Crystal Meth Addiction:
Causes, Effects, Risks and Other Facts to Know About

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Methamphetamine or meth is a highly addictive drug made up of a variety of everyday items and relatively easy to make, making it extremely accessible to those who seek it out.

Meth acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system, initially with a rush and then an onset of agitation. Meth addiction can be debilitating and destructive and is prevalent throughout the U.S.; in some areas, meth use surpasses that of cocaine and heroin.

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine is a stimulant made from different forms of amphetamine, a common ingredient in many over-the-counter medications. Similar to cocaine, meth is both a stimulant and an anorectic (appetite suppressant).

It’s a popularly abused drug for its stimulating effects, with the vast majority of the supply imported or coming from illegal labs. These meth labs, where the product is “cooked” are extremely dangerous due to the combustible byproducts of gas and spillage. The “labs” tend to be trailers or rural homes.

Meth is found in two forms, a powder or a coarse crystal. The powder is typically consumed by smoking, snorting or mixed with a liquid and injected, while crystal meth is smoked.

The initial reaction when using meth is a rush, lasting up to 30 minutes, unlike the rush from crack cocaine, which only last two to five minutes. Following the rush, the user will experience a high, with feelings of increased intellect and tends to become argumentative and interruptive in conversations. A meth high can last anywhere from 4 to 16 hours.

It is not uncommon for meth to be mixed, or “cut” with other drugs; this could be in efforts to extend profit margins, or it can be deliberate to achieve a better high than either of the substances could provide on their own.

While it’s common for meth to be mixed with other substances, it is hazardous and even fatal. Common substances  paired with meth are alcohol, opiates, Xanax, Ecstasy, and Viagra.

Meth reacts with the dopamine receptors in the brain; after prolonged use, those receptors are destroyed. When it is used often and regularly, the body becomes accustomed to the new chemical levels. Eventually, it makes it nearly impossible to experience a high, let alone normal levels of pleasure.

Like all other drugs, tolerance will develop, followed by dependence when copious amounts of meth are consumed to get high. Those who reach addiction will fall victim to several side effects, like insomnia, paranoia, seizures, and irritability. Eventually, they will experience psychosis, a weakened immune system, brain damage, skin infections, and severe tooth decay or “meth mouth.”

A Brief History of Meth

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that was first synthesized by Nagai Nagayoshi, a Japanese chemist studying in Germany in 1893.

Scientists first developed amphetamine drugs, which includes methamphetamine as a manufactured alternative to the ephedra plant. This had been used in China for thousands of years to treat asthma, hay fever, and the common cold.

It wasn’t until 1919 when Akira Ogata streamlined the process of making methamphetamine that it became easy enough to mass produce the product.

In its early days, methamphetamine was used to treat narcolepsy, asthma, decongestant, act as an antidepressant, and used as a weight-loss aid. Methamphetamine was legally available in both a tablet and injectable form.

With the onset of World War II, both Allies and Axis forces were using the drug to keep troops awake. With soldiers returning from war, meth use increased significantly. There was a downturn of abuse when it was outlawed in the U.S. in 1971 because it was classified as a schedule II substance.

However, a decade later the U.S. saw a resurgence of meth use, becoming a popular street drug. In 1986, the U.S. government placed additional regulations, creating legislation to track the sale of possible meth ingredients.

As of today, Desoxyn is the only prescription methamphetamine medication on the market, which is prescribed to treat obesity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Historically, illegal meth use has been prevalent in more rural areas, partially because the ingredients can be found in agricultural products and concealment of a meth lab is easier than in a metropolitan area. Meth is the fourth most common drug-related reason for emergency rooms visits; with the western and midwestern states having a much higher rate of use.

However, meth has found its way into the lives of celebrities and public figures for decades; from names like Adolf Hitler and Marilyn Monroe to Robert Downey, Jr. and Lindsay Lohan.



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What Does Meth Look Like?

Methamphetamine can typically be found as a crystalline, odorless powder; it will dissolve quickly in water or alcohol and has a bitter taste. The powder is found in a range of colors, including white, brown, yellow-gray, orange and pink. It can also be compressed into a tablet.

As its name suggests, crystal meth resembles clear glass fragments or chunky crystals and can be found to have a tint of color.

What are Other Names for Meth?

Each version of the drug has its own nickname that would be used on the street, depending on the region. When referring to methamphetamine, one might hear any of these names:

  • Beannies
  • Brown
  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Chicken feed
  • Cinnamon
  • Crink
  • Crypto
  • Fast
  • Getgo
  • Speed
  • Tick Tick
  • Tweak
  • Wash
  • Yellow powder

While those using crystal meth may refer to the drug as any of the following:

  • Batu
  • Blade
  • Cristy
  • Crystal
  • Crystal glass
  • Glass
  • Hot ice
  • Ice
  • Quartz
  • Shabu
  • Shards
  • Stovetop
  • Tina
  • Ventana

Meth and the Brain

Methamphetamine affects dopamine levels in the brain, causing a flood of the neurotransmitter that disrupts normal functioning. Dopamine is not only responsible for feeling pleasure, but also for motivation, movement, memory functions, learning, and reward processing. In short, meth makes a person feel good and makes them want to continue taking it to keep feeling this way.

