What is Crystal Meth?
Methamphetamine—commonly known as crystal meth—is an illicit stimulant that causes a euphoric rush of energy.
- According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, amphetamine-type stimulants like meth are the second most widely used illicit drug in the world, behind cannabis.
- Crystal meth can be produced quickly and cheaply and has no medicinal use.
- Most street crystal meth is made up of the chemical d-methamphetamine HCI and, as the name suggests, comes in crystalline form.
- People who use meth crush these crystals before smoking, snorting, ingesting, or injecting them.
- Because crystal meth is solely a street drug, there’s no regulation of its production process.
- Meth is often cut with additives to inexpensively enhance the effects of the drug so people who sell it can increase their profits.
- Cutting meth with other substances is so commonplace that most people who have been using it for some time are well aware that it contains additives.
- Although some additives change the appearance of crystal meth, it’s usually difficult to tell what it’s been cut with. This can dramatically increase the chances of overdose and death, as people have no way of knowing what they’re taking or how potent it is.
- Conversely, if someone takes meth that’s purer than what they normally take, they may also suffer an overdose because their body isn’t used to the dosage and purity.
- Anyone can become a meth user; people who struggle with depression or other mood conditions might try it in an effort to feel better. Others may use crystal meth to suppress their appetite and lose weight, while some take it to heighten sexual pleasure—a practice known as ‘chemsex’.
- Crystal meth goes by many street names, including crystal, ice, glass, blade, quartz, crank, chalk, and Christina.
The Effects of Crystal Meth
Using meth floods your brain with dopamine, making you feel a sense of extreme euphoria.
Over time, you may feel disoriented or anxious, suffer insomnia or mood swings, or even show aggressive behaviour.
With long-term use, physical appearance can change drastically.
Often, people using meth will seem to have aged rapidly. They might have an abundance of sores or pimples, dull skin, and stained or rotting teeth (often called ‘meth mouth’).
Over time, using meth can lead to lung damage and heart issues.
People struggling with meth addiction also often incur significant mental side effects.
They might become paranoid or experience psychosis: hearing and seeing things that aren’t there, such as bugs crawling over their skin. These hallucinations often cause intense scratching or picking habits in people using meth, which can contribute to hard-to-heal sores on the body.
Another side effect of meth use is intense episodes of insomnia that can last for days. This is known as ‘tweaking’, and it occurs when someone binges meth in an effort to chase the sense of euphoria their body has grown to crave.
Tweaking in and of itself can cause a host of psychological effects due to sleep deprivation, like paranoia, hallucinations, and confusion.
People in this state often can’t control their eye movement, and thus constantly shift their gaze.
They also typically talk quickly and struggle with coordination. Someone bingeing meth may eventually become prone to violence and lashing out unexpectedly.
Signs and Symptoms of Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth has very high addiction potential, making it easy for people to move from casual use to addiction.
However, it can be difficult to assess your own level of use if it’s become out of control. If you’re beginning to think you may have an addiction to crystal meth, consider the following questions:
- Do you obsessively think about acquiring and using meth?
- Are you unable to control how much you use?
- Do you use meth just to feel normal?
- Have you sold possessions, borrowed money, or stolen in order to buy meth?
- Do you experience intense cravings?
- Have you tried to quit crystal meth but not been able to?
Crystal meth addiction can happen rapidly.
If you recognise any of the above signs, our phone lines are open 24/7 to discuss your situation in confidentiality.
Signs and symptoms of meth addiction
If you believe someone you know may be addicted to crystal meth, there are a few key signs you can look out for, such as:
- Rapid weight loss, sudden growth of acne or sores
- Dull or droopy skin, stained or rotten teeth
- Intense scratching or picking at the skin
- Convulsions or erratic movements
- Rapid eye movement, long episodes of insomnia
- Angry outburst or mood swings
- Borrowing money often or stealing
- In sexual partners, increased libido
Drugs Commonly Mixed With Crystal Meth
People who use crystal meth may combine the drug with a variety of other substances to heighten euphoric effects, reduce anxious effects, or prevent erectile dysfunction (a common side effect of meth use).
Combining Crystal Meth with stimulants
Some people combine meth with stimulants like MDMA or cocaine to enhance feelings of pleasure and increase energy.
Taking multiple stimulants at once enhances the effects of both drugs, creating an amplified effect more potent than the sum of its parts.
Mixing crystal meth with other stimulants heightens your risk for overheating, stroke, and heart attack.
Combining Crystal Meth with depressants
Crystal meth is most often combined with depressants like heroin, a practice that’s sometimes called ‘speedballing’ or ‘goofballing’.
Mixing opiates with crystal meth creates an intense high that’s appealing to longtime users who can no longer get the same effect from simply using meth alone.
