What a Meth High Feels Like

effects of being high on meth

Verywell / Joshua Seong

The high experienced by methamphetamine users ("methamphetamine intoxication") is often the main reason people use the drug. A person who is experimenting with meth use, regular methamphetamine users, and people in the early stages of methamphetamine addiction all crave the good feelings the drug imparts.

The Meth High

Like most addictive substances, methamphetamine can give users a feeling of pleasure, confidence, and energy beyond what they normally experience. That said, the drug can also have unpleasant and harmful short-term and long-term effects.

"Meth high" involves both physical and psychological changes, many of which are caused by the effects of methamphetamine on the brain and nervous system.

Individuals who use methamphetamine may experience some, but not necessarily all, of these effects.

Euphoria or Emotional Blunting

Euphoria is the enticing feeling that most people who are using methamphetamine come to crave. Methamphetamine stimulates the brain, creating a rewarding feeling that motivates people to want to do the drug again.

In contrast, some meth users find that their emotions are "blunted"—meaning that they become less aware of their feelings. This can sometimes be a motivating factor for meth users who want to escape painful memories or difficult life circumstances.

Research shows that many people who become addicted to methamphetamine suffered from childhood abuse.

One of the ironies of methamphetamine addiction is the tendency for people to seek out more of the drug to escape their negative emotions. The feeling of not caring can provide temporary relief to someone who is burdened by stress and worries.

Disorganization and chaos can quickly escalate in the lives of methamphetamine users as they become addicted. Over time, using meth can get in the way of people taking proper care of themselves.

They may not be aware of how they appear to others and sometimes even stop performing basic self-care activities, such as brushing their teeth. Severe tooth decay (called "meth mouth") in people who regularly use meth is common.

Emotional blunting (or not caring) can interfere with relationships that healthy adults cherish, such as those with spouses and children. Methamphetamine users might also stop going to work or school or paying the bills.

A Misplaced Sense of Empowerment

While they are under the influence of meth, users may have the illusion of being more powerful and productive than they actually are. While it might feel good to the user, it can cause problems for them in reality.

Meth can make people feel more socially outgoing, talkative, and self-confident, but it can simultaneously cause them to behave bizarrely.

They often become distant from positive social relationships. Unaware that they appear ridiculous to others, many users lose contact with anyone other than fellow methamphetamine users.

Methamphetamine also can make people delusional. Their grasp on reality changes and may even erode. While they might feel superior to or better than other people (sometimes called grandiosity), they can also become anxious, paranoid, and aggressive.

Being high on meth can cause a user to lack awareness of how they actually appear and how they are behaving. People in recovery from meth addiction are often able to reflect on this after the fact.

Physical Stimulation or Tweaking

Being high on meth also makes people feel different physically. In addition to a general feeling of stimulation, methamphetamine can cause changes to a user's heart rhythm or breathing.

People using the drug can experience sweating, feelings of being very hot or cold, as well as nausea and vomiting.

While some of these symptoms of meth intoxication can be unpleasant, repeated meth use causes the brain to associate the physical sensations with the pleasurable feelings of the meth high.

As people become addicted to meth, they can be surprisingly tolerant of the drug's unpleasant side effects.

The sleep deprivation common among methamphetamine users can worsen mental health problems such as anxiety, delusions, and hallucinations. Users often are very fidgety (known as "tweaking") and can sometimes experience formication (a sensation of insects crawling under the skin).

Repetitively picking at their skin leads to open wounds that later scar. These scars are known as "meth sores" and are characteristic of regular meth users.

When methamphetamine intoxication is taken to the extreme, the experience can be dangerous. In particular, there is a risk of heart problems, seizures, and even death.

Weight Loss

One of the reasons many people are attracted to methamphetamine is that it can be an appetite suppressant. Users may perceive themselves as more attractive when they lose weight.

Meth is unusual among illicit drugs in that almost as many women as men use it (most drugs and alcohol are taken by more men than women).

While a person's physical appearance often deteriorates as they continue to use methamphetamine, the initial feeling of being in control and losing weight can create a sense of well-being.

Users often lack awareness of the changes in their physical appearance. They often do not realize when they have started to show the adverse effects of the drug such as a frail or gaunt appearance.

Sexual Effects

The sexual effects of meth can be attractive to people who have sex addictions. While methamphetamine can be sexually stimulating, it can also lead to sexual dysfunction and a loss of libido.

Considerable attention has been given to the use of meth in the gay community (commonly known as party and play or PnP). There is particular concern about HIV and other STI risk in this population.

Dosage Problems

Methamphetamine is produced in clandestine or home labs—meaning there is no way to predict how toxic or strong it's going to be. The uncertainty can lead users to take more of the drug than they intended, with potentially devastating results.

Taking a stronger dose of meth can increase a user's tolerance. The next time they use, more of the drug is needed to get the same high. When the drug is stopped, withdrawal is more intense (the physical side of the addiction).

Getting Help

Methamphetamine can be highly addictive. When users stop taking it, symptoms of withdrawal can include anxiety, fatigue, depression, psychosis, and intense cravings for the drug.

There are currently no government-approved medications for methamphetamine addiction, but behavioral therapies can be effective.

If you know someone who is using methamphetamine, understanding how it makes them feel might help you approach and communicate with them about getting help.

People who use meth are often reluctant to stop using it—even when they know it is not good for them. Users who have developed a physical dependence on the drug can experience severe withdrawal effects if they try to stop.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

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

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • "What Is Methamphetamine?" National Institute on Drug Abuse. Revised May 2019.

  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.
  • Newton T, De La Garza R, Kalechstein A, Tziortzis D, Jacobsen C. "Theories of Addiction: Methamphetamine Users’ Explanations for Continuing Drug Use and Relapse." American Journal on Addictions 18:294–300. 2009.
  • O'Brien A, Brecht M, Casey C. "Narratives of Methamphetamine Abuse: A Qualitative Exploration of Social, Psychological, and Emotional Experiences." Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions 8(3): 343-366. 2008.
  • Semple S, Zians J, Strathdee S, Patterson T. "Sexual Marathons and Methamphetamine Use Among HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex with Men." Arch Sex Behav 38:583–590. 2009.
  • Taylor N, Covey H. Helping People Addicted to Methamphetamine: A Creative New Approach. Praegar, Westport CT. 2008.