Crystal Meth Abuse
- Table of ContentsPrint
- What Is Crystal Meth?
- Signs and Symptoms
- Am I Addicted to Crystal Meth?
- Effects of Crystal Meth Abuse
- Crystal Meth Abuse Treatment
- Teen Crystal Meth Abuse
- Resources, Articles and More Information
What Is Crystal Meth?
Street Names for Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is known by many slang terms including:
Crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth) is a powerful central nervous stimulant with highly addictive properties.
Crystal meth is the illicit, crystalline form of methamphetamine. Legally manufactured methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug by the United States Controlled Substances Act, meaning:
- It has a high potential for abuse.
- It has a currently accepted medical use.
- Abuse of it may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
Pharmaceutical methamphetamine is used in medications that treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and, infrequently, in cases of severe obesity.
The crystal form of methamphetamine – the street drug crystal meth – has no medical applications, and is exclusively abused as a recreational substance.
Crystal Meth Abuse question 1
Signs and Symptoms
Crystal meth is a powerful stimulant. No matter what route of administration is used –injected, smoked or inhaled – an individual will experience a rapid onset of its effects.
When under the influence of meth, a person may present with any number of symptoms:
- Increased physical activity.
- Increased blood pressure and breathing rate.
- Elevated body temperature.
- Dilated pupils.
- Heavy sweating.
- Loss of appetite.
- Paranoia or irritability.
- Fleeting euphoria.
- Unpredictable behavior.
- Doing repetitive, meaningless tasks.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Dry mouth, bad breath.
- Uncontrollable jaw clenching.
Some other troubling signs of methamphetamine abuse include:
- Violent behavior.
- Respiratory or airway abnormalities.
- Persistently elevated heart rate, placing users at risk for heart attack.
Crystal Meth Abuse question 2
The following video from National Geographic discusses what exactly happens in your brain when you smoke crystal meth and why it is so addictive.
Credit: National Geographic
Crystal Meth Abuse question 3
Am I Addicted to Crystal Meth?
If you're concerned that you may have a problem, there's a high likelihood that you already do. However, you can take our assessment to help determine whether you are facing an addiction to crystal meth and what the severity of your addiction may be.
Crystal Meth Abuse question 4
Effects of Crystal Meth Abuse
Crystal meth works by affecting the communication chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain and activating the cardiovascular and central nervous systems.
The effects of crystal meth in recreational doses are powerful, and can lead to psychological and physical addiction. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reports that users initially report feeling confident and powerful, with limitless energy, increased productivity, enhanced sexual performance, and decreased appetite.
Once these initial euphoric effects wear off, however, the experience can take a bad turn—with chronic abuse leading to serious and immediate negative consequences:
- Mental confusion, psychosis, and paranoia.
- Extreme weight loss.
- Picking at your skin, resulting in scabs.
- Tooth decay—or, "meth mouth".
- Sensation of insects crawling on/under your skin.
- Jaw clenching.
- Respiratory disease.
- Heart disease.
- Cardiac arrest.
Other potential long-term health effects of crystal meth abuse include:
- Microvascular hemorrhage.
- Eye damage.
- Vision impairment.
- Markedly disrupted sleep patterns.
- Mood disorders.
- Reproductive health issues.
- Impaired sexual motivation and performance.
- Dental health problems.
- In 2007, 8% of people aged 18-26 reported having used crystal meth in the past year (Iritani, Hallfors, & Bauer, 2007).
- According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the average age of first use of crystal meth ranged between 8 and 22.2 years old between the years 2002 to 2012.
- According to the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Report, the number of meth-related emergency department hospital visits increased from 67,954 in 2007 to 102,961 in 2011.
- The DAWN Report also shows that 62% of meth-related emergency department visits in 2011 involved the use of meth in combination with another substance, including alcohol.
Learn more at our article, Methamphetamine History and Statistics.
Crystal Meth Abuse question 5
Crystal Meth Abuse Treatment
Treatment for methamphetamine abuse may take on multiple forms, depending on the individual’s needs. The first phase of treatment, detoxification, may proceed more smoothly with careful monitoring by an experienced medical staff. Withdrawal from crystal meth can be profoundly uncomfortable, and can sometimes elicit depressive episodes—relapse risks are high during the period of acute detox.
Acute symptoms of abuse are often treated with medications to alleviate the discomfort of side effects and withdrawal:
- Hyperactivity, agitation or psychotic features – If needed, may be treated with a dopamine-blocking medication, such as haloperidol—an antipsychotic that decreases abnormal excitement in the brain.
