On November 9, 2023
Known as “glass,” “ice,” or “crystal,” methamphetamine is a popular party drug that’s highly addictive. Though meth has been around for decades – and even has some pharmaceutical uses – it ballooned in popularity during the 1990s.
Meth use comes with an intense euphoria that hits rapidly and subsides, leading people to use more to capture that feeling again. With repeated use, they develop a tolerance, and later, an addiction.
Methamphetamine – otherwise known as meth – is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is used as a recreational drug. Though rare, meth may be used as a second-line treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity.
Crystal methamphetamine is a common form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny white rocks. Chemically, methamphetamine is similar to amphetamine. It may be consumed by smoking, swallowing it in pill form, inhaling it, or injecting it into the vein.
The euphoria from meth comes on quickly and fades just as fast, so people who use it tend to fall into a binge and crash pattern and take repeated doses.
Because meth carries a high potential for misuse and serious harm, it’s classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II substance. Though pharmaceutical meth is still produced, the street supply of meth is illicitly manufactured.
While meth is highly addictive, using it doesn’t automatically cause an addiction. Common signs of meth use, such as nervous scratching, irritability, and fatigue, don’t necessarily fit the criteria for a substance use disorder.
True meth addiction includes several obvious signs and symptoms, particularly with someone’s appearance. Some of these signs include:
To be classified as an addiction, or a stimulant use disorder, someone has to use meth compulsively despite the negative effects on their life – and they must not be able to stop. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a stimulant use disorder includes the following criteria:
When someone uses meth for a long period of time, they may develop dependence on the drug. This means that the body and mind are so accustomed to having meth in the system that they have negative reactions to it no longer being there.
Unlike heroin or some other drugs, meth withdrawal isn’t often life-threatening, but it can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult. The symptoms typically begin within a few days of stopping or cutting back on meth. Some psychological symptoms may take weeks to subside.
Some common meth withdrawal symptoms include:
Medical detoxification (detox) can help with the discomfort of meth withdrawal symptoms while the drug makes its way out of the system. There are no medications that are approved for stimulant withdrawal, but medications can treat symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
With chronic use, meth can cause devastating physical and psychological effects, such as:
Taking too much meth, or combining it with other substances, can increase the risks of a fatal overdose. Meth may be combined with other potent illicit substances, such as fentanyl, that can make it even more dangerous.An overdose of meth, with or without an additional substance, can cause potentially fatal effects like a heart attack or stroke. Some additional signs of overdose include:
Meth addiction treatment can vary by the individual’s needs. Generally, meth addiction treatment involves several types of therapeutic techniques that work together to address the physical and mental effects of addiction.
Detox is often the first step for meth addiction. This allows the body to rid itself of the drug while keeping the person calm and comfortable, limiting the risk of relapse just to make the discomfort stop. Though meth withdrawal isn’t often life-threatening, medical staff is available to limit the risks of complications.
Inpatient or residential treatment is a typical step after detox. People stay in a facility around the clock to receive intensive care, including individual and group therapy, behavioral therapies, and other modalities.Once inpatient treatment is complete, outpatient programs provide ongoing therapy without the need to stay in a facility day and night. This helps people transition from constant care to more independent environments while still attending their therapy sessions.
For some people, transitioning from outpatient treatment to aftercare helps with coping skills to avoid relapse, adapt to stress, and build support systems.Whatever form it takes, effective meth addiction treatment addresses the addiction itself and the underlying factors that contribute to it.
Amphetamines like meth can do serious damage to the body. The nature of these drugs is to speed up the brain’s processing. Once consumed, amphetamines increase breathing and heart rate while decreasing hunger. With higher doses, the person may experience a rapid rise in body temperature, sweating, nausea, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, loss of coordination, and possible collapse.
Meth can be smoked, injected, taken orally in pill form, or inhaled. It comes in powder, pill, and crystal form.
Meth differs across producers, but it generally looks like white powder. Crystal meth looks like shards of glass, which is why it has slang names like “ice” and “glass.” It may be clear, white, gray, or bluish white.
Meth overdose is a serious risk with meth consumption. In addition to the risks with the meth itself, it may be laced with other drugs like fentanyl that can compound the potency, and by extension, the risks.Naloxone and other opioid blockers aren’t effective with stimulant overdoses, but they should still be administered if there’s a suspicion of opioids.
Chronic meth use leads to extreme tooth decay, which is known as “meth mouth.” There are several factors that can contribute to tooth decay, both directly and indirectly:
The tooth decay from meth use may have symptoms like cavities, stained teeth, swollen gums, loose or missing teeth, and damaged teeth. In severe cases, the person may struggle to speak or chew.Though the damage from meth mouth can be severe and irreversible, there are treatment options to restore the look and function of the teeth. Dentures or implants can replace missing teeth, the teeth can be deep cleaned to mitigate gum disease, and cavities can be repaired. Early treatment of meth-related tooth decay is key to better outcomes.
Here at Ascendant New York, we understand the importance of having access to accurate medical information you can trust, especially when you or a loved one is suffering from addiction. Find out more on our policy.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, March 3). Methamphetamine drugfacts. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/overview on May 3, 2023.
 Yale Medicine. (2022, October 29). Stimulant use disorder. Yale Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/stimulant-abuse on May 3, 2023.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, January 12). What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse on May 3, 2023.