Like all drugs, taking meth repeatedly can build up a tolerance that will then require a person to take higher doses more often to feel the same effects as before. It may become difficult to feel happy without meth, and withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, increased appetite, depression, and even psychosis can occur when it wears off. This is called drug dependence, which can form rather quickly with chronic meth abuse and even faster with binge use and escalating dosages.

Once dependence forms, changes are made in how the brain functions and to its chemical makeup and circuitry. Compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and a loss of the ability to control how much and how often meth is taken can occur. This inability to control meth use coupled with the changes made in the brain are some of the primary hallmarks of addiction.

Addiction can create a myriad of social, emotional, physical, and behavioral issues. When someone suffers from addiction to meth, getting the drug, using it, and recovering from it can consume them, while other activities take a backseat. Interpersonal relationships suffer as mood swings can be unpredictable and the person may consistently shirk regular responsibilities and obligations. Grades and work output drop, and unemployment, financial strain, and homelessness can be the result of meth addiction. Meth abuse also leads to lowered inhibitions and an increase in risk-taking and possible suicidal behaviors.

Health problems generally creep up too. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) publishes that over 100,000 people received medical treatment in an emergency department (ED) for meth abuse in 2011.

Short-term side effects of meth abuse and addiction also include the potential for a life-threatening overdose. The effects on the heart and central nervous system can overwhelm the system and lead to seizures, heart attacks, strokes, dangerously high body temperatures, agitation, irregular heart rates, breathing difficulties, kidney failures, comas, and even death. When meth is mixed with other drugs, the likelihood of an adverse reaction and possible overdose increases greatly.

Why is Meth Addictive?

Meth is an extremely addictive stimulant, three times more potent than cocaine, triggers dependency faster than most illicit drugs and is one of the most difficult to quit permanently.

Once the drug reaches the brain, it causes a flood of dopamine and adrenaline, causing the rush and high. The combination of dopamine and adrenaline has an enormous effect on the limbic system or the control center for emotions and memory.

Consistent use will rewire the brain and decision-making centers; the brain begins to think meth is necessary for life, like breathing or blinking. Users often binge while on meth and become hyperactive; this could include consumption of other drugs or alcohol and can last three to fifteen days.

Those abusing meth can find themselves losing their sense of identity, no longer able to get high or feel any pleasure. Intense itching is common, as they are convinced that bugs are crawling over their body; insomnia and hallucinations typically follow. This puts the user as a danger to themselves and others.

The abuse cycle ends with a crash and a hangover, leaving the user lifeless, and exhausted both mentally and physically. The crash and hangover can last up to two weeks but eventually leads to the user needing to use again to feel better.

How Does It Make You Feel?

The powerful rush people get from using meth causes many to get hooked right from the start. When it’s used, a chemical called dopamine floods the parts of the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure. Users also feel confident and energetic.

A user can become addicted quickly and soon finds he will do anything to have that rush again. As he continues to use the drug, he builds up a tolerance. That means he needs higher doses to get the same high. The higher the dose, the higher the risks.

Methods of Use for Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine users have several means of taking the drug to achieve a “high.” They may take the drug in a pill form, smoke it, inject it, or snort it.

Smoking or injecting meth produces an instant high that lasts between 8 and 12 hours, which leads many people to take repeat doses to remain high. When taken orally, the drug’s effects can last anywhere from 6–12 hours, but they are not as intense.

What Are the Effects?

  • Meth can make a user’s body temperature rise so high he could pass out or even die.
  • A user may feel anxious and confused, be unable to sleep, have mood swings, and become violent.
  • Looks can change dramatically. A user may age quickly. His skin may dull, and he can develop hard-to-heal sores and pimples. He may have a dry mouth and stained, broken, or rotting teeth.
  • He may become paranoid. He may hear and see things that aren’t there. He may think about hurting himself or others. He may also feel as though insects are crawling on or under his skin.
  • A meth user is at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS. The drug can affect judgment and lessen inhibitions. Someone under the influence of the drug may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as unsafe sex.


What Are the Signs that Someone Is Using Meth?