- Other behavioral and psychiatric effects – Benzodiazepine drugs such as diazepam (Valium) may be used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.
Crystal meth dependence and addiction can often prove difficult to manage, due to high rates of dropout and relapse, severe craving, protracted mental health issues (including depression and psychosis), and the inability of some users to experience pleasure in the absence of the drug.
Currently, there is no widely accepted model for crystal meth abuse treatment. In the past, antidepressants were utilized, but this treatment was not found to be especially effective in the long run.
Modern treatment programs use various forms of counseling or therapy to address the issues surrounding abuse and dependence. The two major therapies that have been found to be effective are:
- Contingency Management – Uses positive reinforcement to keep patients abstinent, leading to longer periods of drug abstinence.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Examines the role of substance abuse in a patient’s life and develops skills to avoid relapse; includes the Matrix Model approach.
- The Matrix Model – Incorporates cognitive-behavioral therapy, addiction education, relapse prevention education, 12-step or self-help programs, and weekly urine tests to assure abstinence. This method has been found to be very effective during treatment.
If you are seeking treatment for yourself or someone you love, call 1-888-747-7155—speak with a professional about finding the right recovery program for you.
Crystal Meth Abuse question 6
Teen Crystal Meth Abuse
Adolescents are at particular risk for the dangers of crystal meth abuse. Human brains continue to develop until the mid-20s, and powerful drugs such as crystal meth can have a major impact on brain development.
Teens may also be unaware of the risks. In fact, though many youth users acknowledge the health risks and social costs of heavy crystal meth use, they still associate use of the drug more positively than heroin or crack cocaine.
Drug education regarding crystal meth and the dangers that come with abuse is a vital part of abuse prevention. Talking with your teen about the risks associated with meth use can help prevent young abuse.
Resources, Articles and More Information
For more information on crystal meth, visit:
You can also join the conversation about substance abuse by visiting our Forum today.
- Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Methamphetamine fact sheet. Ottawa: The Centre; 2005. Available: http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/ccsa-011134-2005.pdf
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (HHS Publication No. SMA 13-4795, NSDUH Series H-46). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Fast, D., Kerr, T. Wood, E., & Small, W. (2014). The multiple truths about crystal meth among young people entrenched in an urban drug scene: A longitudinal ethnographic investigation. Social Science & Medicine, 110. 41-48.
- Frohmader, K. S., Bateman, K. L., Lehman, M. N., & Coolen, L. M. (2010). Effects of methamphetamine on sexual performance and compulsive sex behavior in male rats. Psychopharmacology, 212. 93-104.
- Hart, C. L., Marvin, C. B., Silver, R., & Smith, E. E. (2012). Is cognitive functioning impaired in methamphetamine users? A critical review. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37. 586-608.
- Hazin, R., Cadet, J. L., Kahook, M. K., & Saed, D. (2009). Ocular manifestations of crystal methamphetamine use. Neurotox Res, 15. 187-191.
- Iritani, B. J., Hallfors, D. D., & Bauer D. J. (2007). Crystal methamphetamine use among young adults in the USA. Addiction, 102. 1102-1113.
- Kish, S. J. (2008). Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal meth. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178 (13). 1679-1682.
- Kurtz, S. P. (2005). Post-circuit blues: Motivations and consequences of crystal meth use among gay men in Miami. AIDS and Behavior, 9 (1). 63-72.
- Perez, A. Y. et. al. (2008). Residual effects of intranasal methamphetamine on sleep, mood, and performance. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 94. 258-262.
- Rawson R. A., Marinelli-Casey P., Anglin M. D., et al. (2004). A Multi-site comparison of psychosocial approaches for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. Addiction, 99. 708-717.
- Ricaurte G. A., Seiden L. S., & Schuster C. R. (1984). Further evidence that amphetamines produce long-lasting dopamine neurochemical deficits by destroying dopamine nerve fibers. Brain Res, 303. 359-64.
- Roll J. M., Petry N. M., Stitzer M. L., et al. (2006). Contingency management for the treatment of methamphetamine use disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163. 1993-1999.
- Shoptaw S., Huber A., Peck J., et al. (2006). Randomized placebo-controlled trial of sertraline and contingency management for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 85. 12-18.
- Srisurapanont M., Jarusuraisin N., & Kittirattanapaiboon P. (2001). Treatment for amphetamine dependence and abuse. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4. CD003022.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (June 19, 2014). The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Methamphetamine: 2007 to 2011. Rockville, MD.