Risks of Crystal Methamphetamine Use When You Have PTSD

Meth Use Could Make Symptoms Worse

Close-Up Of Methamphetamine Pipe On Table
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If you've been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, you should know that crystal methamphetamine use can result in serious health problems. It's also a serious public health issue.

Crystal methamphetamine (also called crystal meth or ice) is a stimulant with a high risk for addiction and abuse. If you use it, you may feel a sense of euphoria (joyousness) along with increased confidence and alertness. However, you may also feel paranoid and agitated or even become aggressive with others.

Long-Term Use of Crystal Meth

Whatever the cause of your emotional distress related to PTSD, you should know that crystal methamphetamine use is only a short-term "fix." With longer-term use, it may:

  • Make your PTSD symptoms worse--which could increase your desire to abuse crystal methamphetamine or other substances
  • Have a serious impact on your overall physical and mental health or even lead to death
  • Increase your risk of tobacco and alcohol use, depression, suicide attempts, interpersonal problems, legal problems, medical problems, and inpatient psychiatric hospitalization​

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Many people with a history of crystal methamphetamine use also have a history of traumatic exposure. In addition, a clinical study showed that people with PTSD:

  • Are more likely to have used crystal methamphetamine compared to people exposed to a traumatic event who did not have PTSD
  • Had longer crystal methamphetamine use than study participants who did not have PTSD

Why Would Someone With PTSD Use Crystal Methamphetamine?

At first, it may not seem to make sense that people with PTSD would use stimulant drugs, which may worsen such PTSD symptoms as:

  • High levels of anxiety, tension, and hypervigilance (constant "on-guard" alertness)
  • Problems sleeping or constant irritability

So, given those risks, why do some people with PTSD turn to crystal methamphetamine use?

It's important to remember that people with PTSD feel a kind of emotional numbness. This makes it hard for them to feel positive emotions or find pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. They may turn to crystal methamphetamine use to ​self-medicate their PTSD symptoms.

In fact, one study of people with PTSD who abused cocaine (another stimulant drug) found that most of them believed that their PTSD and substance use were related. They reported that:

  • As their PTSD symptoms got worse, their drug use increased.
  • On the other hand, as their PTSD symptoms got better, their drug use decreased.

Something like this may also be occurring among people with PTSD who also use crystal methamphetamine.

Getting Help

As you can see, although it's natural that people with PTSD want relief from their symptoms, crystal methamphetamine use is definitely not the answer.

Fortunately, effective treatment is available. For example, if you have PTSD and are using crystal methamphetamine or another illegal drug, you may want to learn more about Seeking Safety. This popular, well-supported, and well-established treatment is designed to help you:

  • Understand the relationship between your PTSD and your crystal methamphetamine use
  • Manage distressing PTSD symptoms so you feel less need to abuse the drug

Ready to seek treatment? A number of websites can help you locate a PTSD therapist in your area.

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