Can Meth Cause Tardive

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Can Methamphetamine Cause Tardive Symptoms?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that affects your central nervous system. As a result, there are often debilitating symptoms once individuals develop a methamphetamine addiction. These ailments include tardive dystonia and dyskinesia, which cause involuntary movements in the face and limbs. This article looks at methamphetamine, the symptoms of addiction, and how it can affect the brain and body.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a synthetic drug that affects the central nervous system. It is similar to amphetamine – a drug used for ADHD – but meth is far more potent and therefore much easier to abuse. Because of its potential for abuse, meth is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. When taken, meth creates feelings of euphoria. Meth can be snorted, injected, or smoked. Meth is also known as crystal meth, crank, and ice. 

Besides feelings of euphoria, meth increases heart rate, improves concentration, increases alertness, and decreases appetite. These effects can last for up to 24 hours. However, there are adverse effects from using meth as well, especially if it’s used for a long time or in large quantities. Some of the debilitating effects are high blood pressure and damage to the small blood vessels in the body.

What Are the Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction?

As with any drug, there are typically physical, mental, and psychological symptoms that come with a meth addiction. Individuals may experience these symptoms in levels varying from mild to severe. 

As the body gets used to the effects of meth, individuals will start craving the drug. This intense desire will typically lead to an increase in the amount and frequency of use. 

Along with cravings, users will also end up building their tolerances to the drug. Over time, they will need more meth to feel the desired effects. This tolerance can quickly lead to a substance use disorder. 

When individuals stop taking the drug, they will usually experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability and anxiety. The intensity of their withdrawal symptoms will depend on how long they have been taking meth and in what quantities. The symptoms are incredibly uncomfortable, and they may feel they need to keep using the drug despite the negative consequences resulting from their use.

As with many substance use disorders, family and friends may notice the individual pulling back from social interactions. There may also be strained relationships and conflicts at work or school that arise due to the individual’s meth addiction. 

One of the more apparent symptoms of those with a meth addiction is a “meth mouth.” These dental issues will usually result in one or more of their teeth falling out. Users may also develop skin sores.

An increasing tolerance for meth may mean users will be spending more on their meth habit. This could lead to financial and legal difficulties as bills go unpaid to support their habit. Some users may even turn to crime. 

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Using Meth?

The symptoms associated with meth may be temporary if the individual stops using the drug. However, if the substance abuse goes on for years, there can be irreversible long-term effects that are far more damaging. 

One of the more concerning long-term effects of taking meth are cognitive and neurological impairments. As using the drug rewires the central nervous system, individuals may suffer from loss of memory and an inability to pay attention for long stretches. There may also be psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety. 

In addition to psychological issues, individuals may suffer from high blood pressure and constricted blood vessels. Continued use can eventually lead to heart damage and a stroke. 

As meth decreases appetite, there tends to be significant weight loss and problems with malnutrition. Malnutrition makes users more prone to infection and diseases. There may also be damage to the respiratory system, resulting in shortness of breath. This could lead to lung infections. 

In addition, as users increase the amount of meth they are taking along with the frequency, there is the possibility of overdose. In 2021, over 32,000 deaths were associated with meth use. 

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Perhaps methamphetamine’s most detrimental side effect is its effect on the brain. The drug alters how the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine behave in the body’s central nervous system. 

Meth forces the body to release more of the three neurotransmitters mentioned above, resulting in heightened euphoria and energy. The overload of dopamine, in particular, is the reason why meth is such an addictive drug. 

Unfortunately, with prolonged use, neurotoxicity begins to occur. This means the drug damages the neurons that produce dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This damage can result in permanent changes to how the brain functions. One such change is a loss of memory and attention span, with users doing poorly on memory recall tests. In addition, as dopamine and serotonin are responsible for individuals’ moods, damage to their neurons can lead to depression even after former users are no longer taking the drug.

What Is Tardive Dyskinesia and Tardive Dystonia?

Tardive dyskinesia and tardive dystonia are two disorders that involve involuntary muscle twitches in the face, lips, and limbs. They are both neurological disorders. 

With tardive dyskinesia (TD), those affected will experience involuntary movements in the face, such as blinking, sticking the tongue out, smacking the lips, or grimacing. Dyskinesia can also affect your limbs, such as your fingers and arms. Symptoms include involuntarily wiggling your fingers, tapping your feet, or flapping your arms. 

