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Can Meth Cause Anxiety?

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that’s illegal to use recreationally in the United States.

Also known as meth or ice, it increases the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine that’s associated with pleasure and reward in the brain. When a person uses meth, they may experience a spike in dopamine levels, which then causes a surge of euphoria. This sensation makes the person want to repeat the action in an attempt to experience the same side effects. But although this drug can affect the body in many ways, can meth cause anxiety?

What Is Anxiety?

Generally, anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, danger, and unfamiliar situations. It’s a feeling of intense fear or apprehension about what’s to come. A person who frequently experiences anxiety may develop an anxiety disorder; an umbrella term used to describe mental disorders associated with a constant feeling of fear that disrupts your everyday life. Some common anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and separation anxiety disorder. Each of these disorders can cause symptoms that are triggered by different things. Common anxiety symptoms may include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, excessive sweating, and trouble concentrating.

How Meth Affects the Brain

Meth’s mechanism of action is to activate the release of neurotransmitters – such as norepinephrine and dopamine – to produce various euphoric side effects, such as increased energy, confidence, talkativeness, and more. Dopamine is a chemical messenger used by neurons to manage body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Most if not all drugs of abuse impact dopamine levels, encouraging users to continue using drugs. Additionally, because meth is made with other cutting agents or additional substances that are toxic, its neurological effects may vary.

The effects of meth use, even when small doses are taken, include:

  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature (hyperthermia)

Like most stimulants, meth is highly addictive. Its effects on dopamine create a rewarding high that reinforces drug-using behavior. People who are addicted to crystal meth should undergo a meth detox to safely get through the withdrawal period of recovery and increase their chances of long-term sobriety.

Does Meth Cause Anxiety?

So, does meth cause anxiety? Yes, it can. There is a significant relationship between anxiety and substance abuse, mainly because people with any of these disorders may use drugs or alcohol to relax and ease their symptoms. Specifically, experiencing anxiety after meth use is common and occurs in many people who use this drug. Crystal meth can cause anxiety by speeding up physiological responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. When these responses are sped up, the experience creates a sensation that is similar to that of a panic attack, which can result in significant anxiety.

Additionally, anxiety is a common symptom of meth psychosis. Methamphetamine psychosis is characterized by paranoia, hallucinations, agitation, and anxiety. However, it’s the longevity of these symptoms that remain unknown. Although meth use and anxiety are linked, can meth cause long-term anxiety symptoms or anxiety disorders? Considering how the drug affects chemical balances in the brain, the possibility of developing an anxiety disorder after meth use shouldn’t be ruled out.

How Does Meth Affect People With Anxiety?

The use of meth and mental illness often coexist, otherwise known as a co-occurring disorder. People with anxiety may use meth or other substances to cope with their symptoms. However, what they don’t usually anticipate is the addiction to the drug that they may develop. So how does meth affect people with anxiety? Anxiety isn’t just emotional, but it’s also physical. When you experience anxiety, your body goes on alert, switching the brain into flight-or-fight mode. In an attempt to prepare you to either escape or fight off these detected dangers, your brain floods your central nervous system with adrenaline and cortisol. For a person who doesn’t have anxiety, their sympathetic nervous system will calm them down. This is a division of your nervous system that functions to produce localized adjustments, such as sweating when it’s hot. However, for a person with anxiety, their brain may continuously flood their CNS with hormones until they are overwhelmed.

Meth and anxiety attacks are connected because meth affects anxiety by activating the release of certain chemicals that manage mood and other physical functions. One of these chemicals is serotonin, which helps regulate mood. Low levels of serotonin can lead to mental illness, and high levels of serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome as well as other side effects. Meth causes the brain to produce high levels of serotonin, which contributes to the high people feel when they use it. As meth use continues, the brain struggles to regulate your mood like it’s meant to. Too high or too low serotonin levels will make it more difficult to manage and control anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety is just one of the numerous adverse side effects of methamphetamine use. Not only can meth cause anxiety, but long-term use is also associated with addiction, skin disease, tooth decay (meth mouth), and severe psychosis. If you or a loved one is battling meth addiction, our Christian rehab in Florida can help. Call Faith in Recovery at 888-280-4763 for more information about our meth addiction treatment.