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What Are The Signs of Crystal Meth Abuse?

A stimulant that is very addictive, methamphetamine can have harmful effects.1-6 Meth misuse is a serious issue in America.6 A type of methamphetamine called crystal methamphetamine may look similar to “rocks” that are blue-white in color and shiny or similar to little pieces of glass.1,2,3 Crystal meth doesn’t have a smell.3

However, methamphetamine can be prescribed as the brand name medicine Desoxyn for treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as well as obesity.4,5 Meth is classified as a Schedule II drug; being a Schedule II drug means that a drug has a high potential of being abused and using it may result in a person becoming severely mentally or physically dependent on the drug.7

People may use different names to refer to methamphetamine, such as “speed”, “crank”, or “tweak”.2,8 “Crystal glass”, “L.A. ice”, “Tina”, “crystal”, “shards”, “hot ice”, and “blade” are some street names used to refer to crystal meth.3

A person might smoke crystal meth with a glass pipe or inject it.3

Possible Effects of Meth on the Brain and Body

When a person uses meth, it can trigger a lot of dopamine to be released in parts of the brain involved with reward, and this then causes the person to want to use meth again.2,9 It is not well understood precisely how substances like meth cause a “high”, or euphoria.9

Methamphetamine is able to impact an individual’s judgment and lower an individual’s inhibitions; meth could lead an individual to act hazardously, such as sexual actions that are risky.2,10-13 Meth also might raise a person’s libido.10,11,13 Thus, meth can make a person’s risk of catching or passing on hepatitis and HIV/AIDS higher even if the person does not inject it. 2,3,10-15

In the short-term, methamphetamine may have effects such as:2,5,8,9,16,17

  • Causing euphoria.
  • Reducing appetite.
  • Causing nausea.
  • Increasing physical activity.
  • Lessening fatigue.
  • Increasing wakefulness.
  • Disrupting patterns of sleep.
  • Causing heartbeat to be irregular.
  • Raising temperature.
  • Elevating heart rate.
  • Increasing breathing.
  • Raising blood pressure.
  • Causing a person to act oddly, violently, erratically, and/or irritably.
  • Causing death.

A meth overdose might cause heart attack, overheating, problems with organs, convulsions, and stroke, and a meth overdose could kill a person.2,4,5,9 If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on meth, call 911 right away.

Possible results of using meth long-term may include:2,17

  • Itching intensely, and scratching might result in skin sores
  • Addiction
  • High blood pressure, which might result in stroke, heart attack, and death
  • Anxiousness
  • Serious dental problems, sometimes called “meth mouth”
  • Significant decrease in weight
  • Harm to kidney, heart, lung, and/or liver
  • Altered function and structure of the brain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble with memory
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Acting violently
  • Impact on verbal learning
  • Worsened coordination

If an individual stops using meth, a “crash” or withdrawal may be experienced, and symptoms such as cravings, anxiousness, depression, tiredness, and psychosis may occur.2,8,14,18

Recognizing Crystal Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine use disorder is a stimulant use disorder where methamphetamine is the stimulant used.18

Possible symptoms of a stimulant use disorder include:18

  • Craving stimulant
  • Trying to control or reduce use of stimulant but not succeeding, or persistently wanting to control or decrease use of it
  • In circumstances where using stimulant is dangerous physically, using it repeatedly
  • Frequently using more stimulant or using stimulant for more time than intended
  • Not fulfilling important responsibilities at home, school, or work because of repeated use of stimulant
  • Expending a lot of time doing things needed for using or getting stimulant or for recuperating from stimulant’s effects
  • Experiencing stimulant withdrawal* (and/or to evade or alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, using stimulant or using another substance that is similar)
  • Experiencing tolerance* (still using a consistent stimulant amount being significantly less effective, and/or getting the wanted effect or becoming intoxicated requiring significantly more stimulant)
  • Due to use of stimulant, decreasing doing or no longer doing things that are important and are related to recreation, are related to work, or are social
  • Even though knowing that stimulant probably worsened or brought on a mental or physical issue that is lasting or repeatedly occurs, still using stimulant
  • Even though stimulant’s effects worsened or brought on interpersonal or social issues that are lasting or repeatedly occur, still using stimulant

*If a person is only using stimulant medicines under suitable medical oversight, neither tolerance nor withdrawal are considered symptoms of a stimulant use disorder.18

Treatment

Motivational incentives and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are two types of behavioral therapies that could be utilized to treat an individual’s addiction to meth.2 If you may be struggling with an addiction, talk to a healthcare provider.19 If you think that another individual may have an addiction but the individual does not want to get help, encourage the individual to see a healthcare provider for an assessment.20

 

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019). Methamphetamine.
  3. National Drug Intelligence Center. Crystal methamphetamine fast facts: Questions and answers.
  4. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Methamphetamine.
  5. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Department of Justice. (2017) Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide: 2017 edition.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine: Overview.
  7. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug scheduling.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Tips for teens: Methamphetamine.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine: What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse?.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2014). The DAWN report: Emergency department visits involving methamphetamine: 2007 to 2011.
  11. Saw, Y. M., Saw, T. N., Chan, N., Cho, S. M., & Jimba, M. (2018). Gender-specific differences in high-risk sexual behaviors among methamphetamine users in Myanmar-China border city, Muse, Myanmar: who is at risk?BMC Public Health, 18(1), 209.
  12. Salamanca, S. A., Sorrentino, E. E., Nosanchuk, J. D., & Martinez, L. R. (2014). Impact of methamphetamine on infection and immunityFrontiers in Neuroscience, 8, 445.
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine: Are people who misuse methamphetamine at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C?.
  14. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine (meth).
  15. Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). HIV and substance use in the United States.
  16. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Methamphetamine: What is methamphetamine?.
  17. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Know the risks of meth.
  18. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.
  19. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). What to do if you have a problem with drugs: For adults.
  20. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). What to do if your adult friend or loved one has a problem with drugs.
About The Contributor
Sophie Stein, A.P.R.N.
Clinical Editor, American Addiction Centers
Sophie Stein is a Clinical Editor at American Addiction Centers. She received her master’s of science in nursing from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is credentialed by the ANCC as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner... Read More