Methamphetamine: Epidemic Causing Stimulant

Posted: September 11, 2020
Updated: March 30, 2021

What You’ll Learn In This Substance Abuse Resource

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It belongs to amphetamine family of stimulant drugs. It was originally prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid.

This page will summarize the various forms and names of Methamphetamine, how it is consumed and tested, its side effects, symptoms of overdose and abuse and treatment options.

Understanding Methamphetamine

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause addiction in as little as one use in some users. This is mainly due to the rush of dopamine produced by the drug. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.

The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Does Methamphetamine go by any other names or slang?

  • Primary Name: Methamphetamine
  • Scientific Name(s): N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine
  • Street Name(s): Meth, Ice, Glass, Crystal Meth, Crank, Yaba and Speed

What forms does Methamphetamine come in?

Methamphetamine is available in different forms like crystals, powder and tablets.

  • Crystals – They look like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. Smokable crystals are called Crystal Meth or Ice.
  • Powder – powder is most commonly white, though it can be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odorless, bitter, and can be dissolved in liquid.
  • Tablets – Yaba is one of the street name for tablet form.

How Do People Consume Methamphetamine?

Depending on its form, methamphetamine can be consumed in various ways as follows:

  • Smoking – Smoking the purer, crystalline form produces a very intense high similar to that produced by crack cocaine, but much longer lasting.
  • Swallowing (pill)
  • Snorting
  • Injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

As the impact from the drug starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern.

In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a “run,” in which they give up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

Methamphetamine Dangers

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result faster breathing, rapid and/or irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure and body temperature. Other side effects include increased wakefulness, decreased appetite and increased physical activity.

Signs + Symptoms of Methamphetamine Abuse 

Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse are not hard to detect, even as each individual uses and abuses the drug in different quantities. Below we breakdown the list of common symptoms and signs, varying from moderate abuse to severe.

Physical Symptoms

  • Decreased flow of blood through the body’s vessels and tissues
  • Hair loss
  • High rises in the body’s core temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Liver damage
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Meth mouth – People who use meth can break, stain, or rot their teeth. They often drink lots of sweet things, grind their teeth, and have dry mouth. This is called “meth mouth.
  • Nausea
  • Open sores
  • Shaking
  • Tachycardia
  • Tolerance
  • Trembling
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Vomiting
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C in those who take injection forms
  • Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences.

Psychological Symptoms

  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Meth bugs, as the user feels like there are bugs crawling right underneath the skin
  • Nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors

Behavior Signs

  • A binge-crash pattern of abuse
  • Aggression
  • Concealing your use of the drug from others
  • Dangerous, increasingly risky behaviors
  • Impulsiveness
  • Incarceration
  • Mounting legal problems
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • Preoccupation with getting, using, and recovering from meth use
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Tweaking, or intently-focused attention
  • Unexplained financial difficulties
  • Violent behavior

Overdosing on Methamphetamine

Acute overdose happens when relatively large amount of methamphetamine is taken in single dose. The symptoms of an acute overdose include agitation, chest pains, difficulty breathing, heart attack, high blood pressure, high body temperature, kidney failure, stroke. The altered mental state may cause suicidal thoughts and seizures.

Chronic overdose refers to the accumulation of negative effects due to ongoing meth abuse. It leads to Severe sleep disturbances and extreme mood changes.

Who is impacted by Methamphetamine Addiction?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, methamphetamine abuse tapered off around 2008. However, around 2010, abuse of these stimulants began to rise again, hitting 1 million people that year, and rising to 1.2 million people by 2012.

Meth is popular all over the United States. It is popular as a party drug at raves and clubs. Rural areas may be particularly prone to meth addiction because meth labs are easier to run in more remote locations. A lower police presence in spread-out areas may contribute to an increased production of meth.

Young people are more likely to struggle with crystal meth abuse or addiction than older adults. Still, any age group can become susceptible to crystal meth abuse, including adults who use it to lose weight or people who struggle with depression and attempt to self-medicate the issue.

Drug Testing or Detection

The period for which the drug can be detected depends on the quantity consumed and the testing kit used. The half-life of meth is relatively long and can range from 10 to 12 hours for most people. Meth may be detected for nearly three days following the most recent use. Crystal meth can report positive in a urine test for 1 to 4 days after using.

Methamphetamine Abuse Statistics, Laws, Punishments

  • 964,000 people: An estimated 964,000 people aged 12 and older qualified as having a Meth use disorder in 2017.
  • 1.6 million: According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year.
  • $550 million: Meth costs the United States $550 million in drug treatment programs each year.

Laws + Punishments

This is a Class B drug, which means it is illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell. Possession can get you up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If caught driving under the influence, punishment includes receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence. If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.

Methamphetamine Treatment + Therapy Options

There are a number of treatment options available. Detox is usually the first step in the recovery process in which patients are assisted and supported by medical staff and qualified substance abuse professionals. This is followed by behavioural therapy. 

Length of Treatment

Although individual detox profiles differ, according to severity and etiology of use, typically:

  • Initial detox can last up to 3 days for light to moderate users.
  • For long-term heavy users, detox may last up to a week.

Withdrawing from Methamphetamine

Research shows that meth withdrawal consists of two phases. The first phase is most intense during the first 24 hours after last using meth and gradually gets less intense over the next week. There is often a subacute phase lasting another couple of weeks. The second phase is less intense and lasts for about another two to three weeks. Sometimes meth users experience withdrawal symptoms for months, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Methamphetamine Addiction Aftercare

Recovery is a lifelong process which doesn’t end even after finishing the treatment. People often continue with some form of aftercare which aims at preventing relapse. Aftercare may involve:

  • Regular attendance at 12-step meetings.
  • Engaging in ongoing individual therapy or group counseling.
  • Arrangements to reside in a sober living home or therapeutic community.
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