Crystal Methamphetamine Use, Addiction & Recovery FAQ
On This Page:
- What is crystal methamphetamine?
- What type of drug is crystal methamphetamine?
- Where does crystal methamphetamine come from?
- The difference between amphetamine, methamphetamine, and crystal meth?
- What chemicals are in crystal methamphetamine?
- What schedule is methamphetamine?
- What does crystal meth look and smell like?
- What are the signs of crystal methamphetamine use?
- How is crystal methamphetamine used by people?
- How much does crystal methamphetamine typically cost?
- What does crystal methamphetamine do and how does it make you feel?
- How long does crystal methamphetamine last?
- How addictive is crystal methamphetamine?
- What does crystal methamphetamine do to your brain and your body?
- How much crystal methamphetamine does it take to overdose?
- How to detox from and quit methamphetamine or crystal meth?
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What is crystal methamphetamine?
Crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth, is one form of the drug Methamphetamine. It is a highly potent and addictive psychoactive drug that directly affects the central nervous system. In street slang, it is commonly known as meth, blue, crystal, ice, glass, or speed. It’s often used by partygoers, especially at raves and nightclubs, because of the increases in wakefulness and endurance it offers. It most often comes in a clear crystal form or in the form of shiny white rocks with a bluish tint, although because all crystal meth is illicitly manufactured in clandestine street labs and there are no standards, it can also take on other appearances. Users of methamphetamine report that it increases alertness and causes euphoria. It can be smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected intravenously using a syringe. Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance, continued use can cause multiple, significant physical, dental and mental health problems.
What type of drug is crystal methamphetamine?
Crystal meth, or d-methamphetamine, is a synthetic (man-made) psychostimulant. Stimulants are commonly referred to as “uppers.” They act by boosting the release and stopping the reuptake of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This leads to an increase in dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with motor function, motivation, reward, and the brain’s pleasure centers. Due to increased dopamine, during initial use, the drug causes elevated or euphoric mood, increased alertness, concentration, and increased energy levels. These effects cause a strong desire to continue using the drug. However, even early use can also result in rapid and irregular heartbeat, increases in blood pressure, and changes in brain functioning due to unnatural levels of dopamine in the brain.
Where does crystal methamphetamine come from?
To understand the origins of crystal methamphetamine, we should first look at the origins of amphetamines and methamphetamine. Amphetamines are derived from a plant native to China and Mongolia called ephedra or Ephedra sinica. The plant includes ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, natural alkaloids, or “nitrogenous organic compounds.” These ingredients result in the physiological response to the drug amphetamine. They are also the basis for creating the synthetic (man-made) methamphetamine and d-methamphetamine, first developed in Germany in 1887.
Methamphetamine (shortened from N-methylamphetamine), is a completely synthetic, more potent version that’s also easier to make, and was first developed in Japan in 1919.
Crystal Meth is the common name for the crystal form of methamphetamine which looks like shards of glass, bluish crystals or shiny, white rocks. It emerged in the 1980s when “cooks” in street labs making amphetamine discovered that adding ephedrine can produce crystal meth that is twice as potent. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. which is also used for crystal meth, are both found in many over-the-counter cold medicines.
Today, methamphetamine and crystal meth are made in illegal labs in the United States (U.S.) and abroad, often by combining ingredients derived from over the counter (OTC) drugs with toxic substances. The U.S. has many small labs, whereas there are “superlabs” that use more sophisticated equipment and make the drugs in larger batches in Mexico and other countries. When made in a home lab, or in poorly ventilated buildings, it may lead to toxic contamination and in some cases even incendiary explosions.
The difference between amphetamine, methamphetamine, and crystal meth?
Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. The prescription drug Adderall, commonly used to treat ADHD, is an amphetamine. It has a similar chemical make up to methamphetamines. Both amphetamine and methamphetamine (as well as MDMA) belong to the phenethylamine class of drugs and both are Schedule II controlled substances in the United States. They are not chemically identical, but very similar and they have similar effects on the body, depending on potency and dosage. Additionally, when either drug is purchased illicitly (not at a pharmacy), that level of potency is unclear. Generally, methamphetamines are significantly more potent drugs than amphetamines.
Rob Bovet from the Oregon Narcotics enforcement Association said in a PBS interview that “from a chemical perspective, methamphetamine is amphetamine with a methyl group…but it’s pretty much like high-octane vs. low octane gas with methamphetamine being the high-octane version.”
However, crystal meth is the most potent drug of the three. It is a crystalline form of methamphetamine. It has no approved pharmaceutical equivalent and is developed from over-the-counter ingredients like Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
What chemicals are in methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine that is created in legal laboratories, for scientific or pharmaceutical use, contains the chemicals levo-methamphetamine and dextro-methamphetamine, usually in equal amounts. These two are known as methamphetamine “stereoisomers” or, in other words, two mirrored molecules of the methamphetamine compound or substance. Most of the euphoria and addiction producing effects of methamphetamine come from its dextro-methamphetamine component chemical. The levo-methamphetamine component is also available over-the-counter as part of nasal decongestion formulations.
