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Meth Addiction: History, Types, Uses And Effects

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that can have devastating effects on an addict’s physical and mental health.

Meth causes the brain to release high levels of dopamine, which gives a sense of euphoria and increased energy. This effect usually lasts about eight hours. After this period, there may be another meth “high” or it might take several days for the user’s mood to stabilize again.

In addition to being psychologically addicting, methamphetamine is also physically addictive because it changes how the body responds to natural chemicals like dopamine and serotonin – causing them to build up in the system instead of going back into storage as they should be doing after each use.

Meth addiction can lead not only to withdrawal symptoms but also psychosis, paranoia, and possible self-destruction. It is recommended that addicts seek treatment for their addiction as soon as possible.

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What Is Meth Addiction?

Meth Addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on the drug methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is also known as meth, crystal, ice, or speed. It comes in many forms including powder or crystals that look like glass fragments or shiny blue-white “rocks” of various sizes. Meth can be made into small pills that resemble candy called “bombs.”

The effects of meth are similar to cocaine use but last longer due to its slower conversion by the body into chemicals needed for normal functioning (a process called deamination).

After using meth, it takes about 30 minutes for half of the material to leave the body through urine; another 24 hours must pass before all of the chemicals have passed from your system.

The material released by meth abuse does not stop once the body finishes processing it.

The drug continues to affect an addict’s brain chemistry after they stop using it, and this results in a battle between the drug’s effect on the nervous system and psychological state versus what a person feels in their life.

Meth addiction causes anxiety which may lead an addict to use more meth to deal with their anxiety. This happens because meth changes the natural chemicals in your body, like dopamine and serotonin, which are supposed to go back into storage after each use. Meth addiction can cause problems with how you feel when you are not using it.

These problems might include anxiety or paranoia. Sometimes people also have bad thoughts or see things that aren’t there when they don’t have meth in their system.

Meth Addiction Infographic

Meth Addiction Infographic

What Is The History Of Meth?

A Japanese chemist first synthesized methamphetamine—also called meth, crank, crystal meth or speed—from another stimulant in 1893. Methamphetamine was used early on as a medical treatment for narcolepsy, asthma and as a weight-loss drug. During World War II, the Allies and Axis powers both used the drug to keep troops awake. After the war, meth use increased dramatically, even after it was outlawed by the United States in 1970.

Scientists first developed amphetamine-type stimulants—including methamphetamine—as a manmade alternative to the ephedra plant.

Ephedra is a type of shrub whose extract has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years. In 1885, Nagai Nagayoshi—a Japanese chemist studying in Germany—identified the active chemical in ephedra, a stimulant called ephedrine.

In 1919, another Japanese chemist, Akira Ogata, streamlined the process for manufacturing methamphetamine and made it much easily produced and more widely accessible. Akira used phosphorus and iodine to reduce the ephedrine into a crystallized form of meth. It took until the 1980’s crack epidemic for the United States government to limit the sale of ephedrine.

Crystal meth rose to popularity after crack cocaine became more expensive to purchase with extreme penalties associated with its sale. In the early 1990s and between 1994 and 2004, methamphetamine use rose from 2% of U.S. adults to approximately 5%.

In 2006, the United Nations World Drug Report called meth the most abused hard drug on Earth.

Meth use has declined over the past decade, possibly as a result of limits put on the sale of pseudoephedrine in many countries. In the United States, in 2012, roughly 1.2 million people (about 0.4 percent of the U.S. population) reported using meth in the past year.

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth can come in clear blue crystals or completely clear shards depending on the chemicals that it is mixed with.

What does meth look like?

How Is Meth Made?

Meth amphetamines are cooked in a lab using different ingredients like Sudafed and even battery acid to cut it and transform it into crystals. Because meth can be manufactured, it is made in spaces as small as a car, trailer or camper and the most sophisticated meth labs are run by cartels in chemical laboritories.

What Are Slang Names For Meth?

  • Tweaker drug
  • Ice
  • Shards
  • Speed
  • Crank
  • Ice
  • Chalk
  • Wash
  • Trash
  • Dunk
  • Gak
  • Pookie
  • Cookies
  • Christina
  • No doze
  • White cross
  • Cotton candy
  • Rocket fuel
  • Scooby snax

Why Is Meth Addictive?

In addition to being psychologically addicting, methamphetamine is also physically addictive because it changes how the body responds to natural chemicals like dopamine and serotonin – causing them to build up in the system instead of going back into normal levels as they should be doing after being in focus.

Meth addiction can lead not only to withdrawal symptoms but also psychosis, paranoia, and possible self-destruction.

What Are The Mental Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse?

The Effects of meth abuse and addiction differ from person to person, based on the frequency and amount of meth used as well as personal characteristics such as age, biological health, and psychological makeup. Some of the psychological effects of meth addiction include the following:


The use of meth can cause a person’s perception of sight and sound to be severely distorted. Meth users may see things that aren’t there or they might think people are out to get them when they aren’t present at all. They may hear voices telling them what to do or criticizing their behavior. These hallucinations can last up to 12 hours after using meth.

Mood changes

This mood change is likely attributed to the way methamphetamine affects dopamine levels in the brain – increasing dopamine release but inhibiting normal recycling which usually returns dopamine to storage. They may also experience severe mood swings, psychotic episodes, or delusions, very similar to those experienced by schizophrenics. Meth addicts are known to act erratically and violently as paranoia sets in, not unlike the effects of PCP abuse.

