Methamphetamine (also called meth, crystal, chalk, and ice, among other terms) is an extremely addictive stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder.
Methamphetamine is taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria. Because the pleasure also fades quickly, users often take repeated doses, in a “binge and crash” pattern.
It is a dangerous and potent chemical and, as with all drugs, a poison that first acts as a stimulant but then begins to systematically destroy the body. Thus it is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage.
Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources, creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug. The devastation can easily be seen on the face of a person who has abused meth a few years.
Crystal meth’s effect is highly concentrated, and many users report getting hooked (addicted) from the first time they use it. Consequently, it is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat and many die in its grip.
Signs & Symptoms
Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and skin sores caused by scratching.
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Increased physical activity
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased respiration
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heart beat
- Increased body temperature
A Success Story
“I was raised in a world of addiction and shame since both my parents were addicts. At the age of 6 months, my mother abandoned me and my grandparents took custody.
“My father was diabetic and addicted to crystal meth; his illness led to multiple amputations. I took care of him for 5 years until he passed away when I was 16.
“At the age of thirteen I tried crystal meth with a friend and from that point I was heavily addicted. I used almost every drug in every way possible. My life went in a downward spiral. By the age of 18, I was arrested on 7 counts for weapons and possession charges.
“It still took more years of agony and pain to finally hit rock bottom. My grandmother died and 6 days later my mother died. I had lost everyone, my life was hopeless.
“I was told about a program called Adult & Teen Challenge. There I began to realize who I really was. I learned to love the person I am and give back to others. I’ve found hope and been shown a new way to live.
“The Lord gave me His strength to get through hard times (thyroid cancer) and I now know that with God all things are possible!”
Effects of Use
Meth like other stimulants affect the body in many ways: increased hart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, metabolism, increased energy, feelings of exhilaration, mental alertness, paranoia, violent behavior, psychosis, cardiac or cardiovascular complications including stroke and seizures.
Chronic methamphetamine use is accompanied by chemical and molecular changes in the brain.Imaging studies have shown changes in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning. In studies of chronic methamphetamine users, severe structural and functional changes have been found in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals.
Some of these brain changes persist long after methamphetamine use is stopped, although some may reverse after being off the drug for a sustained period (e.g., more than 1 year).