Crystal Meth Addiction and Treatment

Crystal methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a highly addictive substance that is illegal in all 50 states. This page will help you learn about the dangers of crystal meth and how to seek help.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is an illegal form of methamphetamine, a manmade (synthetic) stimulant drug. Methamphetamine and crystal meth are essentially the same substance, and the terms meth, methamphetamine, and crystal meth are often used interchangeably. Some key differences between meth and crystal meth include:1, 2

  • Legality. Legally made methamphetamine (Desoxyn, as well as generic) is approved to use as a prescription medicine to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder but is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high risk of misuse and addiction. Crystal meth has no medical purpose and is illegal.
  • Appearance. Crystal meth looks like shiny white or bluish-white rocks or glass fragments. Methamphetamine is a white powder, and both legally and illegally made (illicit) forms are pressed into pills.
  • Method of use. Crystal meth is most often smoked, but can also be injected, swallowed, or snorted. Prescription methamphetamine is most often swallowed in pill form, but is sometimes misused by crushing the pill and snorting it or dissolving the pill in liquid to inject it.
  • Intensity. Crystal meth is a more powerful stimulant than amphetamine.

What Happens When You Use Crystal Meth?

Meth causes an intense high (euphoria) and activates the reward center in your brain mainly by increasing the activity of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that helps control movement and motivation and can reinforce behavior, making you want to repeat pleasurable activities. This can in turn help reinforce drug use and lead to addiction.1, 2

But a meth high can fade quickly, and some people use it in a “binge and crash” pattern where they take more meth to maintain the high. In severe binge cases known as a “run,” people often stop eating and sleeping and take meth every few hours for several days.1, 2 Others take meth more regularly at high doses.5

But using meth—even in small amounts—can lead to similar effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine. Some short-term health effects of crystal meth include:1, 2

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • High blood pressure.

Meth Overdose

Another risk of using stimulants such as crystal meth is overdose. In the United States, meth overdose rates nearly tripled between 2015 and 2019. Many of these deaths also involved an opioid such as fentanyl.5 It is common for dealers to cut meth with other substances, so it’s possible to take meth laced with opioids and other harmful substances without even knowing about it.1, 2

Meth overdose signs may include:1, 4

  • Dangerously high body temperature.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Chest pain.
  • Seizures.

Overdose is a serious medical emergency that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or death. If you think you or someone you know may be overdosing, call 911 right away.

Long-Term Health Risks of Crystal Meth

Regular, long-term meth use can lead to other serious health risks, such as:1–4

  • Memory loss and trouble thinking.
  • Sleep troubles.
  • Feeling anxious or irritable.
  • Violent and aggressive behavior.
  • Severe tooth decay and tooth loss (“meth mouth”).
  • Extreme or unintended weight loss.
  • Tolerance, dependence, and addiction, which we’ll discuss more below.

Chronic meth use may also lead to psychosis, a set of symptoms sometimes called “tweaking” that includes:1, 4, 5

  • Paranoia (severe distrust of others).
  • Hallucinations (seeing, feeling, or hearing things that aren’t there).
  • Mood swings, uncontrollable, dulled or exaggerated emotions, or emotional reactions that don’t fit the situation.
  • Repetitive actions and stereotypic behaviors, such as picking at the skin.
  • Disorganized thoughts, speech, and behaviors.

Psychosis can last for weeks, months or years after stopping meth use and can even sometimes be triggered by stress long after you have stopped using.1, 3

It’s also important to note that injecting drugs such as meth increases your risk of hepatitis and HIV. Further, crystal meth can worsen HIV/AIDS symptoms and disease progression.2

Crystal Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine use increases your risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Tolerance is when your body and brain get so used to a drug that you have to take more and more of it to get the same effects.6

Dependence means that your body needs a drug to feel normal so that you may go through withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking it or take a smaller dose.6

Addiction can be fueled by both tolerance and dependence; it is a chronic brain disease marked by continued substance use no matter the harms it causes. But the good news is that addiction is treatable, and people can and do recover from it.

Does your insurance cover treatment at Desert Hope in Las Vegas? 

Check your insurance coverage or text us your questions to learn more about treatment by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

Crystal Meth Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms may appear if you are dependent on meth and suddenly stop using it. Withdrawal symptoms of crystal meth include:2, 4

  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Intense meth cravings.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Psychosis.

Which symptoms you have and how bad they are will depend on factors such as age, length of substance use, additional substances used, and your overall health. Meth withdrawal symptoms are not usually life-threatening, though in some cases depression can be severe and lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.6

How to Treat Crystal Meth Addiction

Crystal meth addiction can be treated with behavioral therapy approaches such as:1, 2, 4

  • The Matrix Model, a 16-week outpatient course that combines one-on-one and group counseling, family therapy, 12-step programs, and other positive support.
  • Contingency management (CM). CM rewards positive behavior changes, such as drug-free urine tests, with rewards or cash prizes.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you identify and change harmful feelings, thoughts, and behaviors related to drug use.

How to Get Help for Crystal Meth Addiction

Admitting you need help can feel scary and overwhelming. Luckily, there are many places in the state of Nevada and across the country that offer compassionate, evidence-based substance use disorder treatment.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction recovery services in Nevada and nationwide. At AAC, compassionate staff works with you to develop personalized treatment plans to address your physical and mental health needs and meet your recovery goals.

Addiction doesn’t have to rule your life any longer. Call to learn more about your recovery options. It’s free, confidential, and always open.