Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction is a brain disease. It causes a host of health problems — from poor hygiene to depression — that can become unmanageable over time. However, rehab can help people quit meth and learn how to handle triggers and cravings in recovery.

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Fast Facts: Meth

Abuse Potential
Scientific Name
Drug Class
Street Names
Ice, Crystal, Crank, Chalk, Speed
Side Effects
Tremors, Restlessness, Appetite Loss, Paranoia, Fever, Seizures
How It's Used
Smoked, Injected, Snorted
Legal Status
Schedule II
Anyone can become addicted to methamphetamine. People of various races and socio-economic backgrounds abuse the drug, from high school students to older Americans. Once drug addiction develops, it is hard to overcome.

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People with meth addiction obsess over the stimulant and compulsively seek it. Its use can deteriorate their physical or mental health and cause relationship problems and legal consequences.

Many individuals experiencing meth addiction are discouraged about their future. But rehab has proved to be the most effective way to combat substance use disorders. Through treatment, people can improve their health and learn how to live fulfilling lives without meth.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant. It is sold on the streets under several names, including chalk, ice and crystal. Meth looks like a white, crystalline powder. It is bitter tasting, odorless and dissolvable in water.

Derived from amphetamine, the drug was developed in the early 1900s. It was used in products that assist people with breathing problems, including nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Today, it is largely used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

“A lot of people don’t recognize that methamphetamine still has a role as an active prescription drug that’s used for the treatment of ADHD, that’s used in the treatment of obesity and that’s used for the treatment of narcolepsy,” Dr. Edward Bednarczyk told

Bednarczyk is the director of the Center for Health Outcomes, Pharmacoinformatics and Epidemiology. He said therapeutic doses of meth “are significantly smaller than [the doses] people use on the streets.”

People misuse the stimulant for its euphoric properties. Like cocaine, meth can enhance energy, activity and talkativeness. Because it has a high potential for abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies meth as a Schedule II drug.

Dr. Kevin Wandler, chief medical officer of Advanced Recovery Systems, explains why methamphetamine is one of the most addictive of all drugs.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. When a person smokes it, the drug travels from the lungs directly to the bloodstream and causes an immediate high.

“Within methamphetamine, there’s also a purification step that you can do when you’re making crystal meth,” Bednarczyk said. “It’s not identical to meth. It’s just one of the isomers. You select the more potent isomer and it also changes some of the physical properties to make is more smokeable.”

Crystal meth generally has a higher purity level than the powdered version of the drug. Because of its high purity, crystal meth can produce longer-lasting and more intense effects on the body. The lingering effects of the drug can last for 12 or more hours.

How Is Meth Abused?

Meth can be smoked, injected, swallowed or snorted. The route of administration affects the intensity of the high a person experiences.

People who smoke or inject methamphetamine will likely feel stronger euphoric effects than those who swallow or sniff the substance. Smoking and injecting meth delivers the drug to the brain more rapidly, producing more intense effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, smoking or injecting the stimulant increases a person’s risk for addiction and other health problems.

Why Is Meth Abused?

People often abuse meth for its euphoric properties. The drug produces an intense high that lasts just a few minutes. It increases levels of a chemical called dopamine in the brain, causing individuals to feel an enhanced sense of well-being.

“Meth acts at the same place that dopamine does in the body and the brain,” Bednarczyk said. “It also triggers release of dopamine from the storage parts of cells in the brain and just bathes the brain in dopamine. It also releases a neurochemical called serotonin and it also releases norepinephrine. So you’ve got this soup of neurotransmitters that are being released by the administration of meth.”

The euphoria fades relatively quickly. To maintain a consistent high, some individuals repeatedly take the drug in large doses every few hours for several days — a process called binge and crash. During this time, they often give up food and sleep. Withdrawal from high doses of meth often results in strong cravings and severe depression.

The stimulant is relatively inexpensive to make and sell. This has led to the widespread use of meth among high school students in the past. However, the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey shows that past-month use of methamphetamine has largely declined among middle and high school students in recent years.

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Effects of Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine is one of the most dangerous drugs available. Its use is associated with a number of physical health problems, including high blood pressure, convulsions and brain damage that can lead to stroke.

Signs of Meth Addiction:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor hygiene, including meth mouth
  • Psychotic behavior

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Drug cravings
  • Lack of energy
  • Severe depression

Symptoms of Meth Overdose:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, long-term use of methamphetamine can result in numerous mental health problems, including severe mood swings and paranoid delusions that can last for up to 15 hours.

Meth Addiction Treatment

If meth addiction is left untreated, the physical, psychological and social consequences can become irreparable. Identifying addiction early on increases the chances of recovery.

Rehab for meth addiction can help people overcome their substance use disorder. Treatment centers use behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to assist people in quitting the drug and maintaining sobriety.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications for treating methamphetamine addiction. However, researchers are investigating new medications in clinical trials. Ibudilast, for example, aims to reduce meth use and keep people in treatment longer.

Those who complete treatment usually need additional services to maintain sobriety. Aftercare resources such as sober living homes, Crystal Meth Anonymous and other 12-step programs can help people manage triggers and cravings during their recovery.

If you or someone you know is suffering from meth addiction, contact a meth hotline. These 24/7 services can help you identify a substance use disorder, learn more about the dangers of crystal meth and locate a nearby treatment center.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.
Featured Expert
Kevin Wandler
Chief Medical Officer, Advanced Recovery Systems

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