Search Results for: crystal meth

Can You Get Addicted to Crystal Meth After the First Use?

Crystal meth is a powerful, synthetically made stimulant. It can be ingested orally, injected intravenously, snorted or smoked. Crystal meth is notorious for its high addictive potential and many people suggest that taking just one hit will get you addicted.

Just how powerful is this substance? Because of factors such as wildly variant purity levels of the street product, as well as differences in individual propensities to develop substance abuse problems, it’s difficult to say definitely how addictive meth is. What is clear, though, is that any use of meth has the ability to cause a range of harmful physical and psychological effects and, in many, can precipitate a pattern that may eventually lead to full-blown addiction.

What Happens the First Time Trying Crystal Meth?

Smoking or injecting crystal meth produces what is sometimes referred to as a “flash,” a brief but intense rush of pleasure or euphoria. As a result, these specific methods of ingestion may have a higher relative risk for binging, continuous use, and a rapid onset of addiction.

Snorting or ingesting crystal meth also produces euphoria, but each is slower-acting. Individuals snorting crystal meth will feel the high in 3-5 minutes, while oral ingestion might take closer to 15-20 minutes before full effects are realized.

The crystal meth high produces desirable feelings like an intense sense of wellbeing, sustained periods of alertness/wakefulness, and increased confidence. These effects are often experienced most acutely upon first use, with each successive use an attempt to relive that first experience.

While addiction can set in quickly, it is not the same thing as merely liking a drug. Addiction entails continuous, compulsive use in spite of evidence that doing so has or will be harmful. How quickly an individual becomes addicted depends on:

  • The method of ingestion.
  • Genetic influences.
  • Environmental influences.
  • The existence of any co-occurring mental health disorders.
  • Other interpersonal, social, and psychological factors.
Thinking of trying one of the world’s most addictive drugs? Consider the effects.

Effects of Crystal Meth

Following the initial high from crystal meth, users may experience the following short-term effects:

  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hyperthermia (overheating of the body).

Crystal meth’s short- and long-term effects are similar to those seen with cocaine use. Though both are stimulant drugs, crystal meth and cocaine differ from each other at a molecular level. As such, they both interact with and elicit different effects from various neural processes. For example, crystal meth is more slowly metabolized by the body, and has a different impact on our brain’s reward system.

The metabolic rate for crystal meth is twelve times longer than for cocaine, meaning that meth acts on the brain for a longer period of time. Also, while crystal meth and cocaine both block the reabsorption of dopamine (reuptake), only crystal meth actually results in ramped up vesicular release of this neurotransmitter – creating a veritable one-two punch in terms of heightened stimulation.

The result can mean damage to nerve terminals in the brain and an increased risk for physical and psychological illness (such as Parkinson’s disease), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Why Is It Dangerous?

Methamphetamine is one of the world’s most addictive and dangerous substances and its negative impact is felt on an individual level, by those individuals’ families, and by society at large. A 2009 report  from the RAND Corporation found that the cost to the US from methamphetamine was $23.4 billion in 2005 alone.


Acute overdose of crystal meth is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Someone overdosing on crystal meth may present with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Dangerously high body temperature.
  • Extreme agitation.
  • Seizures.
  • Severe stomach pain.
  • Heart attack.
  • Coma.

If you believe you or someone you know has overdosed on meth, seek help immediately.

When speaking to an emergency operator, be sure to provide information about recent drug use history as well any symptoms you’ve noticed.

Based on a global drug study in 2009, methamphetamine has moved to the number two spot, behind only cannabis, as the most widely used drug in the world. Per the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 570,000 people had used meth in the month prior to the survey.

Physical dangers of using crystal meth include:

  • Hypertension.
  • Risk of stroke.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hyperthermia (raised body temperature).

An even greater risk to meth users is the potential development of overt psychotic symptoms. Crystal meth acts on the brain hours longer than most other stimulants, increasing the risk of paranoia, hallucinations, and other persistent psychotic symptoms.

Another potential and unique risk of using meth is severe damage to teeth and gums, also referred to as “meth mouth”. The individual or combination of particular side effects – dry mouth, hygiene neglect, and/or teeth grinding – can lead to rapid and significant dental decay.

Damage to the skin, linked to drug-induced psychosis, may also occur. Users often report the feeling that insects are crawling under their skin, prompting violent scratching, sores, and eventual damage to the skin’s surface.


How Do You Get Addicted to Crystal meth?

Addiction to crystal meth depends on a number of factors that extend beyond the substance alone. For example, someone with low family support, or a history of drug abuse, psychiatric illness or impulsivity may be at greater risk for addiction.

Regardless, the path to addiction is not necessarily straight, nor is it immediate. Initially, a drug’s effects simply feel good to the user. Whether to alleviate feelings from a crash, or to re-experience the high from initial use, a person may use again, beginning a cycle that can be extremely to break as time goes on.

With repeated use, the user will start developing a tolerance and find that he needs to take more and more to get the effects he’s seeking. This pattern of taking increasing amounts of or more potent meth puts the user at risk for dependence, a state in which the body has adapted in such a way that it needs the drug in order to function as expected. Without continued meth use, the body begins to experience the effects of withdrawal, which can be extremely uncomfortable both physically and psychologically. The avoidance of withdrawal is a particularly compelling reason for the continued use of meth. Even the best intentions to quit using can be squashed by the desire to stave off the symptoms of withdrawal.

Addiction has set in when the individual continues to take a drug, in full awareness of the potential harm the drug poses or has already caused.

What To Do If You’re Considering Trying Crystal Meth

Woman leaning against wall thinking

If you are considering trying crystal meth, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

Why do I want to try crystal meth? Is it because of pressure from friends or family?

  • If so, seek advice or help from someone close to you that will not pressure you into using the drug. If such a person does not exist in your life, consider calling a hotline.

What is it that I’m gaining from using crystal meth?

  • Is it the allure of that initial rush, or are you trying to fill an emotional void in your life?
  • If the initial rush is driving your curiosity, you may think about whether that brief feeling of pleasure is worth risking your health, relationships, and career.
  • If you are trying to fill a void in your life, you may consider seeking help from a mental health professional. If that sounds like too big of a step, try talking to someone you are close to and trust.

If you need help for drug abuse or addiction, you can find it at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. A confidential treatment support specialist will help you find the care you need.


Concurrent Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse

glass of alcohol with smoke in the back

Crystal meth is an illicit and powerful stimulant drug that is most commonly smoked, snorted, or injected.

It is characterized by its ability to produce a powerful euphoria, increased energy, decreased appetite, and increased heart rate. It is typically used in “binge and crash” episodes, during which the user repeatedly administers the drug in order to maintain the desired effects, and later experiences an unpleasant come-down when the drug supply runs out.

