Meth Overdose Symptoms, Signs, Risk Factors, Prevention, and Treatment
Methamphetamine (meth) is a potent stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system.1 Using meth can pose numerous risks, including overdose. In 2021, there were nearly 33,000 deaths resulting from drug overdose from psychostimulants like meth, up by almost 9,000 overdose deaths in 2020.2 Notably, more than half of these meth-involved overdose fatalities also included fentanyl.2
Being able to identify the symptoms and signs of a meth overdose (either alone or in combination with opioids) could help save a life. This page will explore:
- Meth overdose.
- Signs and symptoms of meth-involved overdose.
- How to get help for a stimulant use disorder.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a powerful and addictive stimulant that boosts energy, decreases appetite, and elevates mood.1
Meth is legally available by prescription as Desoxyn, a drug approved for use in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or as a short-term part of weight loss treatment, but prescriptions have reduced over the years.3
It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that it has a high potential for dependence and addiction.1,4
Can You Overdose on Meth?
Yes, you can overdose on meth. Meth has a high potential for abuse, which may result in dangerous symptoms, side effects, and overdose (OD).5
A meth OD occurs when someone takes too much meth or a combination of meth and other substances that overwhelm the body. A meth overdose can lead to cardiovascular events that may be life threatening, including stroke and heart attack.1,5 Using meth in combination with opioids like fentanyl or heroin can lead to severe and potentially fatal respiratory depression (i.e., stopped breathing)
Meth Overdose Risk Factors
There are a variety of risk factors that may increase the potential for meth overdose. Risk factors may include:6,7
- Having a methamphetamine use disorder (MUD), or addiction.
- Injecting meth.
- Having a co-occurring mental health disorder.
- Having another substance use disorder.
- Suicidal ideation.
Co-use of meth and opioids (knowingly or unknowingly) is a particularly important factor given the increasing overlap of fentanyl with methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths.6,7
Meth Overdose Symptoms and Signs
Though the symptoms of acute meth intoxication and meth overdose signs will vary from one individual to the next, understanding general warning signs can help you recognize a potential overdose that may require medical attention. People experiencing stimulant overdose are often conscious and may be breathing quickly. They may need assistance in reducing overheating and overstimulation.8
Signs and symptoms of a stimulant overdose may include:8
- High body temperature.
- Signs of a stroke, including numbness in the face, arms, or legs., sudden headaches, loss of coordination, or blurry vision.
- Signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain, pressure, or squeezing sensations, discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw, back, or stomach, or shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, fatigue, or cold sweats.
- Enlarged pupils.
- Rapid, slowed, or irregular heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Stomach pain.
- Altered mental status.
Polysubstance use that includes methamphetamine, particularly mixing meth with opioids, may result in signs of an opioid overdose. People experiencing an opioid overdose often will lose consciousness or are difficult to awaken and typically suffer from dangerously slow or stopped breathing.8
What to Do in Case of a Meth Overdose
An overdose requires prompt treatment by medical professionals. If you or someone else are experiencing meth overdose symptoms, you should:8
- Call 911.
- Administer naloxone (Narcan) if you suspect any opioid involvement.
- Remain calm and explain to the person that you are waiting with them for medical personnel to arrive.
- Create a calm, non-stimulating environment.
- Provide any relevant information to first responders.
If the overdose involved opioids, the person may be unconscious. Calling 911 and then helping them to breathe is key—through administration of naloxone (Narcan) and rescue breathing as instructed by 911 operators.
Meth Overdose Prevention
Taking steps to prevent an overdose may help minimize potential negative complications, such as heart attack, stroke, and death.8 Although the only guaranteed way to avoid an overdose is to not use meth or other substances, that is not always realistic.
People who want to reduce the risk of overdose and treat the underlying addiction may benefit from evidence-based therapies that are used to treat meth use disorder (MUD) and other substance use disorders.8
Therapy Types Used in Meth Addiction Treatment
Different types of therapies are used in the treatment of meth addiction, or MUD.8 If you or someone you know use meth, you should consider seeking help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that the most effective therapies for the treatment of MUD are behavioral therapies.9 These therapies can include:9-11
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people understand the ways that their thoughts impact their emotions and behaviors, including substance use. CBT also helps people learn ways to cope with cravings, identify their triggers, and develop relapse prevention plans.
- Contingency management, which offers tangible rewards in exchange for positive behavioral changes, such as negative drug tests, attending regular counseling sessions, or completing weekly goal-related activities.
- The Matrix Model, which involves a combination of education, relapse prevention, individual and family therapy, and drug testing. The therapist takes a coaching role and provides praise and rewards for positive behaviors—like abstinence.10 p. 35 Participants are encouraged to also attend self-help group meetings like Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Finding Meth Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you care about have experienced an overdose of meth, it can be a sign that you need help for a meth addiction. Treatment may start with medically supervised detox, followed by inpatient care and/or some level of outpatient treatment.12
Entering professional treatment may involve different levels of care at various levels of intensity, which can include:12,13
- Detox: While there are no medications to treat meth withdrawal, medical detox can provide supportive care in coping with symptoms of stimulant withdrawal.
- Inpatient rehab: This provides people the opportunity to fully focus on recovery and receive intensive therapeutic services while living in a drug-free environment. Inpatient treatment can be helpful for people with severe substance use disorders or co-occurring medical or psychiatric disorders.
- Outpatient rehab: This offers structured substance abuse therapy multiple times per week but does not involve on-site living. Outpatient substance abuse treatment can be a good option for people with less severe addictions, those who have recently completed residential programs, people with reliable transportation, and those with stable home environments and supportive family and friends.
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP): This is a highly structured and intensive form of outpatient treatment that requires attendance most days of the week for several hours per day.
- Aftercare: This program may help decrease the risk of relapse. It can involve different interventions, such as sober living or self-help groups like NA, that you participate in after completing one of the above treatment programs.
Seeking treatment for meth addiction can mean the beginning of a new life. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider for substance use disorder, with facilities across the country.
Please call to speak to a knowledgeable and caring AAC admissions navigator to find meth addiction treatment or discuss your treatment options. You can also use our directory to find rehabs near you and instantly verify your insurance.
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