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Methamphetamine

Understanding an increasingly popular synthetic stimulant drug.

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Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.
What is meth?

Methamphetamine (meth)– also known as speed, chalk, ice, crystal or glass—is a central nervous system stimulant that quickly leads to meth addiction. It is a white, colorless, bitter-tasting powder.

Most types of meth, including crystal meth, are produced in foreign or domestic laboratories or in small, illegal laboratories, where its production endangers lab workers, neighbors and the surrounding environment. Making illegal meth is extremely hazardous and often fatal to its manufacturers.

Methamphetamine abuse: methamphetamine’s effects and the path to meth addiction.

The meth high: Methamphetamine can be administered orally or by snorting, injecting or smoking. When meth enters the user’s brain, it stimulates the brain’s reward pathway to release the dopamine. This produces a high characterized by increased alertness, concentration, self-esteem, libido, energy and euphoria. Meth highs last for several hours. 

After initial feelings of euphoria fade, meth users feel fatigued and depressed and can sleep for extended periods of time. Because the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine wear off quickly, meth users tend to abuse the drug in a “binge and crash” cycle, meaning they take more meth before the first dose is out of the system. In some cases, abusers go on a “run,” abusing for days on end without eating or sleeping.

Side-effects of meth: In the short-term, methamphetamine users experience a variety of side effects, including:

  • wakefulness
  • irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • delusions of grandeur
  • repetitive and obsessive behavior (such as hand-washing or cleaning)
  • paranoia

Long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse are quite serious. They include: 
  • mood disturbances
  • violent or bizarre behavior
  • anxiety and confusion
  • difficulty sleeping
  • severe dental problems (meth mouth).
  • depression
  • suicide
  • psychosis
  • heart disease
  • irreversible damage to nerve receptors in the brain
  • increased risk of HIV/AIDS

Meth addiction: Methamphetamine’s influence on the brain’s reward pathway makes it a highly addictive drug. Because meth depletes dopamine output over time, users develop dependence, or the need to take higher and higher doses of methamphetamine to achieve the initial high. Meth addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing or curtailing use. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • depression
  • increased appetite
  • headaches
  • agitation
  • hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • anxiety
  • lucid dreams
  • drug cravings
  • suicidal thoughts

Those who abuse methamphetamine by smoking are at higher risk for developing meth addiction, because smoking is the method of abuse that delivers the drug to the brain the fastest. 

Availability of meth.

Due to its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. But although methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, its medical uses are limited. Not to mention, prescribed doses of meth are much smaller than those taken by the average abuser.

Treating meth addiction.

With the right treatment program, recovery from meth addiction is possible. Currently, the most effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction involves comprehensive cognitive-behavioral intervention coupled with medically-monitored detox.  

For more information on Caron’s holistic and individualized rehabilitation options, please continue reading about treatment, explore Caron’s programs, or contact us.