It is a popular drug of abuse due to its cheap price and intense, long-lasting effects. Similar stimulant effects are seen with drugs such as cocaine–though they last for a much shorter, less intense period of time than those experienced during crystal meth use.

Since crystal meth isn’t regulated and, over time, may be obtained from constantly changing suppliers, the user never knows precisely what each dose contains. Methamphetamine can contain a number of harmful ingredients such as antifreeze and cleaning fluids–contaminant chemicals that can be extremely harmful to the body, even in trace amounts.

In contrast to the stimulant properties of meth, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol use can cause:

  • Euphoria.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Compromised cognitive functioning.
  • Impaired motor control.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Decreased heart rate.

When crystal meth is abused along with alcohol, the risks increase greatly for the user. Combining alcohol and crystal meth – especially if done repeatedly over time – can place excess stress on the heart, which could be life-threatening for the user.

Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 1

Mixing Alcohol and Crystal Meth

If you use alcohol and crystal meth together, you should be aware of several facts:


  • Combining alcohol and crystal meth can mask the intoxicating effects of alcohol, which can cause the user to drink more than he or she normally would. This can place anyone at increased risk for alcohol poisoning and subsequent death.
  • Alcohol and stimulants such as crystal meth have each independently been shown to cause dysfunction in a part of the brain that is crucial to decision-making. When the two are abused concurrently, the effects could cause even further impairment.
  • Crystal meth is associated with risky sexual behaviors. These unsafe sexual practices, combined with non-sterile intravenous methamphetamine administration (dirty needles), increases the chance that a user will contract HIV or other communicable diseases.
  • Crystal meth binges can last for days or weeks, but once the effects of the stimulant wear off, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms – such as anxiety, confusion, depression, fatigue, and headaches – may occur. These withdrawal symptoms can endure for months if the user cannot obtain crystal meth or has developed such a high tolerance that he or she is unable to get high off of crystal meth anymore.
Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 2

Signs And Symptoms

The signs of concurrent alcohol and crystal meth abuse are not pretty. They include:

  • Lowering of inhibitions–including sexual disinhibition.
  • Violent outbursts.
  • Paranoia.
  • Heart and respiratory problems.
  • Psychosis.
  • Seizures.
  • Weight loss.

  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Tooth decay and fractures known as “meth mouth.”
  • Coma (due to increased alcohol consumption when using crystal meth).
Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 3

Combined Effects

The effects of crystal meth and alcohol abuse fall into three primary categories:


  • Stimulation: The user’s heart rate increases and he or she experiences euphoria and increased energy. When alcohol is consumed at the same time, its depressant effects are blunted, which can lead to excessive drinking because the user may not feel as drunk.
  • Cardiovascular impact: The rise in heart rate due to the crystal meth-alcohol combo can be so great that a heart attack or stroke may result. Long-term alcohol use is linked to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and high blood pressure, while long-term crystal meth abuse is linked to heart failure. Over time, the additive cardiovascular impact can be deadly.
  • Psychological: This can range from violent and erratic behavior to engagement in high-risk activities, such as unprotected sex. Long-term addiction to crystal meth and alcohol can cause depression, anxiety, and psychosis, and could even lead to suicide.
Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 4

Treatment For Co-occurring Alcohol And Crystal Meth Addiction

Users struggling with addiction to crystal meth and alcohol can find help at various certified rehab centers. Because crystal meth can frequently lead to binge usage, some addicts may be experiencing floridly psychotic symptoms just prior receiving treatment. With a high potential for associated medical and mental health issues, inpatient facilities are able to provide comprehensive care to those recovering from crystal meth abuse.

If you are currently battling an addiction to both alcohol and crystal meth, it may be in your best interest to find a rehab center equipped to manage cases of poly-substance abuse. Additionally, if abuse of either of these substances has given rise to or exacerbated a mental health issue, you may be better served by a center specializing in dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis refers to the co-occurrence of addiction and mental health issues. The incidence of some mental and behavioral health conditions – including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and, even, eating disorders – tend to be higher among those struggling with substance addictions such as alcohol and/or crystal meth. Treatment outcomes can greatly improve when both issues are simultaneously managed.

Quality rehab centers will administer medications to help with alcohol and meth detox and manage the withdrawal symptoms. Once the body rids itself of the toxic influences of all substances entirely, the intensive psychological work begins in the rehab program. The scope and severity of your addictions will be evaluated and you will be assessed for any pre-existing or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Many excellent inpatient treatment centers will offer:

The best rehab programs will include an emphasis on replacing negative habits with positive ones, along with a thorough follow-up program.

Find out how to help a crystal meth addict by calling our helpline at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.

Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 5


Like many drugs, crystal meth usage surged in the early years after its invention and later dipped as the health risks become more widely known. Crystal meth use probably peaked in 2008 or so, with a decrease in usage since then.

In the U.S. in 2008, a stunning 13 million Americans had said they had tried crystal meth, often in conjunction with alcohol. Here are a few other alarming statistics associated with crystal meth:

  • In 2012, about 1.2 million people reported having tried crystal meth in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • Per NIDA, in that same year, there were an estimated 133,000 new crystal meth users, 12 years of age and older.
  • It takes only $1,000 worth of ingredients to make $20,000 worth of crystal meth.
Alcohol And Crystal Meth Abuse question 6

Teen Drinking And Crystal Meth Abuse

The facts about teens using crystal meth and alcohol are conflicting–some are encouraging, while others indicate there is still cause for alarm.


Overall, teen use of crystal meth is down over the past decade, but it remains the scourge of the small town, with double the percentage of users in rural areas than in urban areas.

  • About 3% of adolescents from 8th to 12th grade have reported using crystal meth in their lifetime, per NIDA.
  • One study reported that teens who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are nearly 4 times as likely to abuse crystal meth as their peers who haven’t had a traumatic brain injury .
  • Furthermore, teens with a history of traumatic brain injury are about twice as likely to engage in binge drinking, according to the same study.

Resources, Articles And More Information

For more information, visit these pages on crystal meth addiction treatment and alcohol abuse:

If you are suffering from an addiction to alcohol and crystal meth, there is plenty of help available to you. Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? now to speak with a treatment support specialist about your recovery options.


How to Help a Crystal Meth Addict

What is Crystal Methamphetamine?

Crystal methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth is a highly addictive white cystalline drug that can be taken by snorting, smoking or injecting into the body. The drug also has some common street names such as ‘ice’ or ‘glass’.

Treatment Crystal Methamphetamine Addiction

In 2012, 1.2 million people in the U.S. reported using methamphetamine in the previous year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With this rate of crystal meth use, there are doubtless many people in need of treatment. As with all drugs of abuse, seeking professional treatment from mental health and addiction specialists will lead to the highest chance of methamphetamine recovery success.

