The human brain consists of a complex balance of neurotransmitters that control essential functions such as movement, speaking, thinking, listening, regulation of body systems, and fluctuations in emotions and feelings. Drugs and alcohol affect the delicate balance of these neurotransmitters and disrupt average production and interactions.

Professionals have grave concerns for those abusing meth and the brain disruptions that occur from excessive use. Methamphetamine is a potent and highly addictive stimulant that treats certain conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity.

Meth and The Brain Overall

To completely understand how methamphetamine affects the brain, it’s best to grasp a brief overview of the brain’s chemistry. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, adrenaline, GABA, glutamate, and acetylcholine work harmoniously to perform essential functions.

These chemicals are communicators or messengers that send directions from one brain cell to the next while transferring information throughout the body to trigger action. Such neurotransmitters are stored in synaptic vesicles at the end of neurons until they are needed to send a message. 

It’s a complex process that balances precise chemical levels to work efficiently and correctly. However, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is primarily affected by meth, and the brain abnormally increases dopamine production as a result.

Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that also spurs motivation and pleasurable feelings. It is one of the main characteristics of the brain’s reward system. The brain releases large amounts of dopamine when essential primal behaviors that fuel human survival are present, such as eating, drinking, competing, and reproducing. 

Meth users may begin using prescription meth for the treatment of a condition and find that using just a little more offers increasing levels of pleasure. Misuse breeds the beginning of tolerance, which means it takes higher dosages to receive the effects of the drug.

An unfortunate chain reaction begins with the more methamphetamine in use, the higher the levels of dopamine disturbing the balance and the more pleasurable the effect. As the brain adapts to higher levels of dopamine, the body also becomes dependent, and a prescription drug addiction develops, requiring professional treatment to end. 

Long-Term Effects of Meth on the Brain

With the continual disruption of healthy brain chemistry, methamphetamine increases wakefulness and physical activity while suppressing appetite. The long-term misuse and abuse of meth can lead to the chronic disease of addiction.

Long-term use of meth is so disruptive to brain chemistry that users can not feel any sense of pleasure without the drug in their system. If dosage levels do not continue to increase, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms begin to appear, triggering a need to use again. Drastic behavioral changes occur with those using high doses of meth, and the brain chemistry becomes more and more unbalanced and rewired. 

The following long-term effects of meth abuse include:

  • Behavioral issues and violent behavior
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue and confusion
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Paranoia and visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Problems with emotions and memory

Meth Psychosis

The National Drug Abuse and Research Centre defines methamphetamine psychosis as an adverse severe side-effect of heavy meth usage. Those dealing with meth psychosis feel paranoid and are suspicious of people around them. Hallucinations, strange beliefs, and hearing and seeing things that are not real are common symptoms. Behaviors can be sporadic, irrational, and unpredictable, causing a danger to self and others. 

The challenging symptoms may continue for 2 to 3 hours at a time, although the symptoms can last for days in severe cases. Co-occurring mental health conditions can cause the symptoms to become more intense. Those with schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing it.  About 25% of meth users experience meth psychosis. 


Hallucinations occur when a disruption occurs in the balance of brain chemistry. Overstimulating the brain with high levels of dopamine, meth users begin to see and hear things that are not real.

Hallucinations begin from excessive use of meth, and the brain directs actions similar to those of some mental conditions, like psychosis and hallucination. The hallucinations are terrifying in most cases. 

Scratching Skin (Tactile Hallucinations)

Another form of drastic behavior change is also known as tweaking. Tweaking or tactile hallucinations typically show as uncontrollable fidgeting or scratching. When the effects of meth begin to wear off, it triggers this disruptive and destructive behavior.

Blood vessels become restricted (narrowed), causing decreased blood flow and triggering tingling or itchy sensations like bugs under the skin. 

Meth And Schizophrenia

Researchers continue to watch how meth can induce psychotic symptoms that mimic the mental condition of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition producing psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and strange thoughts and behavior.

Meth causes psychotic symptoms to occur, and an accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia does not include symptoms from meth use. Substance-induced psychotic behaviors typically disappear when meth use ends. 

Meth and Neurons

Excessive meth use can cause a loss of neurons that affect memory, muscle control, and thinking processes. A long-term effect of meth abuse is damage to the brain. Meth abuse causes damage to white matter in the brain, slowing the messenger the brain tries to send throughout the body.

Additionally, blood flow defects and ischemic lesions (tiny brain bleeds) can occur, which are adversely significant. This problem affects memory and learning processes.

Meth, The Brain and Behavior

Both meth and the brain’s disruptive chemistry significantly affect the behavior of the user. Meth users often display disruptive behaviors that are totally out of character. Drastic behavioral changes are a sure sign of meth addiction. The results of this erratic and uncontrollable behavior can be harmful and dangerous. 

The following behavior changes are signs of the abuse of methamphetamine:

  • Poor judgment and problem-solving ability
  • Aggressive actions and violent behavior
  • An inability to focus and increased hyperactivity
  • Quick changing mood swings
  • A change in appearance reflecting a decrease in self-care

The Value of Detox

Severe and intense withdrawal symptoms occur when the levels of methamphetamine decrease in the system. The direct connection of meth’s control on brain chemistry causes problems in psychological and physical symptoms to occur.

It is never advisable to detox alone at home with a meth addiction. Professionals can utilize medication-assisted treatment (MAT) while managing withdrawal symptoms to keep the patient more comfortable and decrease the chance of relapse. 

Access Quality Detox for Meth Addiction in Tennessee

Meth abuse has long-term effects on the brain, but body organs are also affected by this dangerous drug. Detox West of Tennessee offers professional detox programs that include the option for gender-specific detox for individuals who desire specialty care.

Relapse prevention is critical in detox, and medical management of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms is an essential tool for success.

Contact Detox West Tennessee today to begin an inspired journey towards sobriety.