This article will explore the connection between meth and depression. With that in mind, let’s define meth before we move on to the link to depression
What is Meth?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), methamphetamine or “meth” is a powerfully addictive drug that works by stimulating the body’s central nervous system. When meth is taken, the drug increases the levels of a brain chemical called dopamine, which has a rewarding effect. This can lead to a desire to use meth repeatedly to achieve the same rewarding feeling.1
There are a variety of reasons that a person may begin using meth, and there are also numerous consequences associated with meth abuse. In some cases, meth and depression can go hand-in-hand.
Can Meth Cause Depression?
One concern with ongoing meth abuse is that it can cause depression. This is because when a person is using meth, the brain will have a surge of dopamine, which is rewarding and causes feelings of euphoria. On the other hand, meth use stops, dopamine levels are lower, which can result in severe depression. In addition, some people who use meth engage in binges, in which the drug is abused for several days at a time without eating or sleeping. This will result in feelings of being “high” or euphoric during the binge, but afterward, there is a “crash” where you feel fatigued and depressed for several days until the next meth high.1
Research has confirmed that meth may be linked to depression. A 2009 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that meth use was associated with depression. People who stopped using the drug experienced a decrease in symptoms of depression, suggesting that meth might contribute directly to feelings of depression.2
Turning to Meth When Depressed
Meth increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which is highly rewarding and can make a person feel euphoric. During feelings of depression, some people turn to meth to feel happier. In addition, people who are suffering from depression may have low energy levels and may sleep more than usual, but meth can reverse these effects. According to NIDA, meth can make people feel more active and alert, which counteracts some of the symptoms of depression.1
Research has verified that meth may combat some of the symptoms of depression. Authors of a 2015 study in the Journal of Substance Abuse interviewed people who use meth regarding their reasons for using the drug, and they found that both men and women use meth to increase their energy levels. Women were more likely than men were to report that they used meth to help them cope with negative feelings.3 Meth not only increases energy levels but also may be a method for people to cope with their feelings of depression.
Can You Become Addicted to Meth?
According to NIDA, meth is an extremely addictive drug. This is because it increases dopamine levels and is highly rewarding.1 People who experience the rewarding effects of meth frequently want to continue to use the drug to obtain the same pleasurable feelings. Over time, this can change the brain and lead people to compulsively use meth.
In 2017, 1.6 million Americans had used meth within the past year. This is equal to 0.6 percent of the population. The average person who uses meth began using the drug at age 23.3, and about 0.4 percent of the population has a substance use disorder, or clinical addiction, associated with meth.4
If an addiction to meth develops, an addiction professional will diagnose a substance use disorder, which is the clinical term used for meth addiction. Someone who has a substance use disorder involving meth may have strong cravings and will show additional signs, such as using meth despite health problems caused by the drug, using it when it is physically dangerous, or continuing to use meth even when it causes problems at work or home.
Is Crystal Meth Different from Meth?
Both crystal meth and standard meth contain the same chemical substance, but crystal meth looks like fragments of glass or pieces of shiny blueish rocks, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Standard meth comes in pill or powder form.5 People may abuse both forms of meth to achieve a high, and both types are dangerous.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
While meth and depression can go hand in hand and lead to addiction, there is treatment available. As NIDA has explained, there are no medications approved specifically for the treatment of meth addiction, but there are behavioral therapies available.
A type of treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy may be useful for meth addiction. In this type of therapy, people can learn new ways of thinking and develop skills for resisting the temptation to use meth. If someone is suffering from both addiction to meth and depression, this type of therapy can be especially beneficial, as it is also used to overcome the negative thinking patterns associated with depression.
One option that researchers are exploring to treat meth addiction is the combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and a medication called buprenorphine. While this medication is typically used to treat addiction to opiates like heroin, there is some evidence that it can be useful for meth addiction. A 2018 study in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences found that when people who abused methamphetamine took buprenorphine and received cognitive behavioral therapy, their meth use, meth cravings, and meth dependence reduced significantly6
Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy can treat meth addiction, and certain medications may make treatment even more effective. Meth and depression may occur together, but with professional intervention, it is possible to recover from both addiction and depression.