Meth Addiction

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause addiction in as little as a single use. This is mainly due to the rush of dopamine produced by the drug. Dopamine is a chemical that’s not only responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure, but also for motivation, memory retention, learning, and reward processing. The rush of dopamine produced by meth is much higher than the natural amount of dopamine that is produced in the brain, which causes people to continue using the drug in order to keep those heightened and pleasurable feelings.

Many individuals who use meth take the drug over a period of several days, staying perpetually high throughout this duration of time. This often leads to the development of a tolerance; after taking the drug for a prolonged period of a time, a person will require higher and higher doses to feel the same effects as before.

Someone abusing crystal meth often uses in what are known as “binges” due to its intense but short-acting highs. This is followed by an intense “crash, where users can feel symptoms of withdrawal for several days.

- Ashish Bhatt, MD. Doctor of Addiction Medicine

The stimulant effects, along with the drug’s affordability, can lead people to quickly become addicted. It may then become difficult to feel happy when attempting to stop taking meth, and withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and depression can occur when it wears off. The debilitating nature of withdrawal reinforces the behavior of abuse and the likelihood of binging. After the reward system is dependent on the drug, fear of withdrawal and cravings for meth often effectively take over a person’s life.

Understanding Meth

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant made from amphetamine and other chemicals. Originally prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms throughout the US. However, a large population abused these products for the stimulant effects; this prompted the FDA to restrict and regulate the drug as a Schedule II controlled substance in 1970. There is currently only 1 prescription methamphetamine drug still on the market, Desoxyn, which is used to treat obesity and severe attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The majority of people that are addicted to methamphetamine use the drug in its illicit forms: meth and crystal meth. Meth is a crystalline powder that is most commonly white, though it can also be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odorless, bitter, and dissolvable in liquid. It’s most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting, or injecting. In some cases, it’s compressed into a pill and taken orally. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals that are typically smoked. Many drug dealers will also “cut” meth with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin. In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications; these can range from antidepressants to opioids. These additives can be extremely dangerous due to drug interactions; they can also increase the risk of overdose.

While the structural makeup of the two variations differ, both meth and crystal meth are chemically the same thing. Street names for methamphetamine include:

  • Glass
  • Speed
  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Crank
  • Tweak
  • Redneck Cocaine
  • Chalk

The vast majority of meth that is distributed today comes from illegal laboratories and imports. The product is typically cooked in “home labs” or “stove tops,” in which a few people will produce small amounts of the substance. Meth is also produced in cartel “super labs” that include professional-grade equipment to produce the drug at higher quantities and quality. The key ingredient in meth is typically the stimulant ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is found in some common over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the gases and chemicals that are released during the drug’s creation process are toxic and combustible.

Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Meth Addiction

Meth Effects And Abuse

Any illicit use of methamphetamine qualifies as abuse. Similar to crack cocaine, meth produces a “rush” when smoked or injected; this is caused by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain. When meth is snorted, it creates a euphoric sensation but not a rush. The rush from injection produces the strongest effects and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush, people using the drug experience a steady high that can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the mode of consumption. Injecting meth produces a stronger high than smoking or snorting it, but the effects wear off more quickly this way. Meth users are known to stay up for multiple days in a row due to binge use.

Behavioral changes are often the first signs someone is addicted to meth. These changes may include irritability, paranoia, mood swings, decreased sleep, or anger episodes, to name a few.

- Ashish Bhatt, MD. Doctor of Addiction Medicine

Some of the most common effects of meth include:

  • Elation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Talkativeness
  • Alertness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss

Skin sores and infections from picking, tooth decay and “meth mouth,” and increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease are other common consequences of habitual meth use. People who regularly inject the drug may also suffer from collapsed veins and are at a higher risk of contracting blood-borne pathogenic diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis due to shared needles.

Meth can cause dangerous physical symptoms including blood pressure alterations, heart rhythm disorders, seizures, body temperature alterations, muscle breakdown, circulation issues, bleeding, coma and death.

- Ashish Bhatt, MD. Doctor of Addiction Medicine

Snorting meth can damage sinus cavities and nasal passages, which can lead to chronic nosebleeds. The effects that meth has on the heart and CNS can overwhelm the body and also lead to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and potentially-life threatening overdose. When meth is mixed with other drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, the likelihood of an adverse reaction and possible overdose is greatly increased. Long-term meth use can also cause significant damage to the brain and the cells that make dopamine, as well as to the nerve cells containing serotonin.

Drugs Commonly Combined With Meth

Methamphetamine is often cut with other powerful substances, and some users will deliberately mix in or take additional drugs in order to elicit a stronger high. Some of the drugs most commonly combined with meth include:


The stimulant effects of meth can mask the sedative effects of alcohol and lead to someone drinking more than they would typically drink. Concurrent consumption can also lead to high blood pressure, psychosis and hallucinations, chronic liver damage, cancer, and sudden death.


People often mix meth and opioids for the polydrug combination known as a “speedball.” The combination produces a far greater high than either drug would create alone. Speedballs will often cause the user to have difficulty walking and to exhibit suppressed avoidance responses. This makes them more likely to injure themselves and others. Combining an opioid drug with meth also increases the likelihood that an individual will overdose.


Anxiety is a common negative side effect of meth use. Xanax, a medication used to reduce anxiety, can be used to combat this negative feeling. The result is an extremely addictive combination that often leads to heart issues. As meth speeds up the heart, Xanax slows it down. This can lead to heart arrythmias, which can then lead to potentially fatal heart failure.

Meth Abuse Statistics



Meth costs the United States $550 million in drug treatment programs each year.



According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year.



An estimated 964,000 people aged 12 and older qualified as having a meth use disorder in 2017.

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Get Help For Meth Addiction Today

Meth is a highly dangerous and addictive substance. When someone suffers from an addiction to meth, it may seem like they will never be able to regain control over their life again. However, an addiction treatment program can help meth users break their physical and psychological dependence on the drug. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction to methamphetamine, contact a treatment provider and learn about potential rehabilitation options today.