The full name of meth, or crystal meth, is methamphetamine – a synthetic drug that is similar to amphetamine. Meth has a powerful effect, lasting up to 16 hours. Meth is a highly addictive drug as the need for another dose comes very fast.
Meth is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, intranasally (inhaling the powder), by needle injection, or by smoking.
The drug is relatively cheap to make and is often called a bathtub drug because there are a number of chemicals that are combined together to create meth. There are many adverse chemicals used in the manufacturing of this drug such as battery acid, ammonia and other toxic chemicals. Pure meth is a fine white powder but rarely sold on the street. The meth sold on the streets is mixed with other toxic chemicals and is dark yellow or brown in colour.
Street names of meth include: “P”, ice, crank, crystal, crack meth, Hawaiian salt, black beauties, chalk, hearts, leapers, tweak, wake-ups, zip.
Effects of Meth / Crystal Meth
Meth’s ability to release dopamine rapidly in “reward” regions of the brain produces the intense euphoria, or “rush,” that many users feel after snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug.
Chronic meth abuse significantly changes how the brain functions, reducing motor skills and impairing verbal learning. Recent studies in chronic meth abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory.
Even small amounts of meth can result in many of the same physical effects as those of cocaine or amphetamines including increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and hyperthermia.
The individuals are left depressed and craving more drugs. Meth addicts are capable of extraordinary aggression and brutality. They can become incapable of reason, rational judgement and empathy.
Signs of Meth/Crystal Meth abuse
- Needle marks on the arms, legs, hands, feet or neck
- Euphoric states followed by fatigue or depression
- Respiratory problems, sinus infections or lung infections
- Cough or hoarse voices (from smoking meth)
- Paranoia (that often doesn’t go away)
- Skin abscesses or infections of the skin
- Anger or irritability
- High levels of hostility or aggressiveness
Health Risks of Meth/Crystal Meth Usage
Long-term meth abuse has many negative health consequences, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behaviour. Chronic meth abusers can also display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).
Transmission of HIV and hepatitis are other consequences of meth abuse. The intoxicating effects of meth can alter judgment and remove inhibitions and can lead people to engage in unsafe behaviours, including risky sexual behaviour.
Short-Term Effects of Meth include:
- Erratic and violent behaviour
- Suppressed appetite
- Mood swings/Tremors
- High blood pressure and increased heart rate
- Suicidal thoughts and Anxiety
Long Term Effects of Meth Include:
- Changes in the structure and functioning abilities of the brain; brain damage that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- Permanent psychosis that may include paranoia, hallucinations or repetitive motor activity such as a neurological disorder
- Memory loss/Aggressive behaviour
- Coma, stroke and death/Meth mouth (rotten teeth)
- Hallucinations or Sores on the body
- Boils or infections on the skin
- Weight loss and Cracked teeth
Physically, meth addiction can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and to other areas of the body. Those who abuse meth are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke as a direct result of their drug abuse. Many of the short and long term signs of meth abuse disappear once the meth user stops using the drug.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of meth withdrawal can include:
- Feeling moody and depressed
- Lack of energy, lethargy, exhaustion
- Getting no enjoyment from usual activities/Feeling irritable, angry, having a ‘short fuse’
- Feeling agitated, anxious or nervous/Having aches and pains
- Sleep disturbance, insomnia
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Cravings to use meth
Withdrawal can peak around day 2-3 after last use and generally begins to ease after a week to ten days. Low-grade symptoms including mood swings and agitation, cravings, and sleep disturbance can last for a further couple of weeks, while some people can feel depressed for a few days, weeks or even months.
Meth Treatment at Castle Craig
Castle Craig Hospital has over 20 years of experience in treating drug and alcohol addiction — including the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.
The first step of treatment involves an intensive detoxification programme when the patient is monitored by a nurse every four hours (including at night). Detox from meth is extremely difficult and drugs are used for the first few days to ensure the process is physically comfortable.
Community-based recovery groups—such as Narcotics Anonymous—that use the 12-step program, can be helpful to people trying to sustain abstinence and are part of our continuing care programme for each patient. Participants benefit from supportive fellowship and from sharing with those experiencing common problems and issues.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | September 10, 2021