Like any addictive substance, getting high on meth can give the user feelings of pleasure, confidence, and energy beyond what they normally experience. On the flip side -- again, like any addictive substance -- it can also have very unpleasant and even harmful short-term and long-term effects.
The Meth High
The meth high, also known as methamphetamine intoxication, is one of the most widely recognized effects among meth users. For people who are experimenting with meth use, occasional meth users, binge meth users, and people in the early stages of meth addiction, expereincing the meth high is often the main reason for taking meth, although social meth use is also quite common.
The meth high involves psychological changes (changes to how the person thinks and feels emotionally) and physical changes. Some of these changes are caused by the effects of meth on the brain and nervous system, and some are due to personal feelings that the meth user brings to the experience.
This is why, although there are similarities among meth users' experiences of meth effects, the effect meth has on each person is different. Although aspects of meth intoxication are common among meth users, they may experience some, but not all, of these effects.
Euphoria or Emotional Blunting
The effect that meth users are looking for is a kind of intense pleasure called euphoria. Meth stimulates the brain in the same way that a real accomplishment does, creating a rewarding feeling that motivates people who get addicted to meth want to do it again and again.
In contrast, some meth users find that their emotions are "blunted" -- in other words, they become less aware of their feelings. This can also be motivating for meth users who want to escape from painful memories or difficult current circumstances.
Research shows that many people who become addicted to meth suffered from childhood abuse. One of the ironies of meth addiction is the tendency for meth addicts to seek out more meth to escape the negative emotions about problems resulting from their meth use. The feeling of not caring anymore can provide temporary relief for someone burdened by stress and worries.
Disorganization and even chaos can quickly escalate in the lives of meth users as they are becoming addicted. Over time, meth use can get in the way of proper self care. Severe tooth decay, commonly called "meth mouth" in such individuals, is a good example of this. It can interfere with caring about and for many things, in fact, including taking care of kids, going to work or school, and paying the bills.
Sense of Empowerment -- Which Can Lead to Aggression
While under the influence of meth, users can have the illusion of being more powerful and productive than usual. Although this can feel good to the meth user, it can cause problems. Meth can make people feel more socially outgoing, talkative and self-confident, but equally, they can behave bizarrely and become distant from positive social relationships. Many meth users become surrounded by other meth users, and lose contact with outside supports.
Meth can have the effect of making people delusional; their grasp on reality becomes eroded. Sometimes they might feel superior to other people (sometimes called grandiosity), but they can also become anxious, paranoid and aggressive.
One of the problems with being high on meth is the lack of awareness of how you actually appear and how you are behaving, something that meth users in recovery are able to reflect on after the fact.
Physical Stimulation -- Tweaking
Being high on meth also makes people feel different physically. Physical meth effects include a general feeling of stimulation. Meth can cause changes to heart rhythm or breathing, sweating, feelings of being very hot or cold, or nausea and vomiting.
Although some of these physical symptoms of meth intoxication can be quite unpleasant, with repeated meth use, the brain can start to associate these physical symptoms with the pleasurable feelings of the meth high. So, as people become addicted to meth, they may be surprisingly tolerant of these unpleasant meth effects.
Meth is an unusual illicit drug in that almost as many women as men use it; most drugs are predominantly taken by men. One of the reasons women are attracted to meth is that it releases extra energy and suppresses appetite. Initially, women can feel more attractive as they lose weight. Although people's physical appearance deteriorates when they become addicted to meth (along with their health), the initial feeling of being in control and losing weight can make people feel good. And because meth users lack awareness of changes to their physical appearance, they may not realize when they start looking worse.
Meth is also sexually stimulating, although it can also lead to sexual dysfunction and a loss of sexual libido. The sexual effects of meth can be attractive to people who have sex addictions, or who are involved in sex work. Considerable attention has been paid to use of meth in the gay community, commonly known as party and play or PnP, particularly in relation to sexual enhancement effects, with particular concern to the implications for HIV and other STD risks.
Stimulation comes with a price. It is difficult to sleep on meth, and sleep deprivation can worsen mental health problems such as anxiety, delusions and hallucinations. People on meth can get very fidgeting, known as "tweaking," and have tendency to imagine bugs crawling on their skin, which they repetitively pick at. This leads to open wounds that later scar, known as "meth sores," which are a characteristic of severe meth abusers.