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Methamphetamine, more commonly known as “meth,” “crystal meth,” or “ice,” is one of the most powerful and addictive stimulant drugs. It comes in the form of a bluish-white rock that resembles glass fragments or crystals, which is where the substance gets its nicknames.

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What is Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)?

Methamphetamine is chemically and structurally similar to amphetamine, a stimulant drug that is used to treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasure, reward, motivation, and movement. As a result, when meth is abused, the high levels of dopamine begin having a reinforcing effect on the reward system, making users want to recreate the experience by taking more meth.

Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected, but the most common forms of administration are smoking and injection. Meth produces a strong and long-lasting high. When it wears off, however, users experience a “crash” followed by withdrawal symptoms. This crash period may consist of sleeping a lot and increased appetite.

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant. This means it can be obtained via a non-refillable prescription called Desoxyn. Desoxyn is rarely prescribed for short-term weight loss and ADHD treatment.

Meth Side Effects

Even small doses of methamphetamine can produce intense stimulant effects. The side effects of meth are similar to those of cocaine, crack cocaine, and amphetamine. People who use meth may experience:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased wakefulness and energy
  • Faster breathing
  • Euphoria
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Talkativeness
  • Feelings of confidence and invincibility
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Agitation and irritability

The high produced by meth can last up to 12-24 hours. However, since it is so addictive many people may abuse it far more frequently than this, causing the effects to last even longer. Doing this increases the risk of overdose, dependence, and addiction.

Crystal Meth Abuse

People who abuse meth may seem extremely energetic with dilated pupils and increased talkative. In high doses, they may seem paranoid or feel as though someone is watching them. Meth users may also pick at their skin due to the feeling of skin-crawling that psychosis can cause.

While this type of high may seem undesirable to some, the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 1.6 million people used meth in the last year, and nearly 775,000 reported using it in the last month. And nationwide, the rates of meth overdose deaths increased 7.5 times between 2007 to 2017, suggesting an increase in meth abuse.

Not only is crystal meth addictive and dangerous, but it also contains a number of toxins, poisons, and carcinogens. Meth is usually prepared in clandestine underground laboratories. It is derived from pseudoephedrine, a stimulant medication found in some cough and cold medications. However, batches of meth may also contain:

  • cetone
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Freon
  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Red phosphorus
  • Hypophosphorous acid
  • Lithium metal
  • Iodine crystals
  • Phenylpropanolamine

Since meth is prepared illegally, there is no way to tell exactly what each batch contains unless it is tested. Many drug users don’t test their drugs, they simply use them. As a result, meth users could be abusing any number of these dangerous and deadly substances.

Meth Overdose and Treatment

In 2017, nearly 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved methamphetamine. Of those deaths, nearly half also involved a prescription or illicit opioid. People who consume too much meth in a short period of time or those who mix it with other substances may be at a higher risk of overdose.

Symptoms of meth overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Kidney failure
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive or hyper behavior

Meth overdose happens when the central nervous system cannot keep up. This can lead to stroke, heart attack, and multiple organ failure. As a result, emergency doctors will try to treat meth overdose by restoring blood flow to the heart and brain while trying to treat any subsequent organ problems. There are currently no meth overdose-reversal drugs. Instead, the goal is to treat the symptoms. Medications used to treat these symptoms include beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, and anti-psychotics.

Long-Term Effects of Meth Abuse

Meth and its dangerous additives can take a serious toll on the mind and body. Long-term meth users may develop an inability to feel pleasure and begin struggling with depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Other long-term effects of meth abuse include:

  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Reduced motor speed
  • Impaired learning
  • Weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay (meth mouth)
  • Skin sores
  • Changes in brain structure and function

The brains of long-term meth users are significantly impaired, however, much of this damage can be reversed with several months and years in sobriety.

Signs of Meth Addiction

Chronic meth abuse will lead to tolerance and physical dependence. Tolerance refers to what happens when a person needs to use increasing amounts of meth to get high. Dependence, on the other hand, is what happens when the body is reliant on a substance to function. Once a person is dependent on meth, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms when not using it.

Symptoms of meth withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Drug cravings
  • Body aches
  • Muscle pain
  • Increased appetite

Tolerance and physical dependence aren’t the only signs and symptoms of meth addiction. Others include:

  • Seeming energetic or unable to sleep on a regular occasion
  • Having dilated pupils
  • Picking at the skin
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Losing teeth/tooth decay (meth mouth)
  • Stealing money from loved ones
  • Lying to loved ones about drug use
  • Craving meth when not using it
  • Feeling as though one cannot function without meth

Meth is an extremely powerful drug. People who are addicted to it may make obtaining, using, and recovering from meth their top priority in life. They may also continue using to avoid the crash or withdrawal. Fortunately, addiction treatment centers in Massachusetts can help.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Although research is currently underway to try and develop a medication to help treat meth addiction, no such medications exist yar. Instead, meth abuse and addiction can be treated with behavioral therapies and peer support.

Common types of therapies used to treat meth include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Community support (12-Step programs)
  • Therapeutic communities (sober living, residential care)

Treatment for meth users should be individualized to meet each patient’s unique needs. Rehab may also include family therapy, holistic healing techniques, and aftercare planning.

Find a Meth Rehab Center in Massachusetts Today

Even though most people are aware of the dangers of crystal meth, it is still a commonly abused illicit substance. And, it is one of the most addictive drugs out there. That means it takes a comprehensive and thorough approach for effective treatment – which is exactly what our team at Elevate Recovery Center is here to offer you.

Using the latest and most innovative behavioral healthcare techniques, we can introduce you to a lifestyle that is free of drugs and alcohol. All you have to do is put forth the effort to heal. To learn more about our Massachusetts rehab programs or to find a meth rehab center near you, pick up the phone and call today.


Valerie Tecci, Program Director

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We believe everyone struggling with substance use disorder deserves the treatment they need. Our team is here to help you every step of the way.

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