Unfortunately, there is no medication treatment currently available to help with crystal meth abuse. Because of this, treatment will take a different course. Crystal meth addiction treatment will focus on counseling and other therapeutic options like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Contingency management.
  • Family education.
  • 12-step support programs.

Approaching a Loved One

Approaching a loved one who is going through a crystal meth addiction can feel like walking on eggshells. The fear of saying the wrong thing can seem overwhelming, but it is important to reach out to your loved one and show them that you still care.

Historically, confrontation was considered the best approach—presenting the user with an all-or-nothing decision: either you go into treatment or we don’t speak any more. This approach is now debated and is even associated with poorer outcomes in some cases. A more effective approach may be to come to the user with love and support. This does not mean you should enable the person with the addiction; instead, use proven methods of dealing with the issue in a healthy supportive way.

One particularly effective approach is known as Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), where a professional trains the people close to the addicted person in the best ways to address the problem. CRAFT teaches family and friends how to engage a substance abuser in a productive and helpful way that will help persuade the user to get treatment, and it has been found to work in nearly 7 out of 10 cases.

Here are a few tips from CRAFT:

  • Introduce enjoyable outside activities that compete with substance use.
  • Try to create positive interpersonal exchanges between yourself and your loved one.
  • Reward abstinent behavior. For example, engage in pleasant activities with your loved one when they are not using, and explicitly state that you are doing so because of their progress.
  • If possible, avoid interfering with negative consequences that occur naturally. For example, if your loved one’s using typically leads to decreased time around the family, allow this to occur. Consequences that occur naturally are powerful in shaping behavior and should be minimally interfered with.

A crystal meth user should not be approached when under the drug’s influence. If at all possible, try to catch them at a sober time (ideally, when motivation to get better is high) to talk with them about going into treatment. You can expect to encounter some difficult emotions that are common to those suffering from addiction, including denial, anger, and justifications of their use and the problems caused by it. Avoid the temptation to get into an argument with them or a back and forth dialogue where you try to dispute what they’re saying and prove that you’re right. Instead, approach them with empathy. Avoid blaming and say that you’re concerned about their drug use. You can also calmly lay out clear boundaries of what you’ll accept in the future, but avoid making threats.

Discuss how their crystal meth abuse has affected your relationship with them, as well as the ways in which you’ve seen their life change following the onset of abuse. Try to use “I” statements to avoid making your friend or family member feel alienated or unwanted. Be an open ear and avoid judging them; you may find this helps to diffuse hostility and may help them come to terms with their need for treatment.

Remember: Your goal is to get your loved one into treatment. Make sure they know that they are loved and that you fully support their path to sobriety. If they relapse, be understanding; cutting an addiction out of your life is a very big challenge to take on, and sometimes people can slip, but it does not mean that they have failed. Recovery is a lifelong process and most often multiple relapses are a normal part of the process. Someone in recovery has the best chances of long-term sobriety if they have a supportive network of friends and family.

Getting Treatment

Crystal meth treatment focuses on long-term recovery—using diverse modalities of treatment intervention and multiple types of therapeutic support. Treatment options often include:

  • Providing education regarding the nature of crystal meth use, abuse, and withdrawal so that relapse triggers and other patterns of addiction may be realized and avoided in the future.
  • Behavioral/mental health therapies that use facets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).
    • CBT works to build connections between the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the individual to understand the role crystal meth fulfilled and ways to function without it in the future.
    • CM works to assess the people, places, and things that trigger use or cravings for the substance. By providing real rewards for avoiding use, recovery can be extended.
  • Family education and therapy that illustrate the level of influence that family and close supports have toward perpetuating or ending the addiction. Together, better plans can be created to maintain abstinence.
  • 12-step support groups to build and maintain a support structure based on maintaining recovery from alcohol and other drugs. Daily or weekly peer meetings can aid in having goals and direction while moving through the steps.
  • Drug testing that is administered at regular or variable intervals to keep the person in recovery accountable for their decision-making.

The best crystal meth treatment programs are the ones that combine some or all of the elements listed above. When you research a program, ask about their approach to treatment.

Is It Addictive?

Overall, methamphetamine is a very addictive substance because of its abilities to provide a strong, lasting high. The method by which the substance enters the body—for instance, smoking vs. snorting—can modify the impact of the drug and the tendency to become addicted to it. The very intense rush achieved when smoking crystal meth can render the addictive properties even stronger.

One of the effects of meth as it reaches the brain is to stimulate dopamine release. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is related to rewarding sensations and motivation. Not only does crystal meth trigger the higher flow of dopamine, but it also prevents the dopamine from being reabsorbed back into the brain cells. This results in the sustained high that even cocaine cannot produce.

What Are the Signs of Addiction?

Like other stimulant drugs, crystal meth is usually abused in binges or “runs” that continue until no more of the substance can be obtained.

When looking for the signs of a crystal meth problem in someone you love, check for both the short-term and long-term signs of use—even if you don’t think your loved one has been using for long—since long-term signs may show up as a result of a binge.

The short-term signs include:

  • High motivation to accomplish tasks.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Speaking very rapidly and moving between topics quickly.
  • Not eating for extended periods.
  • Inability to sit still.

The long-term signs of crystal meth addiction include:

  • Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and paranoid delusions.
  • Repetitive movements.
  • Inability to pay attention or focus.
  • Cognitive problems marked by poor judgment and memory loss.
  • Excessive weight loss.
  • Aggression and violence toward self and others.
  • Changes in physical appearance, including declining dental health and scars from skin picking.

Following a binge, the crystal meth user may return to a period of normalcy that can last for days, weeks, or months; however, this period of normalcy should not be taken as an indication that your loved one is no longer addicted.

Am I Addicted to Crystal Meth?

Most people do not find crystal meth to be a drug that can be used casually or recreationally for long before the scales are tipped toward addiction. With the high addictive potential, using the substance even a few times can lead to addiction-like behaviors.

Consider these other indicators that you are addicted to crystal meth:

  • Your relationships and work have been failing due to your drug use.
  • You have been spending more time and money to obtain the drug and are experiencing financial problems as a result.
  • You have encountered problems with law enforcement related to crystal meth.
  • Despite these and other negative consequences, you continue seeking the substance.

 How to Help Someone with Alcohol or Illicit Drug Addiction

Help for Prescription Drug Abuse


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Research Report Series: Methamphetamine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.
  4. Miller, W. R., & Wilbourne, P. L. (2002). Mesa grande: A methodological analysis of clinical trials of treatments for alcohol use disorders. Addiction, 97, 265–277.
  5. White, W. L. & Miller, W. R. (2007). The use of confrontation in addiction treatment: History, science, and time for a change. The Counselor, 8, 12–30.
  6. Meyers, R. J., Smith, J. E., & Lash, D. N. (2005). A program for engaging treatment-refusing substance abusers into treatment: CRAFT. International Journal of Behavioral and Consultation Therapy, 1(2), 90–100.
  7. American Addiction Centers. 2018.

