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Crystal methamphetamine – often referred to as “ice” or “crystal” – serves up a high that rivals most drugs in its intensity, but the feeling dissipates and leaves people hungry for more. Addicts must seek treatment early before the drug ruins their health and their life.

  • Drug Name Crystal Meth
  • Addiction Liability High
  • Scientific Name Methamphetamine
  • Street Names Ice, Crystal, Crank, Chalk, Speed
  • How It's Used Smoked, Injected, Snorted
  • Side Effects Tremors, Restlessness, Appetite Loss, Paranoia, Fever, Seizures
  • Psychological Dependence Very High
  • Physical Dependence Very High

Crystal Meth Addiction

For people who seek pleasure by any means necessary, crystal meth offers perhaps the most concentrated dose. This form of the drug methamphetamine – sold in crystalline rocks and typically smoked or injected – unleashes a wave of pleasure into the brain that trumps just about anything else.

Consider that the human brain produces dopamine, the primary chemical of happiness, in different amounts based on what we experience. Sex increases dopamine levels 100 to 200 units. Meth, by comparison, can spike the brain’s dopamine level to about 1,250 units.

Methamphetamine produces the mother of all dopamine releases. Something that’s about 12 times as much of a release of dopamine as you get from food and sex and other pleasurable activities.

Dr. Richard Rawson, associate director of Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at UCLA

Addiction develops quickly and violently, as someone who experiences this obscene level of pleasure pines to feel it again and again. But the crash from a meth high sends the user into a deep depression, and the only solution for someone in that state of mind is to seek more of the drug.

As crystal meth takes the brain through tumultuous ups and downs, it causes permanent damage. After a short while, it can’t feel any pleasure at all. What follows is frightening: Irreversible harm to cognitive abilities, a crumbling of the physical body and a slow spiral into madness. Graphic side effects make meth one of the world’s most voracious drugs.

Low-income individuals and those with multiple jobs represent the highest risk of meth abuse. Experts say the energy from smoking meth gives workaholics a desired boost of energy and makes them overlook the horrific side effects and life-wrecking risks that crystal meth carries with it.

Signs and Symptoms are Noticeable

Abusing crystal meth takes a noticeable toll on the mental and physical health of any who uses it. Before-and-after photos of someone with a meth habit display the extreme impact of the drug. Cracked teeth, skin infections, severe acne, paleness and poor hygiene are all visual cues that somebody may be a regular crystal meth user. They appear years, or even decades, older based on the traumatic wear and tear on their body.

Some people I have in here over a hundred times, and I can look over a 10, 15, 20-year period and see how they’ve deteriorated, how they’ve changed. Some were quite attractive when they began to come to jail: young people who were full of the health and had everything going for them. Now they’re a shell of what they once were.

Brett King, Oregon police deputy

Meth also induces psychosis. Crystal meth addicts commonly display a number of symptoms of this mental illness. Among them:

Schizophrenic behavior , Poor speech , Delusions of persecution , Hallucinations , Psychomotor retardation and Formication

Psychotic episodes and lack of emotional control, combined with the unbearable urge to find a fix, send meth addicts toward violence and crime, which often lands them in the path of law enforcement. “I don’t know of too many meth users who aren’t also committing crimes,” Ontario, Canada, vice and drugs Staff Sgt. Paul Downey told CBC News.

Side Effects of Crystal Meth Use Could be Fatal

If the drug itself doesn’t kill, the crime and violence involved in the world of crystal meth may finish the job. Overdose death or a life in jail pose the biggest threats to someone taking meth, followed by the laundry list of debilitating side effects that takes the drug can cause.

