Methamphetamine, also called “meth,” “ice,” and “glass,” is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the body’s central nervous system. By increasing levels of dopamine in the brain, methamphetamine causes an intense high that makes users feel talkative and energetic. However, the drug also has negative effects that can be extreme and alarming, such as paranoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior. Methamphetamine is very damaging to the body and brain, especially when abused regularly. Read below to learn why methamphetamine is harmful and what meth addiction looks like.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “meth,” is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic stimulant that raises activity levels in the central nervous system. The drug is chemically similar to the stimulant amphetamine, and has been used in medical settings as treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity. At first, methamphetamine causes feelings of euphoria, alertness, and energy. However, when the good feelings start to wear off, users can feel edgy, anxious, paranoid, and irritable. Methamphetamine abuse also causes severe medical issues, such as “meth mouth,” body sores, and brain damage.

What Are Common Street Names for Methamphetamine?

Popular names for methamphetamine include:

  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Meth
  • Speed
  • Tina
  • Trash
  • Chalk
  • Chicken feed
  • Crank

What Does Methamphetamine Look Like?

Regular methamphetamine can be found in either powder or pill form. In powder form, the drug appears as a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder. Crystal meth looks like glass fragments or blueish rocks.

How Is Methamphetamine Used?

Methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted, injected, or smoked. The effects of the drug differ in potency and length based on the method of use. When methamphetamine is smoked or injected, the drug travels very quickly to the bloodstream and brain, resulting in an immediate and intense rush. When snorted or ingested orally, users experience the high effects of the drug within minutes, but there is no intense rush.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine makes users feel energized and alert, like cocaineamphetamines, and other stimulants. Though meth users may become more physically active and self-confident, they may also experience unwanted short-term consequences such as:

  • Overheating
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors

After using meth, users will feel an initial rush for about 30 minutes followed by a steady high that usually lasts between 8 and 24 hours.

Why Is Methamphetamine Harmful?

Methamphetamine is harmful in both smaller and larger doses, as the brain’s receptors can be significantly damaged after consuming even lower quantities of the drug, leading to memory loss, powerful mood swings, and psychological problems. Meth can cause other serious health issues in higher doses, including organ damage, strokes, heart attacks, tooth decay, and anorexia. As with opioid use, meth use is becoming increasingly common in the United States.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse?

Repeated misuse can lead to methamphetamine addiction and various health problems, such as:

  • Depression
  • Brain damage
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Cardiovascular collapse

What Are the Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance. Tolerance to the drug can develop quickly, and continued methamphetamine abuse can lead to a neurological dependence. Meth addiction can cause behavioral and physical changes, such as:

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Bizarre, often violent behavior

Physical Signs

  • Twitching
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry, itchy skin/acne
  • Diarrhea/constipation

Habitual users of methamphetamine may also develop “meth mouth,” which is characterized by gum disease and severe acidic tooth decay. The teeth of people with a methamphetamine substance use disorder appear as blackened, rotting, and stained. Continued meth use can also cause the formation of skin sores. Meth sores are typically found on the face but can form anywhere on the body. These sores are scabbed or open patches of skin and can easily become infected. One of the side effects of prolonged methamphetamine abuse is itching and picking at the skin, which is the main reason why these sores develop.

What Does a Methamphetamine Overdose Look Like?

An overdose occurs when an individual takes a toxic amount of the drug. Due to methamphetamine’s highly addictive nature, overdoses are common. Because meth directly affects the nervous system and increases heart rate and blood pressure, a toxic amount can vary greatly depending on the individual’s health. Early symptoms of a meth overdose can be similar to the effects from being high on meth. Other symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe agitation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Kidney failure or damage
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack/stroke
  • High body temperature
  • Intense stomach pain

Individuals who overdose on methamphetamine require immediate medical attention, as the symptoms stated above can be life-threatening.

How Is Methamphetamine Addiction Treated?


The first step in recovering from addiction is to discontinue use. While medically monitored detox is not necessary for methamphetamine addiction, abruptly stopping use can lead to severe cravings and serious psychological withdrawal symptoms. To ensure safety and reduce the risk of relapse, it is recommended that individuals be under medical supervision when they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Extreme depression


Methamphetamine is extremely addictive, and it is therefore important for individuals to participate in a comprehensive treatment plan that includes drug counseling and will provide them with the tools to manage triggers and prevent relapse. Rehabilitation options such as inpatient, residential treatment and outpatient treatment also help individuals address the root cause of their addiction.

Because addiction affects the individual as a whole, it is important to incorporate holistic therapies into traditional drug treatment. Doing so helps to foster physical, mental, and spiritual wellness, ultimately better preparing the individual for life after treatment.

Those struggling with methamphetamine addiction can especially benefit from holistic therapies that bolster self-esteem and strengthen physical health. Individuals who used meth as a source of energy can try cardio and weightlifting to naturally improve their stamina. Those who relied on meth to provide them with a confidence boost can find a similar but safer alternative through personal empowerment. Meth users who experienced decreased appetite and weight loss can learn how to restore their physical health through nutrition education.

For other holistic therapies that help restore total well-being, explore our Wellness page.

Methamphetamines take a rapid toll on your physical and mental health. If you or a loved one is struggling, reach out for help. Our compassionate team of experts is here to help.

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