The Effects of Crystal Meth Use


About Methamphetamine

Hear from others dealing with the effects of crystal meth addiction.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can have long-lasting effects on your body. This is a man-made substance that, with the advent of other more efficacious prescription stimulants, now has limited therapeutic use and is only very rarely indicated for intractable ADHD and severe obesity.

The illicut drug crystal meth is methamphetamine in the form of a rock-like crystal that is usually a semi-transparent white or blue color. This substance is always illegal and has no other purpose than for abuse.

Crystal meth is mostly heated and then smoked in a glass pipe. Less frequently, the drug is crushed up to be snorted or injected. Smoking it speeds the delivery of the substance into the bloodstream, which further promotes the addictive nature of the substance.

Abuse of crystal meth is prevalent in the United States, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that in 2009, 1.2 million American adults and children 12 years old and over had abused the drug at least once in the previous year. The Drug Enforcement Administration claims that nearly 12 million people in the US reported lifetime use of crystal meth or methamphetamine for non-medical reasons in 2011.

Crystal meth and methamphetamine abuse is a global problem with close to 25 million abusers.

Short-Term Effects

Consistent use of crystal meth can result in severe anxiety, paranoia, and insomnia. Additionally, thoughts of suicide—or even homicide—have been noted in some abusers.

People that use the drug are looking for the immediate and long-lasting high for which the drug has gained notoriety. When the substance is smoked, the vapor moves quickly from the lungs to the bloodstream—where it then travels rapidly to the brain. Since the drug acts as a stimulant throughout the brain and body, there is an almost instant euphoria, followed by an increase in energy and alertness—effects that can last for up to 12 hours.

Other desired effects of crystal meth include:

  • An intense, initial “rush” that may persist for 30 minutes.
  • Higher motivation to accomplish goals.
  • Confidence/feelings of improved intellect and ability to solve problems.

Unsurprisingly, the desirable effects  quickly give way to the undesirable effects of the substance. For example, even short-term use can elicit erratic and even violent behavior when taken in large doses.

Side Effects

Other side effects of crystal meth include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Significant weight loss.
  • Change in sleeping patterns.
  • Severe mood swings.
  • Unpredictable behavior.
  • Tremors or convulsions.
  • Hyperthermia.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Irregular heart rhythm.

Consistent use of crystal meth can result in severe anxiety, paranoid and insomnia. Additionally, thoughts of suicide—or even homicide—have been noted in some meth abusers.

What Is Tweaking?

When the crystal meth no longer yields a high, the user enters a stage sometimes referred to as “tweaking.” During this time, they may feel intense cravings and despair. It is at this point where psychotic symptoms present—with users sometimes struggling with delusions and other altered perceptions of reality. Experiencing this unsettling development signals a point in time where many will seek and enter treatment programs. With the presenting symptoms, they may begin sobriety in an inpatient mental health facility before being transferred to detoxification or rehabilitation services.

After the long-term insomnia and loss of appetite that active users experience ends, most people tend to do little more than sleep during the days after “tweaking.” After this crash, comes a period where the person dependent on crystal meth will be hungry, thirsty, and fatigued due to the effects of the substance. This period can last up to 2 weeks, and is sometimes accompanied by the onset of a clinically significant depression.

Some people take crystal meth to experience a specific set of stimulant side effects. This includes the decrease in appetite, increased energy levels, and increased metabolism that some users attempt to take advantage of to achieve weight-loss. The drug also tends to increase libido, leading to abuse of the drug for that purpose alone.

It’s safe to say that none of the perceived short-term benefits of a dangerous drug are worth the risk of developing a deadly dependency that comes with them.

Am I Addicted to Crystal Meth?

Take our addiction quiz today to help determine whether you have a problem, as well as to assess the severity of any dependency that may be present.


Long-Term Effects

Taken over a long period of time, crystal meth can cause severe physical and psychological issues as the short-term effects grow in intensity and complexity. Signs of long-term cystal meth abuse include:

  • More persistent psychotic symptoms–including delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations.
  • Increased mental health issues like depression, anxiety and social isolation.
  • Confusion and odd behavior.
  • Feeling of bugs crawling on the skin.
  • Body sores from users picking at their skin.
  • Breathing problems associated with smoke inhalation.
  • Irreversible damage to blood vessels throughout the body, including the heart and brain.
  • Stroke.
  • Coma.

Severe crystal meth abuse can also cause outward signs of aging in users. Since the drug destroys tissues and blood vessels and hampers the body’s ability to heal, users often develop acne, and the skin takes on a dull look and loses its elasticity. The teeth can begin to decay and crack, resulting in a condition known as “meth mouth.”

One of the most serious long-term side outcomes of crystal meth, however, is sudden death from cardiac arrest or stroke.

Pregnancy and Abuse

The side effects can be swift and severe, especially for pregnant women. The drug can cause a baby to be born prematurely and suffer birth defects–including cleft palate or heart abnormalities. Babies born to users are often very small in size due to lack of nutrition and prenatal care during pregnancy. Itis also present in the breast milk of users, putting nursing babies at risk.

Learn more on our Overview on Using Meth and Pregnancy page.

Crystal Meth Dependency

Crystal meth signals the brain to fire off an increased amount of dopamine, a chemical that causes a feeling of reward or pleasure.

The increased activity of dopamine is what scientists believe plays a large role in the development of addiction to certain drugs. It is thought that the positive feeling from dopamine is so strong—and intensely rewarding—that it reinforces the behavior that initiated its release.

As users become more tolerant of crystal meth, they will need more of the substance to achieve the desired high and will take ever-increasing amounts, placing themselves at risk for overdose and furthering fueling the body’s dependency on the drug.

Over time – after a period of persistent stimulant intoxication – dopamine receptor activity is severely impaired, which can cause perceptions of decreased happiness and pleasure and even lead to permanent cognitive impairments.

In less than five minutes, see if your loved one—or you—is addicted to crystal meth. Take our online confidential survey.

Withdrawal Treatment


Symptoms of withdrawal from crystal meth can include:

  • Feelings of depression.
  • Intense drug craving.
  • Anxiety.
  • Loss of energy.
  • Itchy eyes.
  • Sleep difficulties, ranging from oversleeping to severe insomnia.
  • Increased appetite.

Withdrawal from crystal meth can be very uncomfortable and may lead users to relapse in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms. Being in a medically supervised detox program can ensure management of symptoms and may help prevent relapse.