Crystal methamphetamine consists of the chemicals levo-methamphetamine and dextro-methamphetamine, just like pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine, however, it often contains other chemicals which are often the byproducts of illegal synthesis in clandestine, illegal laboratories, or chemicals which are used as cutting agents to dilute the drug and make more of it for a larger profit. Some of the chemicals which may contaminate crystal meth as a byproduct of “cooking” it in illegal labs are toxic substances such as: ether, paint thinner, Freon®, acetone, anhydrous ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium (taken from inside batteries). These and other add-on chemicals, though typically present in trace amounts, are still extremely dangerous and can lead to poisoning and/or other negative health effects to the users.
The chemical methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a common cutting agent found in crystal meth collected from busts and sent to legal authorities for examination. This is an over-the-counter supplement used for osteoarthritis and oxidative stress that looks similar to crystal meth. It has no known side effects on humans, however, there are no peer-reviewed data on the effects of long-term use.
Other popular cutting chemicals include other synthetic stimulants and synthetic caffeine powder. There has even been a report of the dissociative animal tranquilizer drug ketamine being found in samples of crystal meth.
A new dangerous trend confirmed by several reports and sample tests is the use of fentanyl as a cutting chemical in crystal meth. This is particularly disturbing because fentanyl is a very potent drug and has a very high risk of overdose. The combination of a stimulant or upper like crystal meth with an opioid or downer, like fentanyl, is especially dangerous because the stimulating effect of meth can leave the user unaware of the sedating effects of fentanyl in time to stop an overdose that could be fatal.
What schedule is methamphetamine?
Amphetamines and methamphetamines are classified as Schedule II drugs in the United States. Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined by the DEA as drugs with a high potential for abuse and severe psychological and/or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous, although they both have some application in medical practice, primarily for ADHD and Narcolepsy.
What does crystal meth look like? What does crystal meth smell like? What does it smell like when smoked?
Methamphetamine comes in the form of crystalline white powder. Crystal meth is a purer and more potent crystalline version, and comes in the form of clear crystals that look like ice or bluish-white rocks. Both are often odorless, bitter to the taste, and easily dissolve in water. Sometimes the smell of chemicals such as nail polish remover (acetone) or rotten eggs (sulfur) may sometimes be present. When smoked, crystal methamphetamine can have a chemical odor like burning plastic or can smell like something sweet, such as burnt sugar or burnt marshmallows.
What are the signs of crystal methamphetamine use? How to tell if someone is high on methamphetamine?
The signs of crystal methamphetamine are both behavioral and physiological. While the stimulant drug is in effect, users tend to be very alert and physically active, often having trouble sitting still and talking quickly. Other physical signs are dilated pupils, increased heart rate, rapid eye movements, and a lack of saliva, commonly known as dry mouth or cotton mouth. Fidgeting, agitation, and mood swings may occur with significant doses. Accelerated breathing, grinding of teeth, and itching can sometimes occur. In extreme cases, users might show signs of paranoia and/or hallucinations.
Long term or heavy users may have scars and/or skin sores from itching or picking at their skin. Other visible indicators of extended use are weight loss, poor general and dental hygiene, and strange or repetitive behaviors.
How is crystal methamphetamine used by people?
When in its powder form, crystal methamphetamine is typically smoked or snorted but can also be swallowed. When diluted with water it can be injected directly into the bloodstream (IV) for a much stronger and quicker high. There have also been reports of rectal administration of meth, this route is commonly referred to as plugging or boofing. Smoking is the most common method of ingesting crystal meth, followed by snorting and IV.
How much does crystal methamphetamine typically cost?
The prices of crystal meth fluctuate wildly based on location, supply, and demand. A gram in one state can cost the same as a 3 and a half grams or more in another, with the least expensive crystal meth being found in places of high supply on the East Coast, the West Coast, and close to the southern border. The most expensive crystal meth is typically found in the Midwest region of the United States. Like all drugs, its price increases sharply as the quantities purchased decrease. The discounts given for buying larger quantities are usually more significant with crystal methamphetamine than with other illicit drugs. A quarter gram (also known as a ticket or just a quarter) retails as low as $10 and as high as $40 a gram, approximately $30–$100, while 1.75 gram (aka a 16th, a “teenager” or a “teener”) is $60–$130. An 8th of one ounce or 3.5 grams (also a ball or 8-ball) is in the $90-$250 range. A quarter of an ounce or 7 grams (quarter zip in street terms) is around $150-$300, while a full ounce or 28.3 grams (also known as a zip or a zipper) can cost anywhere from $200-$900.
What does crystal methamphetamine do to you? What is it like and how does it feel?
