Can Meth Cause Mental Illness?

Meth and mental illness

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a potent and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is a dangerous and illegal drug that can have severe physical and psychological consequences for those who use it. One of the concerning aspects of meth use is its potential to cause or exacerbate mental health issues. This article explores the relationship between methamphetamine use and mental illness, including the potential risks, underlying mechanisms, and the importance of seeking treatment for both addiction and mental health conditions.

Understanding Methamphetamine Use

Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that comes in the form of a white, odorless, crystalline powder or in crystal chunks commonly known as “crystal meth.” It can be ingested orally, snorted, smoked, or injected. When consumed, methamphetamine increases the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading to intense feelings of euphoria and increased energy.

However, methamphetamine use is associated with serious health risks and negative consequences. The drug’s effects on the brain’s reward system can lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and addiction. Additionally, long-term use of methamphetamine can have detrimental effects on physical health, including cardiovascular issues, severe dental problems (often referred to as “meth mouth”), and weight loss.

The Link Between Meth Use and Mental Illness

  1. Psychiatric Symptoms during Intoxication: While under the influence of meth, users may experience a wide range of psychiatric symptoms, including:
  • Agitation and Irritability: Meth use can lead to irritability and aggressive behavior.
  • Anxiety: Users may experience intense feelings of anxiety and paranoia, sometimes leading to hallucinations or delusions.
  • Mood Swings: Methamphetamine can cause drastic changes in mood, including periods of extreme happiness followed by deep depression.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Users may have difficulty thinking clearly and making rational decisions.
  • Psychosis: In some cases, meth use can lead to a state of acute psychosis, characterized by severe hallucinations and delusions.
  1. Long-term Psychiatric Effects: Chronic methamphetamine use can have more lasting effects on mental health. Some potential long-term psychiatric effects of meth use include:
  • Depression: Prolonged meth use can lead to a significant decrease in dopamine levels, resulting in feelings of depression and anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure).
  • Anxiety Disorders: Methamphetamine use can trigger or exacerbate anxiety disorders, leading to chronic anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Chronic meth use has been associated with cognitive deficits, including problems with memory, attention, and decision-making.
  • Paranoia and Psychosis: Long-term meth use can lead to chronic paranoia and psychosis, even in the absence of active drug use.
  1. Co-occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders: Methamphetamine users are at an increased risk of developing co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. They may turn to meth as a way to self-medicate underlying mental health issues or to cope with emotional pain.
  2. Neurotoxicity and Brain Damage: Methamphetamine is neurotoxic and can cause damage to brain cells and neurotransmitter systems. The long-term effects of this neurotoxicity can contribute to the development of mental health issues.

Underlying Mechanisms

The exact mechanisms by which methamphetamine use contributes to mental illness are not fully understood. However, several factors are believed to play a role:

  1. Dopamine Dysregulation: Methamphetamine causes a rapid release of dopamine, flooding the brain’s reward system with excessive amounts of this neurotransmitter. Over time, this can lead to a depletion of dopamine receptors and a decrease in dopamine levels. This dysregulation of the dopamine system is associated with various mental health issues, including depression and anhedonia.
  2. Neuroinflammation: Methamphetamine use can trigger neuroinflammation, which involves the activation of the brain’s immune response. Chronic neuroinflammation can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive deficits and mood disturbances.
  3. Changes in Brain Structure: Long-term methamphetamine use has been associated with structural changes in the brain, particularly in areas responsible for decision-making, memory, and emotions. These changes may contribute to cognitive impairment and mood disorders.
  4. Stress Response: Methamphetamine use activates the body’s stress response system, leading to increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Chronic activation of the stress response can have adverse effects on mental health.

Treatment and Recovery

Treating methamphetamine addiction and co-occurring mental health issues requires a comprehensive and integrated approach. It is essential to address both the addiction and the underlying mental health concerns simultaneously to achieve lasting recovery. Here are some key components of effective treatment:

  1. Detoxification: Individuals with a methamphetamine addiction may need to undergo supervised detoxification to safely manage withdrawal symptoms. Detox should be followed by comprehensive treatment for addiction and mental health.
  2. Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Contingency Management, have shown promise in treating methamphetamine addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. These therapies help individuals identify and modify destructive thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use.
  3. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): There are currently no FDA-approved medications specifically for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. However, research is ongoing, and some medications may be used off-label to manage certain symptoms of withdrawal and reduce drug cravings.
  4. Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on addressing both substance use and mental health issues simultaneously. Integrated treatment plans consider the interconnected nature of these conditions and provide specialized care to promote recovery in all areas of life.
  5. Supportive Services: Supportive services, such as counseling, peer support groups, and vocational assistance, can be valuable in helping individuals navigate the challenges of recovery and rebuild their lives.
  6. Relapse Prevention: Relapse prevention strategies are essential in reducing the risk of returning to drug use after treatment. These strategies may include coping skills training, identifying triggers, and developing a relapse prevention plan.

Methamphetamine use is associated with a range of psychiatric symptoms during intoxication and can have lasting effects on mental health, even after the drug has left the system. The drug’s impact on the brain’s reward system, neurotoxicity, and changes in brain structure contribute to the development of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, and cognitive impairments.

Effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction and co-occurring mental health issues requires an integrated and comprehensive approach that addresses both the addiction and underlying mental health concerns. Seeking professional help and support is crucial for individuals struggling with methamphetamine use and mental illness. Recovery is possible, and with the right resources and treatment, individuals can achieve lasting sobriety and improved mental well-being.

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Samantha Kelly​

Director of National Business Development & Admissions Coordinator

I am a dedicated and passionate professional with extensive experience in business development Admissions and marketing. I have an incredible passion for showing others that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel if someone truly wants it.
Being in recovery myself I understand the struggles of addiction and alcoholism. I Started this Career path in 2009. With multiple years of experience, I bring a multi-faceted approach and am always seeking new ways to make a difference in the lives of those I work with.

Kim L. Buckner


As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. He says he is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns


Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine