When Meth Addiction Turns Violent

Start Healing today, call (888) 906-0952

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH

Article Overview

The Link Between Meth and Violence

Addiction changes a person. It can make you do things you would never do under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, meth and violence are often tied together. When meth addiction turns violent, it can be especially worrisome.

Studies show that the chemical properties of meth result in increased aggression and poor decision-making, among other negative side effects. However, they are not always directly linked. Sometimes drug use can uncover pre-existing issues, including anger issues or mental disorders. Yet that is why drugs (meth in particular) can be so dangerous, both for the person abusing them and the people around them.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with a meth addiction, contact us today at (888) 906-0952 to speak to an admissions specialist about drug and alcohol treatment. Don’t wait to get the help you need. The sooner you break your addiction, the sooner you will regain control of your life.

Article Contents

Addiction and Aggression

Contrary to popular belief, addiction isn’t a choice. It is a disease. A true addict endures physical, mental, and emotional changes to their body. If addiction continues for long periods of time, these changes may become more detrimental.

A drug user’s behavior begins to change mentally because an addicted person believes that nothing is more important than feeding their addiction. Therefore, it’s not unusual for an addicted person to go through mood swings, irritability, and experience irrational thoughts.

But violence is not necessarily a direct result of addictive behavior. While it’s very true that an addict can become violent, it isn’t clear whether the addictive substances actually cause the violence. When it comes to the use of methamphetamine, however, it’s common for paranoid thoughts to cloud a user’s mind. It’s also common for self-control to be practically non-existent when deciding to act on paranoid or irritating thoughts.

It’s also true that using drugs methamphetamine can result in a mental imbalance. However, in a study reported in Psychiatric News, Dr. Edythe London noted that drugs other than meth might also make people aggressive. London said that “a unifying mechanism (among addictive substances) that can lead to aggression is an imbalance between subcortical systems that promotes rapid responses to environmental stimuli…”

In other words, a mental imbalance (caused presumably by drugs or addiction) can promote an addict to “act before they think” and do things that they wouldn’t normally do. This could also account for the inability of an addicted person to make positive choices in their life.

Is It All In the Mind?

The previously mentioned study indicated something unusual about the brain scans of meth users. For the meth users in the study, parts of the prefrontal cortex “(were) significantly less activated than in the same area in the control group.” That part of the brain is known to be involved in emotional insight.

Additionally, the meth-using group “had difficulty recognizing and describing emotional states.” This difficulty correlated with the group’s aggression scores. If a fault in this part of the brain is indeed responsible for more aggression in meth users, it means that therapists may need to focus more on that area than other targets.

Remember that aggression by itself is not always wrong. Aggression is something animals use for survival. Other articles discuss “appetitive” aggressive behavior. In humans, this refers to positive feelings being associated with violent behavior. In animals, it refers to violent actions that are repeated to satisfy a specific need.

Perhaps there is at least a neurological link between violence and drug abuse. An additional study published in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that scientists were able to show that the parts of the brain in rodents that control appetitive aggressive behavior are similar to those that control drug-taking and seeking. This would suggest that the neurobiological aggression reward and drug reward are closely related.

Researchers found that one group of nervous system cells acted as a control mechanism for behavior. While this hasn’t been confirmed in humans, this suggests that negative aggression could be treated differently than drug addiction is treated.

Searching for Links Between Meth and Violence

So how are methamphetamine use and violent behavior connected? Can meth users become more violent just because of the drug?

Data from interviews of more than 300 meth users was collected. Is there a demonstrable link between crystal meth and domestic violence? The overall findings suggest that it’s not a guaranteed outcome. More than half of users who reported violent criminal behavior began that behavior before using meth. Therefore, violence may be related to things other than the meth itself.

At the same time, the study also noted that meth use could have exaggerated existing tendencies toward violence. Or, it was attributed to violence through other factors like cravings and paranoia. Based upon this study, a meth user becoming more violent includes additional outside factors.

The study noted that the perceived link between meth and violence might be related to physical or mental health issues, and in meth users, often paranoia. Meth paranoia is another symptom of meth abuse and psychological features such as visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions.

At the same time, earlier violent behavior or other issues before the meth use began played a stronger role in predicting violent criminal behavior. The use of other types of drugs (such as crack) was also an indicator of future violence.

Because meth use by itself wasn’t shown to predict future violence, the study results recommend an integrative approach toward methamphetamine use and violent behavior. Successful treatment should focus on using multiple treatment methods at the same time.

Dealing With An Aggressive User

Drug abuse (and sometimes even withdrawal symptoms) can bring out aggressive tendencies that can become very dangerous. Both the addict and those near the addict are in danger of being hurt by this behavior.

