All About Methamphetamine

All About Methamphetamine                                                                


Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.

Other common names for methamphetamine include blue, crystal, ice, meth, and speed.

How do people use methamphetamine?
People can take methamphetamine by:
-Swallowing (pill)
-Injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Short-term effects may include:

  • increased attention and decreased fatigue
  • increased activity and wakefulness
  • decreased appetite
  • euphoria and rush
  • increased respiration
  • rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • hyperthermia

Long term methamphetamine abuse

Long term use has many negative consequences, including addiction.

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain.  As is the case with many drugs, tolerance to methamphetamine’s pleasurable effects develops when it is taken repeatedly. Abusers often need to take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change how they take it in an effort to get the desired effect.

Chronic methamphetamine abusers may develop difficulty feeling any pleasure other than that provided by the drug, fueling further abuse. Withdrawal from methamphetamine occurs when a chronic abuser stops taking the drug; symptoms of withdrawal include

  • depression  
  • anxiety  
  • fatigue, and, 
  • an intense craving for the drug.

In addition to being addicted to methamphetamine, people who use methamphetamine long term may exhibit symptoms that can include:  

  • significant anxiety  
  • confusion  
  • insomnia  
  • mood disturbances, and  
  • violent behavior.

They also may display a number of psychotic features, including:  

  • paranoia  
  • visual and auditory hallucinations, and  
  • delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin).   

Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit using methamphetamine, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in people who use methamphetamine and have previously experienced psychosis.

These and other problems reflect significant changes in the brain caused by misuse of methamphetamine. Neuro-imaging studies have demonstrated alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning.   Studies in chronic methamphetamine users have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals.

Research in primate models has found that methamphetamine alters brain structures involved in decision-making and impairs the ability to suppress habitual behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive. The two effects were correlated, suggesting that the structural change underlies the decline in mental flexibility.  These changes in brain structure and function could explain why methamphetamine addiction is so hard to treat and has a significant chance of relapse early in treatment.

Methamphetamine use can also increase one’s risk of stroke, which can cause irreversible damage to the brain. A recent study even showed higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease among past users of methamphetamine.  In addition to the neurological and behavioral consequences of methamphetamine misuse, long-term users also suffer physical effects, including 

  • weight loss
  • severe tooth decay and tooth loss (“meth mouth”), and 
  • skin sores.  

The dental problems may be caused by a combination of poor nutrition and dental hygiene as well as dry mouth and teeth grinding caused by the drug. Skin sores are the result of picking and scratching the skin to get rid of insects imagined to be crawling under it.

Long Term Effects include:

  • addiction
  • psychosis, including paranoia &  hallucinations
  • repetitive motor activity
  • changes in brain structure and function (long lasting or permanent)
  • deficits in thinking and motor skills   
  • increased distractibility 
  • memory loss 
  • aggressive or violent behavior 
  • mood disturbances 
  • severe dental problems 
  • weight loss

DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria-Methamphetamine Use Disorder

According to the DSM-5, there is one main methamphetamine-related mental health disorder: a stimulant use disorder. This is defined as:

A pattern of amphetamine-type substance, cocaine, or other stimulant use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:

-The stimulant is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended

-There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control stimulant use

-A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the stimulant, use the stimulant, or recover from its effects

-Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the stimulant

-Recurrent stimulant use resulting in a failure to fulfil major role obligations at work, school, or home

-Continued stimulant use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the stimulant

-Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of stimulant use

-Recurrent stimulant use in situations in which it is physically hazardous

-Stimulant use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the stimulant

-Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

–A need for markedly increased amounts of the stimulant to achieve intoxication or desired effect.

–A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the stimulant.

Note: This criterion is not considered to be met for those taking stimulant medications solely under appropriate medical supervision, such as medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy.

Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the stimulant 

-The stimulant (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Note: This criterion is not considered to be met for those taking stimulant medications solely under appropriate medical supervision, such as medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy.

  • A mild stimulant use disorder is defined as the presence of 2-3 of the above symptoms.
  • A moderate stimulant use disorder is defined as the presence of 4-5 of the above symptoms.
  • A severe stimulant use disorder is defined as the presence of 6 or more of the above symptoms.

What Are Some Signs of Meth Addiction?

  • Rotting teeth (meth mouth)                                                                                                                     
  • Thinning body
  • Acne or sores, Intense Scratching or Picking
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion

The extreme physical toll of crystal methamphetamine has made it one of the most harrowing drugs to reach the American street drug market.

Crystal meth belongs to a large class of drugs: methamphetamine. While some methamphetamine have legitimate therapeutic value for conditions such as attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy (hence, a Schedule II classification under the Controlled Substances Act), crystal meth is an illicit drug produced in underground meth labs.  Street level crystal meth is typically the chemical known as d-methamphetamine HCI. Crystal meth, as its name connotes, is crystalline in form. The crystals can be crushed and consumed orally, smoked, snorted, or injected.

Physical Signs of Meth Abuse

An unfortunate reality of drug use is that others will often not realize it’s occurring until it reaches the abuse or addiction phase. Crystal meth has such a high addiction potential that it is relatively easy for a regular user to slip from use to abuse to addiction.

Physical signs of meth use will emerge whether the person is new to the drug or becoming increasingly dependent on it. The following are some of the physical signs or dangers associated with meth abuse:

  • A thinning, frail body
  • Facial acne or sores
  • Rotted teeth (“meth mouth”)
  • A droopy quality to the facial skin
  • Convulsions
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke
  • Lowered immunity/susceptibility to infectious disease
  • A dramatic increase in body temperature
  • Increased libido
  • Intense scratching
  • Death


The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions. For example, the Matrix Model—a 16-week comprehensive behavioral treatment approach that combines-
-behavioral therapy
-family education
-individual counseling
-12-step support
-drug testing, and
-encouragement for non-drug-related activities

-has been shown to be effective in reducing methamphetamine misuse. Contingency management interventions, which provide tangible incentives in exchange for engaging in treatment and maintaining abstinence, have also been shown to be effective.  Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR), an incentive-based method for promoting cocaine and methamphetamine abstinence, has demonstrated efficacy among methamphetamine users through NIDA’s National Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network.

Methamphetamine is a powerful drug that is almost instantly habit forming.  The use of Methamphetamine damages receptors in the brain rapidly, making the user incapable of experiencing any pleasure without the use of the drug.  Over time, meth actually destroys dopamine receptors in the brain, rendering the patient incapable of experiencing pleasure through any other means or source aside from the meth. Meth becomes the center of users’ lives; their resources, time, energy, and focus are spent on getting meth.