What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, powerful stimulant drug. It is typically found in a white powder or pill. Methamphetamine has a chemical composition that is comparable to prescription amphetamine medication used to treat attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Crystal methamphetamine (the illicit form of methamphetamine) is in the form that looks like glass or shiny blueish, white rocks. The street form of the drug has no medical value and is used solely as a recreational abusive substance. Street names for methamphetamine can include: speed, crystal, ice, Chrissy, Tina, crank, and glass.

What Causes Methamphetamine Addiction?

There isn’t one single factor that causes methamphetamine addiction. It is believed that an addiction to meth and other substances is caused due to genetic disposition, environmental factors, and other certain risk factors. These can include: lack of parental supervision and support, experiencing early childhood trauma, peer substance abuse, and the availability of the drug.

What Are the Signs?

Crystal methamphetamine can be snorted, inhaled, or injected. This powerful stimulant acts quickly in the central nervous system. A person under the influence of methamphetamine will show the following signs of use:

  • Not sleeping for long periods of time
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased physical activity
  • Appearing unusually active
  • Excessive talking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness or anxiety

Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Use

Long-term methamphetamine use has several negative consequences. It causes changes in a person’s brain that can lead to emotional and cognitive problems, as well as coordination and learning problems. Other effects of using methamphetamine over a long period of time include:

  • Intense itching that leads to sores on skin
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems (rotting of gums and teeth/loss of teeth)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Violent behaviour
  • Hallucinations

Extended periods of methamphetamine use can also increase a person’s risk of getting infectious diseases such as HIV (AIDS) and hepatitis b and c. It can also make symptoms of HIV worse and speed up progression of the disease.


A person addicted to methamphetamines will experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using it. While the symptoms of withdrawal will vary with each individual, common symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts

The length and severity of withdrawal will depend on how long a person has been using, how much they are accustomed to taking, and the frequency in which they used. Addiction to another substance such as alcohol, can also increase the severity and length of withdrawal.

While each person will have a different experience when going through methamphetamine withdrawal, peak symptoms typically occur in 7-10 days after a person’s last dose. Cravings and depression can last for up to a month or longer.


Methamphetamine addiction is best treated using a multidisciplinary approach that includes therapy or counselling and treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Engaging in active treatment whether at an outpatient or residential rehab is recommended for those suffering from an addiction to methamphetamines.

For those with a severe addiction, undergoing methamphetamine withdrawal in a professional medical detox programme is recommended. Detox is the first step of overcoming the physical addiction to meth. The next step is to begin to overcome the psychological aspects of the addiction through therapy and various addiction treatments offered at a rehab centre.

Methamphetamine FAQ

How is meth different from other stimulants such as cocaine?

While cocaine and meth are similar in that they release large amounts of dopamine in the brain, methamphetamines produce a longer lasting and more intense high than cocaine. Meth release 4 times the amount of dopamine than cocaine, with a high that lasts anywhere from 6-24 hours. The high from cocaine on the other hand, typically only lasts 20-30 minutes.

How is meth made?

Methamphetamines are cooked in a process that takes approximately 48 hours. The main ingredient in meth is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. These are chemicals found in over-the-counter cold medication. Other chemicals such as ammonia, lye, and red phosphorus are used to isolate the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to cook it into meth. The process of making meth is very dangerous, as it produces toxic fumes that increase the risk of explosion.

How long does it take to get over a meth addiction?

While each person experiences addiction differently, the effects of meth on the brain can be long lasting. Prolonged meth use destroys a person’s dopamine receptors, which can take up to a year to regrow after a person has stopped using. This makes it difficult to experience pleasure, which can lead to depression and relapse. Getting professional therapy and engaging in different treatments can help a person overcome their addiction for good.

Are there medications for methamphetamine withdrawal?

No. There are currently no drugs that have been developed to help a person through the withdrawal period of meth. Symptoms of withdrawal are best managed with the guidance of a healthcare professional as part of an assisted-detox programme.

External Links

What is meth?, Frontline

Methamphetamine, NIH

Crystal Meth Abuse,

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