When a meth user becomes aggressive, remain calm and avoid aggression yourself, this may incite the addict to become even more aggressive toward you. You can let the person know that you want to help them. Give the person some physical space so that they don’t feel trapped. If possible, get some items out of the person’s way so that they can’t use them aggressively. Use an “open” body stance, “arms open, palms up, head lowered.”

Additionally, as the person speaks, listen to them and let them know that you understand. If the behavior intensifies, give the person a choice to help them feel like they’re still in control. You might offer something such as “When you calm down, we can talk”. When things calm down and the person is not high or intoxicated anymore, it may be possible to have a calm conversation about what happened. Let them know that you are concerned about them, but also firmly establish your own boundaries. Let them know what kind of behavior is unacceptable. Also let them know that they need to get help. The truth is that you cannot continue to put up with this type of behavior from them.

If the meth user does become aggressive with you and strikes you, the best thing that you can do is attempt to deescalate the situation by remaining calm. If you feel that it is appropriate, it’s good to contact the authorities and have them come and take the person in for attacking you.

After an incident like this, you may feel angry or depressed yourself. You may feel like you must avoid the person or that you have to calm them down from now on. These are normal emotions at a time like this.

It is a good idea to have a safety plan in place if the aggressive behavior continues. Have a list of telephone numbers that you can call to get help or go for help. This would include emergency housing and domestic violence services, medical centers, or even a neighbor or friend who lives nearby. Find a safe place where you or your loved ones can go if needed. Keep important documents, identification, bank details/cards, and your mobile phone to get to them easily if you must leave quickly.

Change Your Life For the Better

It looks like we sometimes have a “chicken or the egg” problem of trying to figure out which came first. Was it the meth or the violence? For certain, we can say that meth use affects the brain, and this has the potential of inciting violence, although those violent tendencies may have been present long before the meth was introduced.

Subsequently, meth paranoia is probably more a symptom of meth abuse than the cause of violence. There doesn’t seem to be a study linking meth paranoia and domestic violence rates. But studies of chronic meth users have revealed severe changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory.

Research in primate models reveals that meth alters areas of the brain associated with decision-making. It also hinders the ability of the brain to suppress habitual behaviors that are counterproductive. So an increase in “bad habits” may also be linked to meth addiction. The changes in brain structure may explain why meth addiction is so difficult to treat.

The good news is that some of the mental effects of meth addiction appear to be partially reversible. Those who begin the process of addiction recovery have restored most normal functioning of the brain. Even those who have used meth for 15+ years have been able to recover, live life, hold down a meaningful job, and be happy.

About the Author

Steve Witucki

Steven Witucki has been an editor for almost 20 years in the newspaper and magazine industries. Some of his columns have appeared in the Yuma Sun and Daily Courier. He’s now glad to use his skills to teach others about recovery from substance abuse.

Educational Resources

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

— FAQ Title?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent egestas dui aliquam tincidunt ultricies. Vestibulum dignissim erat pretium, finibus purus vitae, porttitor arcu. Mauris hendrerit sollicitudin varius. Curabitur in turpis elit. Nam suscipit ac lacus sed pharetra. Nunc hendrerit posuere mauris sed maximus. Etiam quis sapien in lorem auctor mattis eget eu massa. Donec id enim posuere, viverra nisi id, porta nibh. Aliquam eget malesuada sem. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Sed cursus hendrerit arcu sit amet interdum. Morbi quis tortor vel metus aliquet accumsan id feugiat magna. Suspendisse fringilla dictum tortor id faucibus. Vestibulum in auctor mi, vitae ultrices neque.

Duis eleifend purus et posuere iaculis. Suspendisse id nibh sit amet ex efficitur gravida. Vestibulum sit amet tellus eu libero cursus faucibus eget quis quam. Phasellus non mauris felis. Suspendisse neque ipsum, tincidunt non quam non, lobortis hendrerit justo. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Sed euismod accumsan dui, a dignissim ante. Nullam nisl nisi, tristique sed ultricies in, condimentum non nunc. Nulla vehicula sit amet nulla non finibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Nulla nec tristique nibh. Maecenas ullamcorper eleifend maximus. In non ante sed nulla tincidunt posuere. Pellentesque risus elit, semper non felis quis, cursus bibendum enim.

resource information section

Recent Help Articles


Saving Lives Healing Families - badge

Lose The Risk Of Addiction, Call Today To Seek Help

Methamphetamine use can increase your risk of stroke, which can cause irreversible brain damage. There is also a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease among past meth users.

The dangers of meth go far beyond increased aggression or violence. If you are addicted to meth, the dangers could affect your life forever. If someone you love is addicted to meth, their addiction can also affect your life.

Turning things around is vital before the damage gets even worse. It is possible to recover from meth addiction and get back in control of your life. Please reach out to us to learn about rehab facilities near you. Your life may depend on it!

Get Help Now (888)-906-0952

phone icon

Get Help now:
1-888-906-0952