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Methamphetamine, chemically similar to amphetamine, is also called meth, crystal, chalk, and ice, among other terms, and is an extremely addictive stimulant drug. It looks like white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder.

How Is Methamphetamine Abused?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine can be taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Taking the drug produces an immediate, intense euphoria but because this feeling dies away quickly, users often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern.

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. Because of this, methamphetamine can produce the euphoric “rush” or “flash” that many users experience. Repeated methamphetamine use can easily lead to addiction.

People who use methamphetamine long-term may experience:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • insomnia
  • mood disturbances
  • the display of violent behavior
  • paranoia
  • visual and auditory hallucinations
  • delusions
  • reduced motor skills
  • impaired verbal learning

Some of these brain changes can continue long after methamphetamine use is stopped.

What Are the Other Health Effects of Methamphetamine?

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same physical effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include:

  • increased wakefulness
  • increased physical activity
  • decreased appetite
  • increased respiration
  • rapid heart rate
  • irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • extreme weight loss
  • severe dental problems
  • skin sores

How does methamphetamine get to the United States?

Clandestine laboratories in California and Mexico are the primary sources of supply for methamphetamine available in the United States.

Domestic labs that produce methamphetamine are dependent on supplies of the precursor chemical pseudoephedrine, which is sometimes diverted from legitimate sources. It is smuggled from Canada, and to a lesser extent from Mexico.

Domestic independent laboratory operators, mostly in the western, southwestern, and midwestern United States, also produce and distribute methamphetamine but on a smaller scale.