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Crystal Meth Addiction, Side Effects, and Treatment

Crystal meth is an illegal drug with a high potential for misuse and addiction. Those struggling with crystal meth addiction can face serious negative health outcomes, but evidence-based addiction treatment can help them achieve recovery.
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What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is a highly addictive central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.1 Crystal meth is the smokable, illicit, crystalline form of methamphetamine.2

Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug by the United States Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has an accepted medical use, but a high potential for misuse that can lead to severe physiological dependence.3, 4 Prescription methamphetamine is used to treat ADHD and is available as a generic or by the brand name Desoxyn.4 The crystal form of methamphetamine—the street drug crystal meth—has no medical applications, and it is exclusively used as a recreational substance.4

Smoking crystal meth in glass pipes that are similar to those used to smoke cocaine is a common way to use the drug, although some people may dissolve it in water and inject it, swallow it, or absorb it through the mucosal tissue inside the nose (“snorting”) or rectum (“plugging”).

What Does Crystal Meth Look Like?

Prescription methamphetamine comes as a pill and may be sold on the street as a fine powder or as crystal meth, which resembles glass fragments or shiny bluish-white shards or rocks. 4

Crystal meth is a modified version of methamphetamine.6 The crystal meth chemical structure occurs when methamphetamine is cooked in labs with over-the-counter drugs or store-bought chemicals, which most commonly includes pseudoephedrine or ephedrine.6, 7 During the cooking process, chemicals such as ether, paint thinner, Freon, acetone, anhydrous ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium (from inside batteries) are used to process pseudoephedrine or ephedrine into crystal meth.7

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