Successful completion of a detoxification period often marks the initial part of treatment, that later leads in to a more protracted stay at an inpatient rehab program or participation in a structured outpatient program.

Inpatient programs or residential rehabilitation can be highly effective methods for treating addiction, in that they allow the user to focus intensely on sobriety with minimal distractions or temptations. Most programs range from 30-90 days, with longer stays available for more severe cases of addiction.

Outpatient or intensive outpatient drug treatment are additional valuable options to address the mental, behavioral, and medical issues associated with crystal meth abuse

Crystal Meth Abuse


What Is Crystal Meth?

Street Names for Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is known by many slang terms including:

  • Glass.
  • Blade.
  • Crystal.
  • Quartz.
  • Ice.

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.

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.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Paranoia or irritability.

  • Fleeting euphoria.
  • Unpredictable behavior.
  • Doing repetitive, meaningless tasks.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Tremors.
  • Dry mouth, bad breath.
  • Headache.
  • Uncontrollable jaw clenching.

Some other troubling signs of methamphetamine abuse include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Violent behavior.


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

Effects of Crystal Meth Abuse

The effects of crystal meth in recreational doses are powerful, and can lead to psychological and physical addiction.

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:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Mental confusion, psychosis, and paranoia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • 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.
  • Seizures.
  • Respiratory disease.
  • Heart disease.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Stroke.
  • Death.

Other potential long-term health effects of crystal meth abuse include:

  • Microvascular hemorrhage.
  • Eye damage.
  • Vision impairment.
  • Markedly disrupted sleep patterns.

Statistics on Crystal Meth Use


  • Per the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 1.7 million people age 12 or older reported illicit methamphetamine use in 2015, and nearly 900,000 people age 12 or older reported use in the past month.
  • According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Report, meth was involved in almost 13% of all illicit substance emergency department visits in 2011.
  • The NSDUH also found more than twice as many men used illicit methamphetamine than women in 2015.
  • Per the Monitoring the Future Study, use rates of meth among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders showed a steady decline between 2012 and 2015—a positive trend which will hopefully continue in coming years.

Learn more at our article, Methamphetamine History and Statistics.

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 can be profoundly uncomfortable, and can sometimes elicit depressive episodes—relapse risks are high during the period of acute detox.

Don’t wait to reclaim your life. Learn about treatment programs.

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.

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. 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.

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 use, they still associate the use of the drug more positively than heroin or crack cocaine.

Drug education regarding the dangers that come with abuse is a vital part of abuse prevention. Talking with your teen about the risks associated with 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.


  1. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Methamphetamine fact sheet. Ottawa: The Centre; 2005. Available:
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Hazin, R., Cadet, J. L., Kahook, M. K., & Saed, D. (2009). Ocular manifestations of crystal methamphetamine use. Neurotox Res, 15. 187-191.
  7. Iritani, B. J., Hallfors, D. D., & Bauer D. J. (2007). Crystal methamphetamine use among young adults in the USA. Addiction, 102. 1102-1113.
  8. Kish, S. J. (2008). Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal meth. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178 (13). 1679-1682.
  9. 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.
  10. Perez, A. Y. et. al. (2008). Residual effects of intranasal methamphetamine on sleep, mood, and performance. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 94. 258-262.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Srisurapanont M., Jarusuraisin N., & Kittirattanapaiboon P. (2001). Treatment for amphetamine dependence and abuse. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4. CD003022.
  16. 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.
  17. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51).
  18. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
  19. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4760, DAWN Series D-39. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.
  20. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.

Crystal Meth Addiction

teen on couch smoking

Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine–a substance that is widely abused throughout the country. Its widespread illicit production dwarfs that of its pharmaceutical counterpart – marketed as Desoxyn – a stimulant medication with very limited clinical application.

Methamphetamine is a white powder that can be used orally, snorted, smoked, or injected. Crystal meth appears as white or cloudy chunks that resemble broken glass. This form of the substance is most often smoked, but can also be ground to a finer powder for insufflation or injectable routes.

Manufacturing methods vary, but most illicit methamphetamine is created by a process which combines amphetamine and/or amphetamine derivatives with various other chemicals to result in a relatively inexpensive to produce, yet potent final product. The majority of methamphetamine is manufactured and distributed illegally in the US and sold at a low cost. Crystal meth is often manufactured in home labs using rudimentary (and very dangerous) methods.

Regardless of the manufacturing process, the drug is known for its high potency and strong propensity to lead users towards addiction.

If you’re addicted to meth, recovery is possible–we can help you find treatment anywhere in the country. Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.

Effects of Crystal Meth

Because crystal meth is a stimulant, it speeds up the various processes throughout the body and brain. The “high” resulting from usage can elicit:

  • Feelings of euphoria.
  • Increased energy.
  • Increased focus.
  • Diminished need for sleep.

Like with other addictive substances, the negative effects quickly begin to outweigh the positives. The unwanted effects of crystal meth include:


  • Unhealthy weight loss.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.
  • Violence.
  • Irritability.
  • Changes in brain signaling.
  • Cardiovascular disturbances.
  • Problems with memory and cognition.

As use continues and escalates, the negative impacts become more extreme and more damaging. For example, crystal meth addicts frequently suffer from a condition known as meth mouth–where use directly and indirectly leads to the teeth becoming damaged, cracked, and decayed. Additionally, weight loss can be so extreme it leads to malnutrition and organ damage.

Effects of crystal meth extend beyond the individual abusing the drug to other people around them. Those that choose to manufacture the substance in their home put those with whom they live at extreme risk. The chemicals and byproducts of production can harm or kill others in the home immediately (e.g., explosion) or over time (e.g., chronic exposure to toxins).

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Once used, traces of crystal meth can stay in the body for a long period of time. The high from the drug can last for more than 12 hours. During this period of time, you may notice signs and symptoms that include:

  • Different activity levels and sleep/wake schedule.
  • Changing relationships marked by more conflict with established relationships. Often someone high on crystal meth will be aggressive or interrupt others in conversations.
  • Problems with money / inability to pay bills.
  • Possible problems with the law.
  • New interests and activities or less interest in previous activities.
  • Needing more of the substance to create the same high–a phenomenon known as tolerance.

Someone addicted to crystal meth will continue using even when they experience negative life changes. Those struggling with their addiction may be unable to quit using even if they desire to stop.

Stages of Use

People using crystal meth often follow a pattern of use that can be described as “binge and crash”. They will use large amounts of the substance continuously over hours or days without eating or sleeping. When there is no more money or energy to acquire more, the user will sleep for extended periods being drained of energy.

