What is Crystal Meth? Side Effects, Addiction, and Withdrawal Symptoms

crystal meth

Updated on April 13th, 2021

Most people have heard of meth and crystal meth, but do you know the differences between the two and the risks involved with using? Additionally, when it comes to coping with crystal meth withdrawal, knowing what to expect and the signs of meth withdrawal can be helpful to get through it. 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 Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth is a highly addictive form of methamphetamine that is particularly concentrated and potent. It is made with ingredients found in common cold medicines alongside other dangerous chemicals and looks like clear or bluish-white rocks or glass shards.

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 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

Meth Comedown: What to Expect

Although the stimulating effects of meth can last for about eight hours, the side effects of coming off meth can be very severe. Once they start to wear off, a person will experience what’s known as a meth comedown. A comedown is different from crystal meth withdrawal, although they are similar in some ways.

Much like a hangover, a meth comedown is caused by physical exhaustion from the euphoric effects of meth, neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, and toxins that have built up in the body due to meth use.

Symptoms of a meth comedown include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

Often, when people experience a meth comedown, they will take more crystal meth to avoid experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms. This behavior can lead to binges (also called tweaking), which can cause dangerous long-term physical harm or deadly overdose.

While a person is tweaking, they’ll experience more intense effects of meth. They may also go for several days without sleeping, which can result in paranoia and temporary psychosis. Often, someone who is tweaking will develop repetitive behaviors, have hallucinations (like feeling bugs crawling under their skin), or they may lash out with violent behavior, which may cause harm to themselves or others.

The comedown after a binge usually causes intense physical and emotional exhaustion. Malnutrition is common and the mental health effects can be very severe. The depression and anxiety may feel so intense that the person is likely to use meth again.

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: What’s the Difference?

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.

 Crystal MethMethamphetamine 
AppearanceShiny, clear or bluish-white rocks that look like glass fragmentsPill or white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol (color can also be yellow, pink, or brown) 
Methods of useMost commonly smoked in glass pipes but can also be snorted, injected, swallowed, or inserted into the anus or urethraSmoked, snorted, injected, swallowed 
Addictive?Highly addictiveHighly addictive 
Short-term side effects
  • Surge of euphoria
  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Surge of euphoria
  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
Street namesCrystal, Ice, Glass, Shards, Stove Top, ShabuMeth, Speed, Bikers Coffee, Tweak, Yaba, Trash, Chalk, Crank 
Drug schedulingSchedule II drugSchedule II drug 

What Are the 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
  • Addiction
  • Severe dental problems (also known as “meth mouth”)
  • Intense itching and skin sores
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • 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

What Are the 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

What Are 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:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Severe depression
  • Psychosis
  • Intense drug cravings6

The side effects of coming off meth 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.

What Is the Crystal Meth Withdrawal Timeline?

Researchers have found that the timeline for meth withdrawal is fairly consistent for most people and it’s not likely to cause physical harm unless the person suffers from mental health issues or severe emotional instability.12 Sometimes this can lead to self-harm.

Although meth withdrawal symptoms and the timeline may vary from person to person, here’s what people can generally expect to occur:

  • 24 hours after the last dose: The earliest symptoms of meth withdrawal start to set in.
  • 7 to 10 days after the last dose: Meth withdrawal symptoms are typically the most intense after about a week. However, after this peak, they tend to decline in intensity.
  • 14 days after the last dose: Most people report that meth withdrawal symptoms subside after about 14 days, but some may experience symptoms up to two weeks after they stop using meth.

Crystal Meth Withdrawal Tips

During detox, a person’s body will adjust to not having the drug. It’s always advised that individuals who are addicted to meth seek medical detox, especially if they’ve been abusing meth for a long time.

Although meth detox isn’t usually deadly, several risks can make getting sober very difficult. Here are a few crystal meth withdrawal tips for anyone who wants to get sober safely.

  • Stay hydrated. During meth detox, dehydration is a serious risk. If it’s severe and is untreated, it can be fatal. Round-the-clock medical supervision can ensure that detox clients are properly hydrated and that their vitals are monitored closely.
  • Properly treat emotional and mental health issues. Antipsychotics and sedatives can be administered in a medical setting to treat severe cases of meth withdrawal in which a person is suffering from psychosis. Benzos can reduce anxiety and irritation. If the meth withdrawal symptoms are very severe, a doctor or addiction treatment professional may administer benzodiazepines like lorazepam or diazepam to reduce anxiety and irritation. However, these types of drugs also come with a risk of addiction, so it’s important to use them as directed or enroll in a medical detox program where those medications will be administered in a safe and supportive setting.
  • Treat minor aches and pains. Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen can reduce the mild aches and pains that often accompany meth withdrawal, especially during the first few days of it.
  • Seek out therapy and support groups. After detox, therapy and support groups can help individuals stay motivated to continue living sober, avoid triggers, and manage cravings. While certain prescription medications may also help people deal with depression, cravings, and cognitive problems associated with crystal meth withdrawal, cognitive behavioral therapy and peer support groups have also shown great promise to help individuals adjust to a sober lifestyle after overcoming meth addiction.

What Is the Best 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.13

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
  • Exercise
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Incentives for remaining drug-free (contingency management)

There aren’t any FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of crystal meth withdrawal, but treatment professionals may use several prescription medications to help reduce meth withdrawal symptoms. These medications include:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion): Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Provigil (modafinil): Provigil is a stimulant that can reduce disruptive sleep patterns, increases energy, and enhances concentration
  • Paxil (paroxetine): Paxil is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and research shows it may reduce cravings during meth withdrawal.
  • Prozac (fluoxetine): Prozac is another SSRI that may help ease withdrawal symptoms.
  • Remeron (mirtazapine): Remeron is an antidepressant that may help reduce relapse during withdrawal.

These medications may be used by detox professionals to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and keep clients comfortable during detox.

Start Recovering From Meth Addiction Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, help is available. Call (888) 857-0557 to speak with an admissions representative at Briarwood Detox Center today.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine
  2. https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
  3. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/meth-101
  4. https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth.html
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/23207.php
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  7. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5049/index.htm
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159418/
  9. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/methamphetamine
  10. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/TEDS-2017.pdf
  11. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/crystal-meth-what-you-should_know#2
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3071736/
  13. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007480.htm

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