This disorder is often caused by too much dopamine in the brain. It can also be a side effect of using antipsychotic medication for a long time. In addition, some drugs used to treat nausea, acid reflux, or digestive problems may cause the condition. Tardive dyskinesia is reversible if users discontinue the medication or illicit drug associated with the disorder. However, TD is not easy to diagnose because symptoms can appear months after you start taking a medication or using meth. 

Like tardive dyskinesia, dystonia is involuntary muscle movement in the face and limbs. The difference, however, is that dystonia may only take hours and days to emerge, while dyskinesia takes months or years. While dyskinesia is due to the side effects of a medication or illicit drugs, dystonia can be due to infections, tumors, brain injuries, or exposures to toxins. Another difference is that dystonia can often cause your body to twist into uncomfortable and unnatural positions. This can make walking, talking, and eating uncomfortable.

Can Meth Cause Tardive Dystonia or Dyskinesia?

Prolonged meth abuse can cause tardive dystonia or dyskinesia in some people. Some meth users can abuse the drug for years and remain relatively unscathed, but others will begin to develop hallucinations, psychotic symptoms, and eventually movement disorders, such as dystonia or dyskinesia. 

Although prolonged use of meth is mostly associated with dental issues, hallucinations, weight loss, and heart problems, movement disorders can eventually become an issue. For some, the movement disorder is reversible, but it depends on the case. Factors that will influence a positive outcome depend on how long the user has been addicted to meth, the frequency of use, and the amount of the drug taken daily.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Meth Suddenly?

If you have a meth addiction and would like to get sober, it’s important that you seek medical help. If you stop taking meth abruptly, you may experience dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms. How long these symptoms last and their severity will depend on your health and the length of your addiction.

The first few hours after you stop taking meth, you may experience powerful cravings. These cravings are powerful and may lead to relapse.

You will also feel fatigued as your body tries to recover from the overstimulation that you were receiving from the drug. As your body tries to rebalance itself, you will feel anxious, irritable, agitated, and restless. These feelings can last for a few days. 

Sleep may be elusive as your body tries to rebalance itself, too. You may experience insomnia, or you may sleep more than usual. After a few days, you may crash into a depression. Using meth for an extended period depletes your dopamine supply. You will also want to eat more, and you will start to see some weight gain. In addition, there are usually physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle aches, and nausea. 

After a week, you may notice that you have slower physical and mental responses. You may also have difficulty concentrating. These slower motor functions are typically reversible and return to normal once your body has successfully cleared itself of meth and rebalanced itself. 

What Treatments Are Available for a Methamphetamine Use Disorder?

Treating a meth use disorder is multilayered because each person’s addiction is different. There may be various factors involved, such as severity and frequency of use, or there may be co-occurring disorders, such as a mental health condition. However, seeing a therapist or attending a support group can be helpful.


Talk therapy or psychotherapy is where individuals talk about their drug use, feelings, and mental state with a trained therapist. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one useful talk therapy that helps individuals turn their negative thought patterns into positive ones. The ultimate goal of CBT is to give individuals a skill set that can change their behavior. 

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) is another form of psychotherapy that has seen results with individuals suffering from substance use disorder. Therapists use motivational interviewing techniques to help encourage users to achieve their goals of abstinence. 

Support Groups

Alongside the individual therapy techniques mentioned above, there are also support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous. At these meetings, individuals can immerse themselves in a supportive environment with other users who listen and share experiences. 

Treatment Centers

For individuals who need more structure, there are treatment centers. These facilities are a safe place to deal with withdrawal symptoms. During the detoxification stage of your treatment, professionals will monitor your health and make you as comfortable as possible. Once you feel better, they will work with you to develop your treatment plan.

For individuals who have an extended history of meth use, a residential program may be the best option. During this time, individuals receive therapy and support. They will also be involved in group and family counseling.

Treatment centers also offer outpatient treatment. This type of program allows clients to stay at home and may be appropriate for people who have not been using meth for long and have a strong support network outside of the center. They will attend therapy sessions but can continue to go to work or school. 

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Conquering an addiction isn’t easy. You may need a team of healthcare professionals to support you as you work to maintain your sobriety. At Defining Wellness Centers, we offer a variety of treatment programs designed to meet our client’s needs. To get started on your recovery journey, contact us today.

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