Stages of use include:

  • The rush – Lasting from 5 to 30 minutes with extreme euphoria and positive feelings.
  • The high – Lasting from 4 to 16 hours.
  • The binge – Using until no further high can be attained, or until all amounts of the drug is consumed.
  • Tweaking – The response to the inability to continue the high. While tweaking, the user may:
    • Become violent and physically aggressive.
    • Lose touch with reality.
    • Experience visual and tactile hallucinations–e.g., that bugs are crawling on them, which may then lead to scratches and self-harm.
  • The crash – May present as the body shutting down and sleeping. When awake, the user will feel drained and unhappy, leading to desire for more meth.
  • Withdrawal – Some substances begin to leave the body immediately, but since meth stays active for so long, it can take days or weeks for full withdrawal symptoms to present.


Like many drugs of abuse, in the case of crystal meth, addiction is highly interconnected with physical dependence.


Dependence means that the body becomes used to the drug so much so that it functions or is perceived to function differently without it. Because of the dependence, the body will crave the substance in order to feel and operate normally. When use is ended, the user may experience:

  • Fatigue with extended periods of sleep.
  • A potentially profoundly depressed mood.
  • Feeling confused or disorganized.
  • Increased irritability.

Addiction Treatment

It will be important to evaluate for the stage or severity of crystal meth use because that information will help to shape effective treatment. Medically-assisted detox will not be always be offered for meth abuse treatment because the immediate consequences of ending use are not dangerous. Most recovering methamphetamine addicts will only require sleep, food, and water in a drug-free environment at the onset, though someone that is receiving treatment while tweaking or experiencing severe psychological repercussions may benefit from inpatient services.

The best treatment options will acknowledge and attempt to manage the potential impact of protracted withdrawal symptoms that may persist long after use has ended. The person in recovery will do well to receive ongoing, long-term treatment that incorporates aspects of:

To learn about treatment for crystal meth addiction, call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?. Our treatment advisors can talk you through your options and help you find a program that’s right for you.


Researcher Gets $431,700 to Study the Effects of Meth on Wounds

It’s widely known that meth use can lead to a multitude of health problems: rotten teeth, memory loss, a weakened immune system. Nobody knows this better than Luis Martinez, microbiologist and associate professor of biomedical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

What’s Going on Under the Skin?

Martinez has spent years studying the relationship between methamphetamine and pulmonary bacterial infections.

But after a family vacation in southern California, a chance encounter shifted his focus to another well-known side effect of meth: skin lesions.

While at a restaurant, Martinez saw a man and woman with what he believed to be hallmark indicators of meth use – decayed teeth, needle marks, and open lesions covering their arms.

The lesions specifically caught his eye, and his observation of the couple triggered questions about the body’s immunological response to wounds caused by meth use. What made these wounds refuse to heal and why did meth users want to scratch them?

Now, Martinez will be able research the impact methamphetamine has on wounds – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded him a three-year grant of $431,700 to find answers to his questions.

Meth Effects on Wound Healing

Martinez will conduct his research with three NYIT students, along with scientists from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and The George Washington University. As part of the study, researchers will determine the impact meth has on white blood cells, which play a key role in wound healing. Using images of cells in wounds from meth-injected mice, they will also study the drug’s effect on the production of a particular protein gene called IL-6. Those results will be compared with mice who haven’t received the drug, as well as others who have been injected with a combination of other substances.

Based on Martinez’s preliminary studies, meth has been found to cause an overproduction of IL-6, which delays the body’s inflammatory response and ability to heal. His goal, then, is to see how he can decrease the amount of that specific protein and enhance healing.

Martinez hopes the NIH grant will allow him to take his preliminary studies a step further and raise awareness about the devastating effects of meth use. He also hopes his findings can form the foundation for new studies that might lead to targeted prevention and wound management down the road.

Image Source: iStock

Meth Relapse

Meth’s Extreme Harm

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and extremely dangerous stimulant drug. Commonly known as meth, it is often used in crystalline form (as rocks or crushed up into a powder) by smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injection 1. The effects of meth are felt quickly after ingesting the drug and fade quickly, which leads many people to take multiple doses within a short time 1.

The short-term effects of meth include increased focus and energy, decreased appetite, rapid breathing and heartbeat, and elevated body temperature 1. Chronic meth use can result in a pervasive decline in physical and mental health and give rise to a number of devastating symptoms, including 1:

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5.4% of individuals over the age of 12 will use meth at some point in their life 2.

Approximately 0.3% of all Americans over the age of 12 have used meth within the past month, indicating a possible ongoing substance addiction problem 2.

Meth relapse statistics indicate that about 61% of meth users will relapse within 1 year of finishing substance abuse treatment 3.

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion and problems with concentrating.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Dental problems including gum disease, rotten teeth, and tooth loss.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Hallucinations and paranoia, even after stopping meth use.
  • Itching sensations, which can lead to excessive scratching, sores, and scarring.
  • Violent behavior.

Because of the dangers and harmful consequences of using meth, many meth users seek treatment. However, because meth is so addictive—and leads to the development of significant physiological dependence—treatment, and the period of abstinence that it entails, will often immediately usher in a potentially intense withdrawal syndrome, complete with troubling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, symptoms of psychosis, and intense drug cravings 1.

The sheer level of discomfort that accompanies acute stimulant withdrawal frequently leads former meth users to relapse.

When searching for treatment, look into all of your options and choose the program that is right for you.

What Is a Relapse?

Meth relapse occurs when a person returns to using meth after a period of abstinence, such as while completing a drug rehabilitation program or other form of treatment 3. Even if a person only uses meth once after a period of self-restraint, this is still considered a relapse because the goal of substance abuse treatment and recovery is complete abstinence from the drug.

Recovery from meth addiction is a lifelong process that requires ongoing treatment, dedication, and support.

Meth relapse rates are measured by tracking how often people in recovery use meth. Interestingly, meth relapse rates are similar to relapse rates for chronic medical problems such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure 4. This has led many mental health professionals and addiction experts to adopt the perspective that recovery from meth addiction is a lifelong process that requires ongoing treatment, dedication, and support.

It is important to note that relapse does not mean that recovery has failed or that the individual will never be able to abstain from meth 4. Rather, many professionals believe meth relapse statistics indicate that relapse is a natural part of the recovery process 5. They believe that when relapse occurs, it means the patient has not identified the root cause of their drug use yet 5.

For example, many female meth users report that they use meth to cope with depression 5. Therefore, if depression symptoms persist after substance abuse treatment, it is likely that the patient will relapse if she has not found a healthier way to cope with the depression symptoms 5. Relapse can be used as a way to better understand triggers for meth use and can serve as a way to prevent future meth relapse.

Why Do People Relapse on Meth?

