Whether it’s injected, snorted, or smoked, methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that affects the brain and central nervous system. Methamphetamine increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood altering levels of energy, alertness and other bodily functions.
In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies methamphetamine as a Schedule II substance.1 This means that the drug is illegal when used recreationally and that it has a high potential for misuse, but that there are some restricted medical uses.
Also Known As: Some common street names for methamphetamine include meth, crystal, speed, crank, and tweak.
Drug Class: Meth is a stimulant drug that increases activity in the central nervous system.
Common Side Effects: Meth use can lead to side effects such as nausea, diarrhee, vomiting, seizures, anxiety, and depression.
How to Recognize Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine most often takes the form of a white, crystalline powder. While it is odorless, it has a bitter taste. The powder dissolves easily in water. Crystal meth looks like chips of clear ice. Illegal forms of the drug can be snorted, smoked, injected, or orally ingested.
What Does Methamphetamine Do?
When methamphetamine is injected or smoked, it immediately produces an intensely pleasurable sensation known as a “rush” or a “flash.” It does so by releasing high levels of dopamine in the brain. Snorting methamphetamine produces a euphoric sensation, but not a rush.
The effects of methamphetamine are similar to those of other stimulants and include feelings of pleasure, agitation, increased sociability, physical alertness, decreased appetite, low inhibitions, and mental confusion.1
Even when taken in small amounts, methamphetamine can cause increased wakefulness and physical activity. A decreased appetite is also common.
Common Side Effects
Physically, meth can increase respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can cause hyperthermia and an irregular heartbeat. There is also the potential for cardiovascular collapse.6
Other effects of meth use on the central nervous system can produce symptoms like irritability, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Some users also suffer from prolonged insomnia and tremors.1
Hyperthermia and convulsions can be fatal. Methamphetamine can also cause irreversible damage to the blood vessels in the brain, which can result in a stroke.
Signs of Use
Some of the common signs that someone might be using methamphetamine include:1
- Presence of drug paraphernalia
- Dilated pupils
- Poor appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Burns on lips and fingers
- Jerky movements and twitching
- Skin sores and scabs
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Rotten teeth
Overdose is another danger associated with methamphetamine use. An overdose results in a rapid onset of physiological deterioration, eventually leading to a heart attack or stroke. Because of the speed of onset, death occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.7
A meth overdose produces profuse sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and dilated pupils. A person who has overdosed on meth will have a high temperature, kidney failure, and cardiovascular collapse.7 The truly scary part is that it will all happen very quickly.
If you suspect that someone has overdosed on methamphetamine, contact emergency services immediately.