The release of high levels of dopamine can cause a person to feel extremely happy and excited, or aggressive and irritable. Meth may be used as a so-called “mood booster” because it elevates mood for the first few hours after use, though this is followed by depression later on.


When the brain becomes flooded with large accumulations of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – neurotransmitters that control pleasure, mood, appetite, and motivation – it’s possible for an overdose to occur (though methamphetamine overdoses are rare). Tachycardia (elevated heart rate) can also lead to stroke or heart failure if not treated promptly.

Compulsive cravings

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that results in a crash after use. Users enjoy the high that comes from using meth and dislike the crash they experience when they aren’t using it. For this reason, cravings and erratic behavior can occur in between uses.


Anxiety is a common side effect of meth use that is brought on by the brain being sped up as the stimulant is ingested.
Short-term symptoms of meth use include increased blood pressure, faster breathing rate, higher body temperature, and hyperactivity. Psychological effects of meth use may include anxiety, confusion, depression, or irritability.

What Are The Physical Effects of Using Meth?

The user’s fingers can be rubbed raw due to constant picking at their skin because of delusions caused by meth addiction.

Meth mouth

A condition that causes tooth decay and loss is very common among chronic meth abusers who don’t practice proper dental hygiene.

Repetitive motor activity

Meth users often have a repetitive ‘jittery’ movement in the arms and legs. This symptom also includes moving one’s lips or tongue constantly without any real purpose.

Weight loss

Weight loss is a common side effect of using meth. Oftentimes, meth users lose enough weight to become malnourished is common with long-term methamphetamine abusers.

Face sores

Meth sores on the face or body due to scratching because of the hallucinations caused by meth addiction.

A decline in vision

One of the side effects of meth use is blurry vision, loss of peripheral vision, or extreme tunnel vision.

Rotting teeth

rotting teeth are a sign of meth addiction. It is common for meth addicts to have very low

Despite these common symptoms of meth addiction, it’s important to remember that each chronic abuser will exhibit different signs depending on their personality and individual tolerance levels for the drug.

What Are The Statistics For Meth?

  • In 2018, over 106,000 adults used meth daily, a 43% increase compared to the prior year.
  • The same year, 6 million adults over age 26 reported having used methamphetamine in the past year.
  • There was an 8% increase in high school seniors reporting having used meth at least once in their lifetimes.
  • 15% of all drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved methamphetamine.
  • Between 2013 and 2019, there was an 4% increase in positive urine tests for meth.

What Drugs Are Similar To Meth?

Drug Name Category Drug Schedule Description
Cocaine Stimulant II A highly addictive stimulant drug that produces euphoria, increased energy, and heightened alertness. It is typically snorted, but can also be smoked or injected.
Crack cocaine Stimulant II A form of cocaine that is processed into a rock crystal and smoked. It is highly addictive and produces a rapid, intense high.
Amphetamines Stimulant II A group of stimulant drugs that can produce effects similar to cocaine, but with a longer duration of action. Examples include Adderall, methamphetamine, and dextroamphetamine.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or “ecstasy”) Stimulant/Psychedelic I A synthetic drug that can produce feelings of euphoria and increased energy, but can also have dangerous side effects, including dehydration, hyperthermia, and heart failure.
Cathinones (“bath salts”) Stimulant I A group of synthetic drugs that are chemically similar to amphetamines and can produce effects similar to cocaine. They are often sold as a substitute for MDMA or cocaine.
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Stimulant II A stimulant medication often used to treat ADHD that can produce effects similar to cocaine, including increased energy and focus.
Phenmetrazine Stimulant II A stimulant medication that was once used as a treatment for obesity, but is now mostly illegal due to its potential for abuse and addiction. It can produce effects similar to cocaine.

Note: The drug schedules refer to the United States Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which classifies drugs into five categories (schedules) based on their potential for abuse and medical use. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and have no accepted medical use, while Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse and accepted medical use.

Final Thoughts On Methamphetamine Addiction

According to the NIDA’s most recent research report on meth addiction, 23,837 people have died in the united states last year from methamphetamine overdose. Other stimulants that are similar to meth that have a speed and “tweaker” component to them include cocaine and Adderall when it is abused. Whether you’re addicted to meth or you’re worried a loved one may be using it, treatments and inpatient rehab can help and recovery is possible.

What Are Frequently Asked Questions About Meth?

What is a tweaker drug?

A tweaker drug is a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine. When someone is high on one of these drugs it is commonly refered to as tweaking.

What are some warning signs of meth addiction?

A tweaker drug is a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine. When someone is high on one of these drugs it is commonly refered to as tweaking.

How is methamphetamine related to cocaine?

A tweaker drug is a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine. When someone is high on one of these drugs it is commonly refered to as tweaking.

What are some drugs related to cocaine that are also stimulants like methamphetamine?

A tweaker drug is a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine. When someone is high on one of these drugs it is commonly refered to as tweaking.

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WebMD. (n.d.). Meth addiction: Everything you need to know. WebMD. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from Editors. (2017, June 7). History of meth. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from

NIH. (2022, December 21). What is the scope of methamphetamine use in the United States? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from

Fitzpatrick, R. E., Rubenis, A. J., Lubman, D. I., & Verdejo-Garcia, A. (2020). Cognitive deficits in methamphetamine addiction: Independent contributions of dependence and intelligence. Drug and alcohol dependence, 209, 107891.

NIH. (2021, April 13). What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse? National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from


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Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

Picture of This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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