Methamphetamine: Fast Track to Abuse and Addiction

Names used: Meth, speed, crank, crystal, ice, glass, uppers, tweak, black beauties.

Most widely referred to as "speed," methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine and it, too, is a stimulant that activates various systems within the brain. It is much more powerful than amphetamine and consequently works quicker and more dramatically on the central nervous system. Both drugs are used in the treatment of obesity but their addictive qualities have cut therapeutic applications in recent years.


Meth circulated "on the street" is most commonly called "speed or crank. " A more highly sophisticated product is methamphetamine hydrochloride. It is a clear, chunky form of crystals resembling ice and is sometimes referred to in that term. It may also be called "crystal or glass" by users. The drug releases high levels of stimulant dopamine that works on brain cells to activate body movement and elevate moods.

When used regularly it has a neurotoxic effect and can damage dopamine and serotonin cells of the brain. Long term effects can lead to a condition similar to Parkinson's disease with very severe movement disorders.

Even small amounts of the drug will cause wakefulness, decreased appetite, hyperthermia and a euphoric state. The user is often irritable, anxious and paranoid. Tremors and convulsions can be brought on with small dosages. Severe hyperthermia can result in loss of consciousness and death.

Methamphetamine is highly addictive. It may be taken orally, may be smoked, or taken intravenously. When inhaled or injected "speed" users experience intense sensations called a "rush or flash. " This reaction is limited in time but felt very pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use brings euphoria but no rush. In any form meth addiction can be brought on quickly with an ever increasing need for higher dosages.

In the long term, these drugs can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain and generate strokes. Other effects include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat and cardiovascular complications. Methamphetamine can strongly contribute to any form of eating disorder and particularly, anorexia nervosa.

Some additional facts about Methamphetamine:

  • The drug is illegal when used without a prescription and deaths often results from overdose. Over 90% of fatalities reported included use with substances such as alcohol and cocaine.
  • Meth affects body, brain and self-control. Delusional thinking can push the body further and faster than it's meant to go. An overdose can result in heart failure. Hospital E/R visits due to meth abuse have increased every year since 1995.
  • Severe depression, or "crashes," are frequent. Although easy to obtain "speed"is both dangerous and addictive. Often manufactured by dealers, concoctions include ingredients such as drain cleaners, battery acid and antifreeze. The expression: "speed kills" is a very valid one!
  • Despite street dealer assurances "meth" can be just as harmful with "first timers" as "crack," cocaine or heroin. It is not a simple "diet pill" but a highly addictive drug when used improperly.

If you or someone you know is abusing methamphetamine consider the possibilities of addiction. And, also understand abusers are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B or C. These are very likely consequences of meth usage particularly with those that inject the drug and often share injection kits. These infections spread among drug users faster than with any other segment of the population.

The most effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction is behavioral intervention or "changes in life style. " These approaches are designed to adjust thinking and behavior - to increase skills in coping with the challenges faced in various life stresses.