Short-term side effects of crystal meth use include:

  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Paranoia
  • Increased blood pressure and breathing
  • Dangerously elevated body temperature
  • Seizures

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Psychosis and physical deterioration are the most-reported long-term side effects of crystal meth use. Damage to the brain, lungs, kidneys and liver occurs in many addicts. Additional long-term effects can range from moderate to severe, including:

  • Prolonged anxiety and insomnia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Psychotic behavior
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme birth defects
  • Strokes

Extensive periods of insomnia cause meth heads to show volatile amounts of paranoia and irritability. This tweaking, as it’s called, can be unpredictable and violent. Their eyes move 10 times faster than normal, their voice quivers and their movements are quick and jerky. Anyone who approaches a tweaking meth addict must do so with utmost caution, as addicts tend to lash out.

The lifestyle associated with meth use typically lends itself to increased risks of promiscuity and STDs. More so than other drug abusers, meth users are prone to trade sex for more drugs, and enter into situations where needles are being shared and precautions go out the window.

These life-threatening risks have done nothing to slow the popularity of crystal meth in the United States. Americans consume more meth than heroin, cocaine and crack, with addiction and relapse rates reaching epidemic proportions.

20%of meth addicts developlong term psychosis

Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction

A meth-dependent individual must be pried away from their daily surroundings. Removing them from the availability and influence of crystal meth presents the only hope of steering them towards sobriety. A thorough rehabilitation process can then take place.

Around 88 percent of meth users relapse, with or without treatment, and only 12 percent of addicts who receive treatment report staying clean after the three-year period rehab.
Even so, meth dependency plants deep roots in a user’s brain, and even the most effective treatments do not guarantee a clean future.

No approved medications exist to cure the addiction, despite years of research. Treatment and close monitoring, under the supervision of trained physicians, offer addicts the only proven way to conquer their affliction – a difficult process, more arduous than treating even heroin addiction.

Addicts must be willing and determined to get better, willing to cooperate with doctors and endure the agonies of detox.

Detox and Withdrawal

The depression and pains associated with crystal meth withdrawal rank among the very worst. The process of detoxification may take weeks or months, depending on the patient, and watching a crystal meth addict fight through the withdrawal is not a pretty sight. Still the process must be overseen closely by a medical professional, in case of health complications or a patient’s attempt at causing harm to themselves or others.

Therapy and Counseling

Residential rehabilitation offers people a safe place to stay while going through the inpatient treatment process. A typical stay at a rehab facility will last at least 30 days, and often longer, as the patients undergo therapy and counseling with the in-house staff.

Methods of therapy and counseling vary based on location, but often include individualized behavior management and group counseling sessions with substance abuse counselors. Some rehab centers offer recreational activities as well, as a way to keep morale high and help patients make friends and be social while treatment takes its course.


Considering the astronomical number of relapses in meth addiction, the need for follow-up treatment cannot be overstated. Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and a number of other organizations keep countless meth addicts off the street and motivated to improve their situation. Groups such as these exist worldwide. You may be able to find one that specializes in crystal meth cases or choose to join one where all types of addicts are welcome.

Certain rehab facilities offer alumni programs, where former patients get together and discuss their successes and hardships on the road to recovery. Alumni can stay in touch with the doctors and fellow patients who helped them beat their dependency, and develop a bond in sobriety that can last a lifetime.


While no pharmaceutical currently exists to target meth addiction, several medications in development show promise. One, labeled Ibudilast, underwent testing at UCLA beginning in 2013. It’s designed to prevent the activation of glial cells in the central nervous system, which have been linked to drug dependence.

Very preliminary results would indicate that Ibudilast may dampen craving and improve cognitive functioning.

Dr. Aimee Swanson, UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine Research Director

Another medication called MH6 serves as a vaccine, which prevents the effects of crystal meth from reaching the brain. Preliminary tests show that the vaccine may prevent the rise in body temperature and hyperactivity typically associated with meth use.

Scientists are also testing naltrexone, a medication given to heroin addicts, for its potential impact on ice addiction.

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Crystal meth shows little remorse when it enters the body. It can take you from your highest high to your lowest low in a matter of hours. Once cravings kick in, your life before the drug becomes an afterthought.

If you or someone you know uses crystal meth, contact the nearest rehab clinic immediately. Each day that passes can mean permanent consequences. Treat the addiction early and take back your life.

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