What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an extremely addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Some people abuse this drug due to the wave of euphoria it can produce, which has been described as a feeling of well-being and intense happiness.

Methamphetamine usually refers to an illegal substance produced with varying levels of quality and purity, and it comes in many different forms. Meth can be inexpensive to manufacture, leading to a large illegal supply being readily available.

However, methamphetamine is also clinically used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder; thus, it is classified as a Schedule II substance.

How Does Methamphetamine Affect The Brain?

Methamphetamine causes very high levels of dopamine to be released into the areas of the brain that regulate pleasure.

When abused chronically, methamphetamine can cause brain damage. Research has shown that as much as 50% of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after prolonged exposure to even low levels of meth. Long-term use of meth can result in:

  • Violent behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations

Deep paranoia resulting in homicidal or suicidal thoughts is also possible.

Methamphetamines are not metabolized out of the system quickly, so they remain in the brain longer, leading to intense and prolonged stimulant effects.

How Do Methamphetamines Affect The Body?

The use of methamphetamine can result in:

  • Increased wakefulness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite and consequent weight loss
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia
  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased energy
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Intense itching of the skin
  • Severe dental harm

What Do Methamphetamines Look Like?

Methamphetamine is available in a few different forms. In its illicit forms, it can be found as a powder or as a rock or crystal. It is also available as an FDA-approved medication in tablet form.

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth looks like glass fragments or small crystals or large chunks of crystals. It can also look like small rocks. It can be many different colors, including white, light blue, yellow, orange, and gray. The color differences are due to the different inactive ingredients used to increase the weight of the meth. It is usually smoked or injected.

Powder Meth

The powder form of methamphetamine is usually white, beige, or light tan. It is sometimes called “speed”. This is a less potent form of meth and is sometimes dissolved and injected or swallowed. It can also be pressed into pills.

Prescription Tablet

The FDA-approved version of this medication is called Desoxyn. It is a white, round tablet that must be prescribed by a doctor.

Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Meth Addiction

How Are Methamphetamines Misused?

When meth is being abused, the person may take it in a cycle of high and low or binge and crash repeatedly. This results in repeated doses taken as soon as the high from the previous dose wears off. This cycling or “run” can span from many hours to many days, and it may result in the person not eating or sleeping for an extended period.

Meth can be ingested in many ways, with the onset of the high depending on the method used.

SmokingSmoking meth can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and burns to the lungs and throat. The high is generally brief and intense.

Insertion – Meth can be inserted into the rectum, known as “plugging.” This can cause rectal infections and direct trauma.

Swallowing – Swallowing meth has a more delayed onset, which could lead a person to take more to hurry up the high, leading to an overdose.

Injection – The injection method has a faster onset of action and the potential for increased risk of skin and blood-borne transmission of viruses such as HIV and hepatitis.

Inhaling – Snorting meth can produce effects within 3 to 5 minutes and can cause damage to the lining of the nose and the septum, at times leading to a hole in the inner part of the nose.

How To Identify Meth

The crystallized form of meth can appear as small rocks or long crystal-like blades of ice or chunks of rock. Meth crystals dissolve in water or alcohol quickly. The crystal form of meth usually has a higher purity and can produce longer psychological effects than the powdered form.

The powder form of methamphetamine may taste bitter and have a variety of colors due to the inactive ingredients. It can be grainy or more of a powder consistency similar to chalk.

What Does Meth Smell Like?

Methamphetamine powder itself is odorless; however, the production of meth has a very distinct smell similar to ammonia or ether. It has been reported to smell like cat urine or rotten eggs. Others have described it as a paint thinner, varnish, or strong fuel smell.

What Are Methamphetamine Street Names?

Some common street names for meth are listed below:

  • Black beauties
  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Meth
  • Speed
  • Trash
  • Uppers
  • Poor man’s cocaine
  • Chicken feed
  • Tina
  • Crist

Get Help For Meth Addiction

Someone who regularly uses methamphetamines is at high risk of relapsing without professional help. The sooner addiction treatment begins for someone dependent on meth, the sooner they reduce their risk of permanent harm and avoid relapse.

Contact a treatment provider today to discuss your rehab options and take your life back from the grips of meth addiction.