Have you noticed changes in someone you care about? Consider these signs:

  • Not caring about personal appearance or grooming
  • Obsessively picking at hair or skin
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Dilated pupils and rapid eye movement
  • Strange sleeping patterns — staying up for days or even weeks at a time
  • Jerky, erratic movements; twitching; facial tics; animated or exaggerated mannerisms; and constant talking
  • Borrowing money often, selling possessions, or stealing
  • Angry outbursts or mood swings
  • Psychotic behavior, such as paranoia and hallucinations


Crystal Meth Dependency

Crystal meth signals the brain to fire off an increased amount of dopamine, a chemical that causes a feeling of reward or pleasure.

The increased activity of dopamine is what scientists believe plays a large role in the development of addiction to certain drugs. It is thought that the positive feeling from dopamine is so strong—and intensely rewarding—that it reinforces the behavior that initiated its release.

As users become more tolerant of crystal meth, they will need more of the substance to achieve the desired high and will take ever-increasing amounts, placing themselves at risk for overdose and furthering fueling the body’s dependency on the drug.

Over time – after a period of persistent stimulant intoxication – dopamine receptor activity is severely impaired, which can cause perceptions of decreased happiness and pleasure and even lead to permanent cognitive impairments.

Withdrawal Treatment

Symptoms of withdrawal from crystal meth can include:

  • Feelings of depression.
  • Intense drug craving.
  • Anxiety.
  • Loss of energy.
  • Itchy eyes.
  • Sleep difficulties, ranging from oversleeping to severe insomnia.
  • Increased appetite.



Withdrawal from crystal meth can be very uncomfortable and may lead users to relapse in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms. Being in a medically supervised detox program can ensure management of symptoms and may help prevent relapse.

Successful completion of a detoxification period often marks the initial part of treatment, that later leads to a more protracted stay at an inpatient rehab program or participation in a structured outpatient program.

Inpatient programs or residential rehabilitation can be highly effective methods for treating addiction, in that they allow the user to focus intensely on sobriety with minimal distractions or temptations. Most programs range from 30-90 days, with longer stays available for more severe cases of addiction.

Outpatient or intensive outpatient drug treatment are additional valuable options to address the mental, behavioral, and medical issues associated with crystal meth abuse

Meth Addiction, Anxiety, and Co-Occurring Disorders

The American Journal on Addictions published studies showing that around 40 percent of people seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse also reported struggling with anxiety. Mood and anxiety disorders and drug abuse co-occur at rates as high as 50 percent, NIDA publishes.

Meth abuse and dependence can cause anxiety just as someone struggling with anxiety may take a drug like meth to self-medicate difficult symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Either way, meth abuse worsens anxiety in the long run and can make treatment for both the anxiety disorder and addiction more complicated.

The best method for treating co-occurring disorders is considered to be simultaneous and integrated care for both disorders. In this way, both the addiction and the anxiety can be addressed and managed in order to enhance recovery for both conditions. A combination of medications and therapeutic measures should be employed by highly trained medical, mental health, and addiction treatment professionals.

Meth Addiction Statistics

For decades, Methamphetamine has been a billion-dollar industry in the US, seeing the last peak in 2005, with users spending $23 billion. While there has since been a decrease in spending, Americans still spent an estimated $13 billion on meth in 2010.

To further support this trend, one can look at the number of emergency room visits made due to meth-related incidences. At its peak, more than 132,500 people rushed to the ER, compared to just over 64,100 in 2009. In recent years there has been another surge; in 2011, ERs saw nearly 103,000  meth-related cases.

For 2005 to 2011, those seeking help from treatment facilities ranged from roughly 32,000 to 38,000; that number jumped in 2012 when nearly 50,000 people sought professional help. Unfortunately, 2011 also saw the most psychostimulants-related deaths, totally 2,724.

Meth Addiction Treatment Options

When people stop taking methamphetamine, they will experience intense withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, fatigue, depression, and psychosis.

Since these withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating and difficult to withstand, a staggering 93 percent of those in traditional treatment end up returning to meth use.

Meth addiction is a treatable condition. While there are no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction, proven treatment methods involve behavioral therapies.

It can take several years of sobriety for the brain to return to a normal state after heavy methamphetamine. The talented staff at the Southern California Addiction Center understands that each patient and each addiction is different; they will work side by side to help each patient overcome their addiction.

Are You or a Loved One in Need of Help?

If you or someone you know are suffering, and in need of help, we are here for you. CONTACT US TODAY and take the first steps toward the process of recovery. We believe that all of our guests deserve a second chance, and our mission is to make sure that everyone has that opportunity should they need it.

CALL 1-714-942-4942
EMAIL [email protected]

Are You or a Loved One in Need of Help?

If you or someone you know are suffering, and in need of help, we are here for you. CONTACT US TODAY and take the first steps toward the process of recovery. We believe that all of our guests deserve a second chance, and our mission is to make sure that everyone has that opportunity should they need it.

CALL 1-714-942-4942
[email protected]

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