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Meth Addiction: Signs and Effects of Meth Abuse

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Meth addict in a dark room with a spoon and a lighter

Meth Overview

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth or crystal meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The drug was developed in the early 20th century from the parent drug, amphetamine, which was used as a nasal decongestant and bronchial inhaler.

Methamphetamine hydrochloride is a white, bitter, odorless crystalline powder that can be dissolved in water or alcohol easily. Meth is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II stimulant, making it legally available only through non-refillable prescriptions. The drug is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, and can sometimes be used for prescription weight-loss treatment.

There are two common forms of the drug that can be injected, snorted or smoked. Crystal meth is a form of meth that has no medical applications and is exclusively an abused recreational substance. This form of meth looks like clear crystals and is typically smoked.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The drug affects the brain to create feelings of pleasure, increased energy, and elevated moods. Meth gives users the ability to stay awake for long periods and do continuous activity with less need for sleep.

Related to regular amphetamines that can be found in some prescription drugs, methamphetamines also suppress the user’s appetite and can sometimes be used to lose weight quickly.

A person might be under the influence of meth if they have:

  • Skin picking
  • Hair loss
  • Skin crawling
  • Tooth decay
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pupil dilation
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Violent or bizarre behavior
  • Panic or psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures 

A person might be abusing meth if they show:

  • Decreased fatigue
  • Increased attention
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Decreased appetite
  • A sense of euphoria or experiencing a “rush”
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Destruction of tissues in the nose, if sniffed
  • Infectious diseases or abscesses
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Increased activity or wakefulness
  • Damage to the brain that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or epilepsy

Meth Paraphernalia

A person might be using meth or crystal meth if they have:

  • Pipe, usually glass
  • Small plastic bags
  • Paperclips
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cut straw
  • Magic eraser
  • Steel or copper wool
  • Extremely Dirty Rag
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Burnt Spoon
  • Elastic tourniquet
  • Mirror or other smooth surfaces
  • Something to snort powder such as rolled-up paper
  • Something to cut up powder such as an ID or credit card

What Happens to the Body from a Meth Addiction?

Meth is a drug that affects the brain dramatically by increasing the amount of dopamine released in the brain.  Because of this, meth can have severe psychological side effects associated with usage.

Short-term effects of meth can include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased activity or wakefulness
  • A sense of euphoria or a “rush”
  • Increased attention
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia

Long-term effects of meth can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations (visual and auditory)
  • Delusions, such as skin picking
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Changes in brain structure or function
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Mood disturbances
  • Severe dental problems
  • Weight loss
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety

Long-term users suffer from neurological, behavioral, and physical effects from meth abuse. As a meth user continues to take the drug, tolerance can build up to the drug’s pleasurable effects, leading the user to take higher doses of the drug and more frequently.

These types of users can also change how they take the drug in order to get the desired effect. After a while, meth users can develop difficulty feeling any pleasure other than the pleasure created by the drug.

Understanding a Meth Addiction

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is found naturally in humans and other animals. This chemical messenger is released normally during pleasurable activities. Meth releases about 12 times the amount of dopamine that regular pleasurable activities, such as eating food or having sex produce, making this drug highly addictive. These elevated dopamine levels are also thought to contribute to meth’s harmful effects on the nerve terminals in the brain.

Withdrawal from meth can be extremely difficult. Symptoms of withdrawal can include depression, anxiety, fatigue, and an intense craving for the drug. Women who are getting treatment for meth addiction can also experience signs of bulimia and anorexia.

An Introduction to the Drug – Meth

Meth is the parent drug of crystal meth. Meth is a white powder that is usually snorted through the nose; however, it can also be smoked or injected. Some users take the drug orally in a pill format. Crystal meth, short for crystal methamphetamine, is a form of drug that looks like little blocks of ice or quartz. This substance is often times smoked.

Both forms are highly addictive and affect the brain by releasing higher dopamine levels compared to regular pleasurable activities. Because of this “rush” or “high” of extreme euphoria that users get when taking the drug, many users continue to abuse the drug and become addicted.

As previously mentioned, meth can be made in illegal laboratories from household products that include amphetamine, battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel, or antifreeze. These labs are extremely dangerous and are potentially explosive. These illegal laboratories create toxic waste as well making them extremely harmful to the environment as well as others around them.

What Does It Look Like and Where Does It Come From?

Meth usually is in the form of a white, odorless, bitter powder. Other colors of the powder have been observed depending on production including brown, yellow-grey, orange, and pink. The drug can also be compressed into a pill form for oral usage. Crystal meth comes in clear, chunky crystals that look like ice.

Meth is an addictive substance that can be smoked, injected, inhaled, or taken by mouth.  It has street names that include “meth,” “speed,” and “chalk.” The drug often times comes in a crystal form for smoking that can be referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “glass,” and “tina.”

Street names for Meth

  • Beannies
  • Brown
  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Cinnamon
  • Crink
  • Crypto
  • Fast
  • Getgo
  • Methlies Quik
  • Mexican Crack
  • Redneck Cocaine
  • Speed
  • Tick tick
  • Tweak
  • Wash

Street names for Crystal Meth

  • Batu
  • Blade
  • Cristy
  • Crystal
  • Crystal glass
  • Glass
  • Hot ice
  • Ice
  • Quartz
  • Tina

The drug is made mostly in labs in the United States and Mexico. However, it can also be manufactured in small covert laboratories with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as cold medicines, acetone, fertilizers, ether, lithium, and red phosphorus. The toxic hazards from these chemicals can remain in the environment long after the lab has been shut down.

Common Drug Combinations

Meth or crystal meth is often times used with other drugs, also known as polydrug use. This is when two or more drugs are combined in order to produce more stimulating effects. When surveyed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), 65% of users said they mixed meth with other hard drugs.

The combinations included:

  • 7% with marijuana
  • 14% with GHB, commonly referred to as “club drug” or “date rape” drug
  • 8% with amyl nitrates (poppers)
  • 6% with both cocaine and ecstasy
  • 7% with both heroin and Viagra

Because of the euphoric high that meth creates along with tolerance build-up, users sometimes mix it with other drugs to create different combinations of highs. Unfortunately, polydrug abuse is often times overlooked in studies; however, most health care providers say that polydrug use is typical for meth and cocaine addicts.


Because of polydrug use, it can be vital for abusers who seek help to go to professionals so they can find treatment for meth. Meth is one of the most addictive substances and it can be extremely difficult to withdraw from the drug.