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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Methamphetamine
What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. It releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (associated with pleasure and movement) and results in feelings of euphoria and extreme physical sensation (a "rush"). It damages brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin. Methamphetamine is sometimes classified as a "club drug" because its effects make it popular among teenagers and young adults at bars, clubs, concerts, and parties.

Methamphetamine is taken orally, by snorting, through injection, and by smoking. The rush that occurs from injection or smoking and the euphoria that occurs from oral or nasal delivery lasts only a few minutes. Users can become addicted quickly and need to use methamphetamine with increased frequency and increased dosage.

Methamphetamine is manufactured in homemade labs with easily accessible over-the-the counter medications and other chemicals. As a result, quality and content is questionable. The manufacture of methamphetamine releases highly noxious and explosive fumes; and burns are common. To prevent the manufacture of methamphetamine, many retailers of certain over-the-counter medications are mandated to require ID and to track purchases.

Street names for methamphetamine include: speed, meth, chalk, ice, crystal, and glass.

What are the short-term consequences of using methamphetamine?

The unpleasant withdrawal symptoms of methamphetamine occur as the drug's pleasurable effects quickly wear off. These symptoms may include drug craving, extreme irritability, loss of energy, depression, fearfulness, drowsiness or insomnia, shaking, nausea, palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, and increased appetite.

As a stimulant, methamphetamine increases heart rate and elevates blood pressure. Methamphetamine also causes increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hypothermia, and euphoria. In addition, users may experience irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness.

What are the long-term consequences of using methamphetamine?

Individuals can easily become physically and psychologically addicted to methamphetamine after just 1 or 2 experiences with the drug. Users soon build up a tolerance to the effects of the drug and need to take more of the drug to feel its effects. The body becomes dependent on the drug.

In addition, users of methamphetamine may experience:

  1. Damage to blood vessels in the brain resulting in stroke
  2. Respiratory problems and lung disorders
  3. Kidney and liver damage
  4. Chronic depression
  5. Blood clots
  6. Cardiovascular collapse
  7. Extreme anorexia and weight loss
  8. Death

Remember: methamphetamine is addictive!

How do I know if I have a problem with methamphetamine?

Each person is different, but some warning signs are:

  1. More frequent use
  2. Needing larger doses to get the same effect
  3. Spending time thinking about using the drug
  4. Spending more money than you have on it
  5. Missing class or failing to finish assignments because of methamphetamine
  6. Finding that it's hard to be happy without it
  7. Erratic or unpredictable behavior
Treatment

Methamphetamine addiction is typically treated with cognitive behavioral interventions to help modify the patient's thinking and behaviors that led to methamphetamine use and to improve coping skills. Methamphetamine recovery support groups are often used in addition to individual counseling. There is currently no single pharmacological approach to treat methamphetamine addiction, but antidepressants can help alleviate the depressive symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal.

Is methamphetamine illegal?

Methamphetamine and its possession, use, sale, and manufacture are illegal. Recent legislation has regulated the purchase of common items, such as some cold medications, that are used in methamphetamine manufacture.

Where can I get help?

Join Together, a project of the Boston University School of Public Health, maintains a searchable database on treatment facilities so that you can find one convenient to you. Visit http://www.jointogether.org and click on "Find Help."