Many people who have never struggled with an addiction problem find it difficult to understand why people relapse.

Meth relapse has been compared to the process of toppling a line of dominoes 6. When a recovering meth user first steps outside the protective environment of a drug rehab facility or addiction treatment center, they are forced to face the world and all its stressors on their own. The first problem that arises is like the first domino falling 6. They may be able to sustain their recovery for a while by themselves, but without the help of a relapse prevention program or support group, they will be forced to carry the weight of the problem on their own 6.

As more and more stressors mount, the urge to return to old behaviors, like using meth, grows.

As life moves forward, more problems arise, as they do for everyone. However, for a recovering meth addict, these problems contribute to a mounting world of stress that meth had once erased. As more and more stressors mount, the urge to return to old behaviors, like using meth, grows 6. Toward the end of the line of dominoes, the weight of all the problems and stressors becomes too much, and the result is meth relapse 6.

Others, including doctors Sharon Boles and Nancy Young, say that people relapse often on meth because treatment interventions wear off over time as individuals re-acclimate to the regular world 5. In such cases, professionals recommend that “treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted or that another treatment should be tried 5.”

Meth Relapse Warning Signs

In order to prevent meth relapse, it is important to be aware of the warning signs. Most people who relapse say that, in hindsight, they could see their relapse warning signs starting weeks or even months before the actual relapse event. Warning signs of meth relapse may include 7:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with problems or stress.
  • Bottling up emotions.
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members.
  • Not going to recovery support meetings or not participating while at meetings.
  • Focusing on others’ problems rather than talking about one’s own problems.
  • Poor self-care, such as not getting enough sleep or having poor eating habits.
  • Thinking about people and places associated with meth use.
  • Minimizing the consequences of meth use.
  • Talking about the good times associated with meth use.
  • Scheming or negotiating with others or oneself to justify reasons to use.
  • Looking for opportunities to be around meth.
  • Experiencing meth cravings.

Stress and attempting to cope with recovery alone are serious threats to sobriety. To be successful in long-term recovery, it is important to establish a strong social support system, remain diligent about your aftercare, and ask for help when you need it.

What to Do When You Relapse on Meth

man calling loved one

Meth relapse is common, so if you relapse, remember that you are not the only person to do so. If you know someone who has been abstinent for a significant period of time, call him or her. Explain that you relapsed and need help getting back on track. Another option is to immediately check yourself into a detoxification program or attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

As soon as you realize that you have relapsed and you do not want to continue on the path of meth use, it is time to take action. Rather than beating yourself up or assuming that you cannot stay sober, focus on what you can do to regain control. You have several options, including:

  • Calling a trusted friend or family member.
  • Reaching out to your sponsor.
  • Calling your therapist for a session or increasing your number of sessions per week.
  • Increasing your attendance at 12-step meetings.
  • Journaling about all the reasons you have to get sober and maintain your recovery.
  • Calling a drug rehab facility or a drug helpline for more information.

Going to Treatment After Relapse

Relapse means many things to different people, but it always sheds light on what is and is not working for your recovery. Use this relapse as a chance to learn more about yourself and work to find a better recovery plan that suits you. This often means reentering some form of treatment after a relapse.

Your goal for future treatment and recovery should be to beat that time and continue to become stronger in your sobriety.

Attending treatment after a relapse is common. If it is your second time or more attending treatment, consider this experience a time to be honest about what did not work for you and what you believe you need in order to maintain your recovery. It is easy to fall into the mental trap of calling yourself a “failure,” but doing so does not help you and is simply untrue. The amount of time that you were able to abstain from using meth is a victory. Your goal for future treatment and recovery should be to beat that time and continue to become stronger in your sobriety.

If you believe you need help understanding what your relapse experience means for you, we want to help. Call our helpline at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? for more information about the best treatment options following a meth relapse.

How to Create an Effective Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse prevention is about maximizing your strength and minimizing any factors that may threaten your sobriety. To do that, you need a relapse prevention plan, which is a list of options or steps you can take if you feel yourself weakening to the possibility of relapse.

Everyone goes through periods of self-doubt or difficult days when they think about using meth again. A relapse prevention plan is your guide to dealing with those thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you become stronger and does not derail your goals. An effective relapse prevention plan includes:

  • A list of your triggers, such as people, places, or specific emotions.
  • Options for managing your cravings.
  • Activities and tools for protecting your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
  • A list of people you can call in case you feel an urge to relapse.
  • A list of 12-step meetings near you that you can attend if you feel the urge to relapse.
  • Your favorite tools that you can use to help you cope with stress and everyday problems, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, hobbies, or worksheets.
  • A list of your passions, things that are important to you, and people you love to remind you why you are fighting for sobriety.

Over time, your relapse prevention plan may change as you meet new people, learn more about yourself, discover new interests, and find new ways to stay strong.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with meth relapse or concerned that relapse is imminent, call our helpline today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to get help.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Methamphetamine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Methamphetamine.
  3. Brecht, M. L. & Herbeck, D. (2014). Time to Relapse Following Treatment for Methamphetamine Use: A Long-term Perspective on Patterns and Predictors. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 139 (1), 1825.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.
  5. Otero, C., Boles, S., Young, N. K. & Dennis, K. (2006). Methamphetamine Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes: Implications for Child Welfare Workers.
  6. Gorski, T. (2001). Understanding Relapse.
  7. Melemis, S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 88 (3), 325332.

7 Shocking Facts About Meth in the Gay Community

As one of the most popular drugs in the gay community, users mistakenly believe that crystal meth leads to fun and enhances their life experiences. Due to that train of thought, this drug has become somewhat of an epidemic among the gay population—particularly in major metropolitan cities.

Here’s a look at 7 alarming facts concerning meth use in the gay community.

Meth Abuse is Rampant

In general, gay men report higher levels of drug and alcohol addiction than their straight counterparts. Over the last 15 years, crystal meth has grown into a particularly destructive force in the gay community.

“The number of arrests involving crystal meth has doubled so far this year over 2013,” said Michael Kasten, a committee chairperson on Florida’s No More Meth Task Force. “If you look at the actual arrests by sector [in Florida], they are in the gay neighborhoods of Fort Lauderdale.”

“It’s such a tough problem. There’s such a high rate of recidivism; you don’t get much success,” said Mark Ketcham, executive director of SunServe. “If you know you’re not going to win, it’s hard to take it on, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start addressing the whys. It’s an uphill battle, this damn thing. It’s just very frustrating.”

Meth is Combined with Other Drugs

The gay community is the largest consumer of “party” drugs. Though crystal meth is by far the most popular party drug, a lot of gay men and women combine their meth use with other drugs. A few of the substances commonly combined with meth include Special K, Poppers, Viagra, GHB and Ecstasy.

