimpse of the kind of harm that meth use causes:

  • Loss of appetite leading to severe weight loss.
  • Bizarre, erratic, aggressive, and even physically violent behavior.
  • Panic, psychosis, and hallucinations that can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Convulsions and seizures (these can be fatal).
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain, potentially leading to heart attacks, strokes, and even death.
  • Horrible skin sores due to compulsively picking at the skin.
  • Permanent brain damage and memory loss.
  • Cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure.
  • Destruction of nasal tissues due to snorting meth.
  • Severe tooth decay and gum damage due to smoking meth.
  • The risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases due to IV meth use.

To make matters worse, because meth is so immensely addictive, addicts simply cannot conceive of stopping their meth use, even when it becomes apparent just how much their addiction is harming them.

Getting Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth abuse is skyrocketing, and it's now cropping up in parts of the country where it hadn't been a significant problem before, like in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast. Furthermore, individual states such as Montana, Oklahoma, and Hawaii are becoming toxic islands of meth use, seeing a doubling and even a tripling of the annual number of meth-related arrests and meth-related deaths.

What will save the country from a meth problem that is starting to resemble the opiate epidemic?

The key to overcoming meth addiction is with the help of a residential drug treatment center, preferably one that offers long-term treatment programs. Meth creates such a powerful, destructive addiction that it is next to impossible for one to overcome it on their own. People who are addicted to meth need professional help to break free.

Narconon Arrowhead

Narconon Arrowhead is a successful, residential drug rehab center that can help people beat meth addiction and finally experience a sober, stable, safe, and healthy life. At Narconon, no one has to be an addict for life, and everyone has the potential to overcome their drug crisis. If you have a family member or loved one who is struggling with a meth addiction, please get them help. Contact Narconon Arrowhead today to set your loved one on the path to a better life.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, LADC, CCS, MCAP RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.