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Meth Addiction and Abuse

Methamphetamine, known as meth or crystal meth, is a highly addictive substance which has claimed the lives of countless individuals.

Meth Addiction

methMeth is one of the most addictive substances in the United States. Many people have reported getting addicted to meth in as little as one use.

The feelings of euphoria, alertness and confidence that result from use have a powerful effect on the brain reward system.

Meth releases more than three times the amount of dopamine that cocaine does, highlighting how addictive it is.

The rush of dopamine from meth abuse is much higher than the natural amount of dopamine produced in the brain. This reinforces the behavior of abuse and likelihood of binging. After the reward system is rewired, the cravings for meth often take over a person’s life.

Overcoming a meth addiction is difficult because the drug hijacks the brain reward system, impairing healthy decision-making. An addiction treatment program can help meth users break their physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Please call us now for help finding treatment.

Understanding Meth

Meth is the slang term for methamphetamine. The drug is produced both legally and illegally. The legal form of methamphetamine, approved by the Food and Drug Administration under the brand name Desoxyn, is prescribed for patients with severe attention deficit disorder and obesity where other treatments have been ineffective.

In its illicit form, meth is usually a white, odorless powder that can be snorted, injected or taken orally. Crystal meth is a potent, smokeable version of meth that consists of small, bluish-white crystals. Street names for meth include:

  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Crank
  • Redneck cocaine

People may try meth out of curiosity, in search of a high or even to lose weight. They may continue using it because of the energy and euphoria it produces, not recognizing its seriously addictive potential.

Meth Effects and Abuse

Any illicit use of methamphetamines qualifies as abuse. Similar to crack cocaine, meth and crystal meth produce a “rush” when smoked or injected; this is caused by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain. The rush produces the strongest effects and can last up to 30 minutes.

After the rush, people using meth experience a steady high that can last anywhere from four to 12 hours. The duration of this high depends on the mode of consumption. Injecting meth produces a stronger high than smoking or snorting, but the effects wear off more quickly.

The effects of meth include:

  • Elation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Talkativeness
  • Empathy
  • Alertness
  • Loss of appetite

These effects, along with the drug’s affordability, can lead people to binge use. Many who use meth take the drug over a period of several days, staying perpetually high throughout this time. Eventually, the meth doesn’t produce the same effects, and the person using it needs higher doses to get high.

Binging on meth increase the likelihood of overdosing.

Since meth raises a person’s blood pressure and heart rate, taking large amounts of the substance can lead to overheating, seizures, loss of consciousness or coma. If he or she does not seek medical attention when this happens, the overdose can be fatal.

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Common Drug Combinations

Polydrug use (using more than one drug at a time) is common among people who take meth. This type of drug abuse often occurs in clubs and at music festivals.

Drugs that are used with meth may include cocaine, alcohol, GHB, ketamine and ecstasy. The risk of overdosing on meth is particularly dangerous when it is combined with these substances.

Meth Abuse Statistics

133Kfirst-time users

As the public becomes more aware of the risks associated with methamphetamine abuse, the rates of first-time users are declining. In 2012, there were only 133,000 first-time users compared to nearly 300,000 in 2002.

440Kregular/daily users

In 2012, there were roughly 440,000 people regularly using meth in the United States.

1 in 5meth lab discoveries

It is estimated that 1 in 5 meth labs are discovered due to explosions caused by the extremely flammable solvents used in the process of making meth.

The abuse of meth decreased by nearly 300,000 regular users from 2006 to 2012. This may be due to the emerging treatments for meth addiction and an increase in education about the dangers of this life-threatening addiction.

Many people who have a problem with meth have the tendency to believe they will never be able to take control of their life. Meth addiction is one of the hardest to treat and usually requires professional management and rehabilitation to beat. Anyone can conquer their addiction with the right help. If you or your loved one are ready to overcome a meth addiction, please call us today.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: November 25, 2015

  1. Ruiz, P., & Strain, E. (2011) Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, Fifth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  2. Sierra Club. (2001). Feature: Welcome to Meth Country. Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200101/meth.asp
  3. Foundation for a Drug-Free World. (2006). What is Methamphetamine? Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth.html
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2012.htm#ch7.1
  5. CBS News. (2002). Rolling Meth Labs in Vogue. Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/rolling-meth-labs-in-vogue/
  6. PBS-Frontline. (2006). Meth and the Brain. Retrieved on April 8, 2015, from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meth/body/methbrainnoflash.html
  7. CAMH Knowledge Experience. (2009). Information about Crystal Meth. Retrieved on April 8, 2015, from: http://knowledgex.camh.net/amhspecialists/resources_families/Pages/crystal_meth_information.aspx
  8. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. (2006). Poly-club-drug use among gay and bisexual men: A longitudinal analysis. Retrieved on April 8, 2015, from: http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(06)00469-8/abstract
  9. The Stages of the "Meth" Experience. Drugfreeworld.org. (2015). Retrieved on April 8, 2015, from: http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth/the-stages-of-the-meth-experience.html
About the Writer, Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith is the editorial director for Addiction Center. After working for years as a journalist, she joined the Addiction Center team in hopes of spreading awareness about addiction and mental health issues and helping people get treatment.