Most people have heard of meth and crystal meth, but do you know the differences between the two and the risks involved with using? In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at crystal meth, the harmful side effects of crystal meth use, and some of the top signs of crystal meth use.
What is Methamphetamine (Meth)?
Meth (short for methamphetamine) is an extremely addictive stimulant drug. It affects the central nervous system and increases a user’s physical activity, talkativeness, decreases appetite, and produces intense feelings of euphoria.
Most people use meth by smoking it, taking it orally in pill form, snorting it, or dissolving the powder in water and then injecting it. The high that is produced by meth is felt very quickly but it also fades quickly too. As a result, meth users often binge on the drug, taking repeated doses for days on end without adequate food or water consumption.
Chemically speaking, meth is similar to its parent drug, amphetamine. However, meth is a much more potent drug because more of the drug reaches the brain and it produces longer-lasting, more harmful effects.1 Ultimately, this also makes it extremely addictive.
Meth is a manmade drug that has been around for quite a while. During World War II, it was given to soldiers to help keep them awake. Throughout history, people have also taken meth to treat depression or to lose weight. Today, the prescription form of meth (Desoxyn) can be used to treat ADHD or to aid with weight loss, but it is rarely ever prescribed.
Meth is often produced in illegal laboratories and is often “cut” with other substances or drugs like dangerous synthetic opioids. As a result, meth users may not always know what they are consuming and may be more likely to overdose.
Methamphetamine is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.2
Why is Meth Addictive?
People who use meth experience a quick and powerful rush of euphoria after each dose. This is because the drug floods certain parts of the brain with massive amounts of dopamine, which makes the user feel intensely happy, energized, and confident.3
The first use of meth is extremely powerful and euphoric but can leave a person feeling deflated, depressed, and exhausted after the high wears off. This is typically called a “crash”.
Often, users continue to seek those euphoric feelings they experienced after using meth, driving them to use it again and again until they become physically dependent. Sometimes a person can even get addicted after even just one or two uses of meth.
Methamphetamine vs. Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is one form of meth. It is produced in clear or bluish-white rocks and it’s a popular party drug or “club drug”. It’s most often abused by young adults who smoke it with a glass pipe, swallow it, snort it, or inject it.4
The crystal meth found in America is most commonly produced in illegal secret labs in Mexico or the U.S. It is produced by using ingredients found in common over-the-counter cold medicines alongside other dangerous chemicals. The process of making crystal meth is very dangerous and can result in serious explosions or fires. Today, many of these cold medicines contain pseudoephedrine and are sold behind the counter, only accessible through a pharmacist.
There’s no legal use for crystal meth but it is highly addictive because it is a distilled, more highly concentrated form of methamphetamine.
|Appearance||Shiny, clear or bluish-white rocks that look like glass fragments||Pill or white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol (color can also be yellow, pink, or brown)|
|Methods of use||Most commonly smoked in glass pipes but can also be snorted, injected, swallowed, or inserted into the anus or urethra||Smoked, snorted, injected, swallowed|
|Addictive?||Highly addictive||Highly addictive|
|Short-term side effects|
|Street names||Crystal, Ice, Glass, Shards, Stove Top, Shabu||Meth, Speed, Bikers Coffee, Tweak, Yaba, Trash, Chalk, Crank|
|Drug scheduling||Schedule II drug||Schedule II drug|
Side Effects of Crystal Meth Addiction
Chronic, repeated use of crystal meth changes the brain and can easily lead to addiction. Frequent methamphetamine use increases levels of dopamine in the body and causes it to build up in the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these changes impair verbal learning and motor skills. Meth use also affects emotion and memory, which could explain why people who are addicted to meth often develop cognitive and emotional problems.5 People who have used meth also have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.6
While some of these brain changes may be reversed after a significant period of sobriety, others may take years to reverse.
Other harmful side effects of chronic meth abuse and meth addiction include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Severe dental problems (also known as “meth mouth”)
- Intense itching and skin sores
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Memory loss
- Sleeping problems
- Violent behavior
- Increased risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C6
Crystal Meth Addiction Statistics
It is difficult to determine how many people use crystal meth because most research and reports do not distinguish between the different forms of meth that are abused. However, the following statistics about meth addiction apply to all forms of the drug, including crystal meth, powdered meth, and prescription meth pills (Desoxyn).
- In 2017, about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved meth and 50 percent of those deaths also involved an opioid, with half of those cases related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl.6
- Nearly 5 percent of high school seniors in the United States used crystal methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime and 3 percent used the drug in the past year.7
- About 40 percent of people seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse also reported struggling with anxiety.8
- As of 2017, about 6 percent of Americans (ages 12 and older) had tried meth at least once.9
- Between 8 and 12 percent of people who received substance abuse treatment between the years of 2007 and 2017 were struggling with meth addiction.10
- The average age for meth addiction treatment admissions was 34.10
Top Signs of Crystal Meth Use
If you’re concerned that someone you love may be using crystal meth, there are certain signs you can look for. Some of the top signs of crystal meth use include:
- Strange sleeping habits (staying awake for days at a time)
- Sudden extreme weight loss and a lack of appetite
- Disinterest in personal appearance or grooming
- Obsessively picking at skin or hair
- Mood swings and/or outbursts of anger
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Frequently borrowing money, selling valuable possessions, or stealing
- Talking a lot or very quickly
- Jerky, erratic movements/twitching/facial tics
- Dilated pupils and rapid eye movement11
Crystal Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Crystal meth is highly addictive, so if you suddenly stop using it, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Common crystal meth withdrawal symptoms include:
- Severe depression
- Intense drug cravings6
These withdrawal symptoms can make it very difficult to stop using meth. Although a medical detox program is not usually necessary to quit, a period of medical observation is highly recommended and can be extremely helpful.
Medical assistance for crystal meth withdrawal can provide effective treatment and support to reduce the physical discomfort of withdrawal and address any psychological responses to methamphetamine detox, such as depression, cravings, and anxiety.
Crystal meth withdrawal can also be very exhausting, but detoxing in a safe, private, and calming environment can help you get the rest you need to recover and move forward with your life.
Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction
Meth addiction is notoriously difficult to treat, but research shows the sooner you get help for your meth use, the more likely you are to experience positive and lasting outcomes from treatment.12
Although there is no single established treatment or cure for crystal meth addiction, effective forms of treatment often include:
- Medical observation during meth detox
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Nutritional guidance
- Incentives for remaining drug-free (contingency management)