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Understanding Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine (also known as meth or crystal meth) is a man-made illegal drug. It affects how the brain works. Over time, it can change the way you think and act. Some of these changes can cause you great distress. And they can disrupt your life. But methamphetamine addiction can be treated. If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, tell someone you trust. That is the first step in getting help.

What does methamphetamine do?

Some illegal drugs slow down your system. But methamphetamine speeds it up. In fact, methamphetamine is often known as "speed" or "crank." It is like adrenaline that is made by your body. Users have increased energy. Some may go days without food or sleep. The drug comes in many forms. Users can inject, smoke, inhale, or eat it. Methamphetamine causes an intense rush that may last from minutes to hours.

What are the risks?

Methamphetamine triggers your brain to release large amounts of the chemical dopamine. This causes feelings of extreme well-being. It may also damage the cells that make dopamine. This can make it harder to feel pleasure over time. Using methamphetamine may also lead to these problems:

  • Addiction. This means you develop a strong physical and psychological dependence on the drug. And you may not be able to stop taking it on your own. A potent form of methamphetamine known as "ice" or "crystal meth" is even more addictive.

  • Overdose. You may need more and more methamphetamine to feel good. But taking too much can lead to seizures or death. According to the CDC, thousands of people die each year from methamphetamine overdose.

  • Exposure to HIV. Using shared needles to inject methamphetamine can spread the virus that cause AIDS and hepatitis.

  • Hallucinations. You may hear and see things that aren’t there.

  • Paranoia. You may have intense feelings of fear of other people.

  • Violent action

  • Bleeding in the brain

  • Severe dental problems, called meth mouth

  • Heart problems, such as heart attacks

How can you get help?

In many cases, your healthcare provider can help. Or check your phone book or the internet for mental health centers and drug treatment programs. You can also try the resources below.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
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