Users describe crystal meth as giving them an exhilarating and euphoric high. They report increased wakefulness, energy, endurance, feelings of confidence, and well-being. The feelings of increased well-being and confidence are particularly desirable for users who may suffer from pre-existing mental health issues. Due to the sense of increased wakefulness and energy, users sometimes go days without any sleep. Binge use that leads to multiple days without sleep, however, can lead to what’s known as “tweaking,” where the user gets increasingly frustrated, paranoid and unstable, possibly leading to hallucinations and psychosis.
How long does crystal methamphetamine last?
When smoked or injected, users feel an almost immediate sense of intense euphoria that can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. This is followed by a longer lasting high that can last approximately 6-8 hours.
When snorted, both the rush and the high that follow are significantly longer – though less intense. With snorting, the initial euphoria phase lasts approximately an hour. The longer lasting high that follows can last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.
Crystal methamphetamine users usually redose many times, sometimes maintaining their high over multiple 24-hour periods. These types of binges (sometimes referred to as tweaking or getting spun) tend to end in a “crash” or a “comedown,” a state of extreme exhaustion often accompanied by negative feelings such as anxiety, depression, agitation, and confusion. This comedown period can last for 12 or more hours.
How addictive is crystal methamphetamine?
Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance. Depending on the psychological and biological profile of the first-time user, psychological addiction to methamphetamine can develop very quickly, sometimes within several uses or faster. The use of crystal meth is characterized by the powerful rush the user experiences right after taking it that is quickly followed by an intense craving for immediate additional use. This begins a “rush-use more” cycle which often leads to binge use behavior. Continued use of crystal meth can lead to a tolerance for the drug fairly quickly, requiring stronger and stronger doses to get the same high. Prolonged use is known to create a very strong psychological dependency. Due to intense cravings, crystal meth users frequently resort to criminal activity in order to a finance their addiction.
What does crystal methamphetamine do to your brain and your body? What are the effects and side effects?
Crystal meth mainly affects the brain’s dopamine system, producing a strong sense of euphoria, increased energy and mental and physical well-being. Crystal meth has many effects on the body such as loss of appetite, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, flushed skin, excessive sweating, increased movement, dry mouth and teeth grinding (often referred to as “meth mouth), rapid breathing, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, high body temperature, diarrhea, distorted vision, light headedness, jitters, acne, and pale appearance. At higher or repeated doses, the potential mental side effects of crystal meth are paranoia, depression, aggression, psychosis, and hallucinations. Chronic use can decrease motor and coordination skills and very long-term use can lead to reduced intelligence. A common side effect of chronic crystal meth use is skin sores due to compulsive itching and picking, with is compounded by the fact that after prolonged use the skin begins to lose the ability to quickly heal due to poor diet and hygiene. Crystal meth related skin sores are typically visible on the face and the arms.
How much crystal methamphetamine does it take to overdose?
The amount it takes to overdose on crystal meth varies from person to person. The risk of an overdose depends on many different factors, some of which include whether crystal meth was mixed with other drugs (other stimulants, downers and opioids being the most dangerous), whether it was taken in larger amounts than usual, whether more doses than usual were taken in quick succession, and if the crystal meth used is more potent than usual. A meth overdose can be identified by lots of sweating, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate and cardiovascular problems. According to a 2019 scientific study, common methamphetamine doses for recreation range from 5 mg to 60 mg. A lethal dose is reported to be around 200 mg – any intake approaching this number is likely to cause an overdose.
How to detox from and quit methamphetamine or crystal meth?
Quitting amphetamines, methamphetamines, or crystal meth can be a difficult task. The first step generally starts with the user’s decision to seek help or the user’s family’s decision for look for assistance. Due to the lethality of the drugs available today, getting help quickly is very important: it can save lives, and often, getting this help falls solely on the family. Many families will be advised to set up an intervention to show their loved one that there is a way out and that the needed support to quit is available. A successful intervention is typically followed by getting help from inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program. Detoxing “cold turkey” is typically not recommended due to the risk involved and can prove nearly impossible. People struggling with crystal methamphetamine addiction need proper medical help while detoxing to mitigate the negative effects of stimulant withdrawal. The most difficult detox period typically takes 7 days; however the total duration largely depends on the time and intensity of stimulant use. Most users see significant improvements in symptoms and cravings by the end of a 30-day period.
Throughout the journey, emotional and mental support is key because the former user may struggle with significant depression in response to the sudden change in brain chemistry. Finding the right treatment and set of services to aid them in recovery from crystal meth or methamphetamine addiction can be critical to success. Important things to look for in an addiction treatment program are the qualifications of the clinical staff, inclusion of medical and psychiatric/psychological staff, licensing and accreditation, inclusion of individual and group counseling, and the types of supplemental services they offer such as cognitive behavior therapy, relapse prevention, art or music therapy, and health/wellness and fitness programs. Additionally, each patient should receive a customized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs. Another critical piece is a robust after-treatment Alumni program to provide a strong social support system, prevent relapse and maintain commitment to long term recovery.