While meth and heroin are often combined, the most popular speedball cocktails in the gay community include meth and GHB or Viagra.

One of the most concerning trends in the gay community is “speedballing.” When someone mixes sedatives and uppers—drugs with opposite effects—the results can quickly throw body systems into chaos.

While meth and heroin are often combined, the most popular speedball cocktails in the gay community include meth and GHB or Viagra. The problem is that many users aren’t aware of the life-threatening dangers associated with speedballing.

“GHB is a sedative and goes hand in hand with meth. First you get a blast of high from the meth and then the GHB evens you out,” said Todd Connaughty, director of clinical services at the Pride Institute in Minnesota. “… With GHB it’s very easy to pass out and bad things can quickly happen.”

What’s more, newly released data also reveals that the combination of crystal meth and Viagra can escalate HIV production in the brain.

Sex/Meth Parties are Increasingly Popular

Thanks to social media platforms like Grindr and Tinder, sex parties have become extremely prevalent. Party hosts often advertise that guests will be treated to free meth and anonymous sexual escapades. In many areas of the nation, these parties have become a regular occurrence. And, unfortunately, most of the party guests end up having unprotected sex.

Recently, a man named Zachary opened up to SFGN magazine about the prevalence of sex/meth parties in South Florida. Zachary, a recovering addict, attended one of these lavish parties after reading an invitation post on Grindr.

“The party was hosted in a house situated in downtown West Palm Beach. There was like this extravagance to it. It was very classy. They had coolers, drinks and Gatorades, a snack bar. It was a well organized event,” said Zachary.

Making things worse, most—if not all—of the sexual intercourse that took place that night was unprotected.

It was all unsafe sex. I didn’t care because I was high. In the two days that I was there, 75 or 80 percent of the time we were having sex.

- Zachary

Meth is Highly Dangerous for Gay, HIV Positive Men

Though meth is a destructive force in every demographic, it’s particularly damaging within the gay community. The most pressing concerns are based on data that indicates crystal meth can potentially help promote a virulent strain of HIV (dubbed the HIV “SuperVirus”) and/or severely reduce the effects of life-saving HIV medications.

After 1 year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system.

A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) examined a group of male gay drug users who were all HIV positive. The test group contained men who used meth, cocaine, pot, alcohol and various other party drugs. All were taking effective HIV medications and, upon starting the study, had low levels of the HIV virus in their blood.

After one year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system. Additionally, these men had a measurably higher amount of HIV in their semen.

Spike of New HIV Infections in Younger Homosexuals

Right now, the highest level of risk reported belongs to the under-40 gay population in the western states, with the highest usage belonging to gay men between the ages of 17 and 29. This risk includes both risk of crystal meth addiction and risk of acquiring HIV. For those who are HIV negative, using crystal meth could potentially put them on the “fast track” to contracting the deadly virus.

For members of the gay community who are already HIV positive, using crystal meth speeds up the damage to their bodies and minds. Even with the most effective anti-viral drug cocktails, HIV positive people are susceptible to a host of brain and body illnesses. Weight loss, muscle deterioration and AIDS dementia are commonly advanced among members of the gay HIV positive community.

IV Meth Use On the Rise Among Gay Men

The IV trend—known as “slamming”—gives users an intense rush or high. Many gay men are tempted to inject meth at sex parties…

Research has shown that there is a serious uptick in the number of gay meth users injecting the drug. In fact, the number of men injecting (in a sexual context) quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, according to Antidote, a U.K. LGBT support service. The figures, compiled by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), seemingly back up experts’ warnings of a “meteoric rise” in the number of gay men injecting meth.

The IV trend—known as “slamming”—gives users an intense rush or high. Many gay men are tempted to inject meth at sex parties, which can go on for days. Those same experts warn that the IV meth use trend is likely linked to the disturbing rise of HIV infection rates among gay men.

Sex without Meth Can Feel Devastatingly Disappointing

Though quitting meth is hard for all users, it’s doubly hard for gay men. Meth causes an enormous surge of dopamine in the brain. This “feel good” chemical is responsible for the feelings of euphoria and sexual arousal meth is famous for. Using the drug enhances pleasure, eliminates sexual boundaries and makes even the shyest user feel like a social butterfly. Once the drug is no longer supplied, all those feelings disappear.

Once in recovery, most gay men wrestle with the fact that they can no longer sexually perform as they did while actively using meth. During the recovery process, they are faced with the reality that sober sex is much different than meth sex. And for some, the resulting sense of loss is too much to handle.

Since sexual activity places gay men at a high risk of relapse, most experts advise them to abstain from sex of any kind for at least one year. The resulting intimacy isolation can make it extremely difficult for gay men to stay off meth.

Spotlight on ADHD Meds and Their Frightening Meth Connection

The opioid crisis has been making headlines for years, but there’s another drug epidemic that has been flying under the radar: Abuse of ADHD drugs.

ADHD drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, increase levels of the brain chemical dopamine and provide mental stimulation. This, in turn, allows users to become more focused and calm because they no longer need to engage in self-stimulating behavior.

The number of young people abusing ADHD medication has been steadily increasing over the last five years, with almost 9 percent of high school seniors abusing and approximately 35 percent of college students in the same category. And unfortunately, this misuse does have consequences: Over 19,000 people have suffered from complications related to ADHD drugs since 2013.

One of the biggest problems in the spread of stimulant addictions is that doctors are now so quick to diagnose ADHD when other conditions are causing the problems. Interestingly enough, ADHD prescriptions have risen 29.2 percent from 2010 to 2015 and sales of ADHD drugs have risen almost 41.8 percent during the same time.

Making Meth a Substitute?

Perhaps the scariest problem of all is that, when people are hooked on ADHD medications and the supply runs out, they’re rapidly turning to substitutes – like crystal meth.

Though there has been little research into this issue, there is one recent study that compared d-amphetamine (Adderall) with methamphetamine. Using 13 participants who were regular methamphetamine users, each was given a dose of either meth, Adderall or a placebo on separate days under double-blind conditions. This process was repeated over several days, with each participant given multiple doses of each drug.

Surprisingly, meth and Adderall caused similar effects with the participants; so much so that the regular meth users couldn’t distinguish between the two.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart, these results aren’t surprising, since the two drugs are nearly identical in their chemical structure. In his opinion, the only major difference between crystal meth and Adderall is public perception.

Helping or Harming?

With an allure of gaining energy, a sharpened focus and a sense of euphoria, users can quickly develop an unhealthy tolerance to ADHD drugs, meaning they need more and more to get the same effect. Eventually, taking the simulant pharmaceuticals becomes cost prohibitive and users turn to street versions, such as meth, because they are cheaper, stronger and more accessible.

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