Meth is short for methamphetamine, a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The legal version of meth, Desoxyn, can be prescribed to obese patients to help them lose weight. The street version of meth, which is highly addictive and dangerous, is not legal.
Desoxyn is chemically similar to amphetamine. This drug is also used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep condition.
Methamphetamine boosts the amount of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is a natural chemical in the brain. It is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Meth’s ability to quickly release high dopamine levels in the brain strongly influences drug-taking behavior, making the user desire to repeat the drug use.
The ‘high’ from meth starts and fades quickly. Users often take repeated doses in a ‘binge and crash’ pattern. Some people take methamphetamine in a binging method known as a ‘run.’ During a run, users avoid eating food and sleeping while taking the drug every few hours up to several days.
Street names for methamphetamine include:
People can take meth in various ways. These methods include:
Methamphetamine transformed into pill form is becoming increasingly popular. In pill form, the drug is designed to resemble ecstasy. This may make methamphetamine more appealing to people who haven’t tried it yet.
Even ingesting small amounts of methamphetamine can lead to many of the same health problems and side effects that other stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines introduce. These short-term side effects include:
Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It can be smoked, snorted, swallowed (in pill form), or injected (after being dissolved in water or alcohol). It quickly boosts dopamine levels. The high is very short and intense, leading to a 'binge and crash' pattern.
Transnational criminal organizations in Mexico make most methamphetamine in the United States. This form of meth is extremely pure, potent, and cheap. The drug is often made in small meth labs with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients.
These ingredients include pseudoephedrine, a common substance used in cold medicines. Toxic materials also used to make meth may consist of benzene, brake or drain cleaner, lithium, cat litter, and lye.
Similar to other illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, meth is sometimes laced with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is like morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs because it takes very little to produce a high with it, making it a cheaper option.
When methamphetamine is illegally brought into the United States in powder or liquid form, meth labs turn it into crystal meth. These meth laboratories do not require much equipment, so they can be small in size and easily hidden. This makes it challenging for law enforcement agencies to uncover the meth labs.
Meth production is also an environmental issue. The process of creating meth involves the use of many hazardous chemicals. These chemicals include:
These chemicals damage the environment and linger in the atmosphere long after a meth lab has closed. The toxicity from the chemicals can lead to a wide range of significant health problems. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given guidance on the cleanup and remediation of meth labs.
Most of the meth in the U.S. comes from Mexico. It is made from over-the-counter substances. Meth production involves many hazardous materials that cause environmental damage and health problems for nearby residents. Some meth gets laced with fentanyl, an extremely powerful and dangerous opioid that can lead to overdose.
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Methamphetamine is typically a white powder or pill. Sometimes it looks like glass fragments or shiny bluish-white rocks.
When the powder comes off the rock, the shards can resemble glass. This is where the street name ‘glass’ comes from.
Depending on the purity, meth may also look slightly yellow.
Meth often has no odor. However, sometimes it has a faint chemical scent. Often, the scent of meth comes from the chemical ingredients used to produce the stimulant drug.
When it is used, meth can smell faintly like chemicals. Some say it has a slightly sweet scent as well.
When it is being made, the meth lab smell may resemble:
Meth labs often emit chemical odors, and exposure to these damaging substances can cause health problems and injury.
The scent of methamphetamine varies when smoked. However, vapors emitted from smoking meth often resemble an ammonia-like scent similar to solvents, glass cleaner, paint thinner or cat litter, or urine.
Meth labs often emit chemical odors resembling: "hospital smell, " acetone nail polish remover, vinegar, or ammonia, paint or paint thinner, cat urine, rotten eggs, or burning plastic. Exposure to these damaging substances can cause health problems and injury. When smoked, meth has a faint chemical and sweet smell.
Meth users often describe the drug as having a bitter taste. Similar to its smell, meth may have notes of ammonia, burning plastic, and other chemicals.
Most of the flavors of meth originate with the substances used to make meth. Any item that’s used to make meth can leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Some people do not ingest meth by mouth because the taste can be too difficult to tolerate.
People who use meth display certain behaviors and physical symptoms. These include:
Tweaking is the term used for the end of a crystal meth high. It occurs when the user can't achieve the rush, high, or euphoria anymore. It usually occurs because they run out of the drug. They are left with intense cravings and despair.
Signs of tweaking include:
Crashing is the first stage of meth withdrawal. It usually happens 1 to 3 days after the last use. It includes loss of energy and cognitive function. Often, people sleep for one to three days during their crash. This can lead to high-intensity cravings, insomnia, depression, and hopelessness.
Meth users display extreme bursts of energy, dilated pupils, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, and paranoia. They may develop foul body odor, tooth or gum decay, and open sores or scars from scratching. 'Tweaking' is the term for the erratic behavior displayed at the end of a meth high. 'Crashing' is the first stage of meth withdrawal.
There are several ways to treat meth drug abuse and addiction. If you or a loved one is experiencing meth substance abuse or addiction, it is essential to seek professional medical help.
While medications can help treat some substance use disorders, there are currently no medicines that counteract the unique effects of methamphetamine. There are also no medications that prolong abstinence and reduce meth use in individuals addicted to the drug.
Meth use can potentially lead to an overdose. A methamphetamine overdose can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or organ issues. Because of this, first responders and emergency room doctors must attempt to treat the overdose by addressing these conditions.
Emergency help must restore blood flow to the affected area of the brain to prevent a stroke. They must also restore blood flow to the heart to stop a heart attack and treat the organs' issues.
One of the most effective meth addiction treatments is behavioral therapy. This includes cognitive-behavioral and contingency management interventions.
For example, the Matrix Model is a 16-week comprehensive behavioral treatment approach for meth addiction. It combines behavioral therapy, counseling, 12-step support groups, family education, and more. Treatment programs like these are effective in reducing meth use.
Contingency management interventions provide incentives in exchange for attending and engaging in treatment. These treatments are also effective in maintaining meth abstinence.
The Matrix Model is a comprehensive behavioral treatment approach for meth addiction.
People reported methamphetamine use in 2016.
The average age of new methamphetamine users is 23.3 years old.
Of people released from treatment for methamphetamine relapse within the first year.
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
What is methamphetamine?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, May 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
How is methamphetamine manufactured?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, October 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-manufactured
What treatments are effective for people who misuse methamphetamine?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, October 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-treatments-are-effective-people-who-misuse-methamphetamine
What is fentanyl?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, February 2019, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is the Scope of Methamphetamine Misuse in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8 Apr. 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine Trends & Statistics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15 Dec. 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/methamphetamine/methamphetamine-trends-statistics.
Brecht, Mary-Lynn, and Diane Herbeck. “Time to Relapse Following Treatment for Methamphetamine Use: A Long-Term Perspective on Patterns and Predictors.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Elsevier, 11 Mar. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871614007728?via%3Dihub.