Methamphetamine is an illicit stimulant that is usually in the form of a white, bitter-tasting powder or pill or, as with crystal methamphetamine, in the form of glass-like crystal fragments or rocks. Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as chalk, crank, crystal, ice, meth, and speed and can be smoked, taken in pill form, snorted, or injected.
Effects of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the reward areas of the brain and produces an euphoric high. With extended use, methamphetamine changes brain chemistry, making it difficult for the brain to respond to dopamine.
Even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in negative short-term effects, including:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Irritability and aggression
- Decreased appetite
Long-term effects of methamphetamine include hallucinations, paranoia, extreme weight loss, broken or rotting teeth, violent behavior, intense itching and skin sores, and mood swings.
A methamphetamine overdose can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and ultimately death.
Methamphetamine and Opioids
Polydrug use, in which different types of drugs are combined, is common among drug users. A particularly popular combination involves mixing a stimulant and an opiate, often referred to as a speedball. Speedball use is most common among injection drug users, with 92% of heroin addicts reporting using both heroin and cocaine.
While the stimulant-opioid combination produces a greater high than either drug does alone, combining two dangerous drugs carries greater risks than either drug does individually. Multiple drugs create greater stress on the respiratory and the cardiovascular systems, significantly impair judgment, and create a greater risk of overdose and death.
Methamphetamine Addiction and Treatment
Methamphetamine is highly addictive, and users experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug, including:
- Intense drug cravings
To date, the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. For more information visit NIDA’s Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
You can find more information about treatment for methamphetamine addiction at the SAMHSA Behavior Health Treatment Services Locator or by calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4257); 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).