Alternatively, some people take crystal meth alongside other depressants like alcohol or Xanax to ease the anxious feelings that often accompany meth high.
Combining crystal meth with any depressant is particularly dangerous.
The stimulating effects of meth mask the effects of depressants, which can cause alcohol poisoning or drug overdose as it’s difficult to properly assess your level of intoxication.
Combining Crystal Meth with ED medication
Crystal meth can cause erectile dysfunction in men, but it also heightens sexual arousal.
People who use meth to engage in sexual activity may take erectile dysfunction medication alongside meth.
This puts you at risk for stroke, as meth raises your blood pressure while ED medication lowers it.
Dangers of Crystal Meth Addiction
Meth changes the brain’s reward circuitry, which creates a particularly high potential for addiction.
With heavy use, brain cells can no longer sense dopamine as easily because the body has reduced its number of dopamine receptors.
This means that you can no longer feel pleasure without meth, at which point you’ve become psychologically dependent.
Meth also lessens your inhibitions and increases sexual arousal.
People who use meth are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, as they’re more likely to engage in unsafe sexual behaviours.
When you use crystal meth, you speed up the body’s vital processes to what could be fatal levels.
Your blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate all increase rapidly on the drug, which could cause you to experience anxiety, stroke, heart attack, or even death.
Outside of the direct effect of methamphetamine, the drug is often cut with unknown additives so people can make a better profit when they sell it.
Some people cut crystal meth with powdery household substances like baby powder or powdered milk that, over time, can clog arteries or cause respiratory issues.
Sometimes methamphetamine is laced with other drugs, like codeine or fentanyl, to produce stronger effects.
The unknown additives in meth increase your risk for stroke, heart attack, overdose, and even death.
Can You Overdose on Crystal Meth?
Overdosing on crystal meth is possible—you can even overdose the first time you use it or when taking the same dose you usually take.
This can happen because of a drug buildup in the body over time, or because the purity of your doses have changed without your knowledge and you took a more potent dose than you intended to.
Signs of crystal meth overdose include:
- Extremely high body temperature
- Intense stomach pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Intensely hyperactive behaviour
- Trouble breathing
- Signs of a heart attack or stroke
It can be difficult to tell if you’ve overdosed on methamphetamine because the symptoms are similar to how you feel when high.
If you feel unusually high, or your high is setting in much more quickly and intensely than usual, this is a sign of overdose.
NOTE: Overdosing on meth is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone you know has overdosed on meth, call 999 immediately.
Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction
The most effective treatments for crystal meth addiction help you detox from the drug while also providing therapeutic care to work through the underlying causes of addiction.
Crystal Meth Detox
While detoxing from crystal meth is not inherently physically dangerous, it’s often extremely challenging.
Many people experience intense cravings that can make abstaining from relapsing difficult to resist when attempting to detox on their own. The most dangerous symptom of this is a severe depression that often accompanies meth withdrawal.
This often causes people to relapse or self-harm.
Here at Castle Craig, we have our own medical detox centre so you can take the first step in recovery as safely and comfortably as possible.
Our team of psychiatrists, doctors, and nurses offer round-the-clock care to ensure your withdrawal symptoms are managed appropriately.
Plus, our detox programme is integrated into our therapeutic treatment model.
You’ll begin to participate in therapy during your detox, helping you to start addressing the root causes of your addiction sooner and integrate coping mechanisms from the very beginning of your recovery.
At Castle Craig, we ensure your treatment plan is tailored to your personal needs.
Every person struggling with addiction has experienced unique life circumstances that must be addressed for successful, lasting recovery.
Our team of medical experts collaborates to create a personalised plan of medical treatments, specialised therapies, and complementary therapies to further enrich your physical, emotional, and spiritual health beyond the detox stage.
This ensures you receive targeted care to address the specific causes of addiction in your life, so you can prevent future relapse and enjoy a full and connected life.
Residential Rehab for Crystal Meth Addiction
Recovering from crystal meth addiction in a residential setting gives you the opportunity to heal the root causes of addiction in your life, learn to manage triggers, and begin to lead a satisfying life filled with meaningful connections.
Castle Craig’s residential rehab treatment programme is one of the world’s most renowned inpatient alcohol rehab and drug rehab clinics.
We’re fully medically managed, so you can rest assured your treatment is being handled by experienced addiction experts.
In fact, Castle Craig is the UK’s only dedicated addiction hospital that’s not part of the National Health Service.
Do you think you or someone you know may be struggling with a crystal meth addiction? Getting help is an important first step in reclaiming your life.
Our team is available 24/7 to answer questions and discuss treatment options; call us today for help.
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Page published: August 7, 2019. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022