Methamphetamine (meth) is a potent substance that affects your central nervous system. Common meth street names are:
Many people report feeling more awake and energetic when taking the drug. Like all illicit substances, meth can be highly addictive. It also has numerous short-term and long-term risks. Here are the meth facts you need to know.
A Brief History of Meth
Meth derives from amphetamine, a synthetic mood-altering stimulant. A Japanese chemist first synthesized meth in 1893. In 1919, the chemist Akira Ogata streamlined the manufacturing process. He created crystal meth by combining phosphorus and iodine.
At first, doctors prescribed meth for various medical ailments, like:
- Weight loss
During World War II, military personnel in various countries used meth to stay alert and awake. For example, Japanese factory workers took meth for longer production hours. Kamikaze pilots took it before suicide flight missions. American soldiers used it for wakefulness.
After the war, meth use rose significantly. The drug remained legal in the United States, and many students, athletes, and employees used it. Amphetamines remained a popular weight loss drug. Although America banned meth in 1970, many people continued abusing the drug.
At first, American motorcycle gangs controlled most meth production efforts. But by the 1990s, Mexican drug trafficking cartels opened facilities in California. Today, manufacturers produce meth in these large-scale facilities and clandestine labs. Meth remains unregulated. This poses serious risks for users and manufacturers alike. It’s not uncommon for meth to contain poisonous, fatal chemicals.
Who Uses Meth?
While the opioid epidemic takes most of the headlines, meth remains a consistent problem. Meth overdose rates quadrupled from 2011 to 2017. Hospitalization rates surged by 245%. In the West and Midwest, most law enforcement agrees meth is the greatest drug threat.
How Does Meth Affect Your Brain?
Meth increases dopamine levels. Dopamine helps regulate motivation and positive reinforcement. It also affects mood and pleasure. Because meth releases high amounts of dopamine, the user wants to repeat the positive experience. This cycle can increase the chances for addiction.
What Does Meth Look Like?
Meth typically comes in a white powder form. It may be shades of gray, pink, or brown. Some meth comes as a tablet. Crystal meth comes in crystal formations that look like ice.
What Does Meth Smell Like?
Most meth is odorless. If it’s smoked, it may smell like chemicals. At times, it can smell like burnt plastic.
What Are the Side Effects of Meth Use?
Similar to other stimulants, meth side effects include:
- Increased sense of wakefulness
- Rapid, irregular heartbeats
- Decreased appetite
- Increased sex drive
- Increased blood pressure
- Decreased body temperature
- Sense of euphoria
- Increased aggressiveness or irritability
Some people experience more concerning side effects. Bingeing on meth can result in psychosis, which is the presence of hallucinations or delusions. If you’re in psychosis, you can’t separate fantasy and reality.
Meth can also cause serious long-term damage. These side effects include:
- Damaged blood vessels
- Kidney damage
- Lung damage
- Destruction of nose tissue (if meth is sniffed)
- Infection with diseases like hepatitis C (if meth is injected)
- Breathing problems
- Severe weight loss
- Severe tooth decay
- Long-term psychosis
- Long-term dependence on meth
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
The meth half-life is about 10 hours. This means it takes about 10 hours for half of what you ingested to metabolize and be eliminated from your bloodstream. Meth can be detected in the urine anywhere between one and seven days. Urine tests typically show a high concentration. That’s because meth’s metabolites are eliminated through urine. Blood tests detect meth from one to three days after the last use. A hair follicle test can detect meth for up to 90 days.
What Are the Signs of Meth Addiction?
- Experiencing strong cravings
- Needing to take more meth to achieve the desired effect (developing a tolerance)
- Psychological withdrawals when abstaining from meth
- Spending excess time, money, or resources to get meth
- Engaging in risky behavior to obtain or use meth
- Being unable to stop meth use (despite wanting to do so)
- Using meth even though you have legal or financial problems
- Using meth despite relationship or self-esteem problems
If you are a loved one of someone you suspect is using meth, it can be hard to detect addiction. Some warning signs of meth use include:
- Sudden and dramatic weight loss
- Thin, brittle hair
- Inflamed gums and rotting or dirty teeth
- Track marks
- Burn marks on lips or fingers
- Paraphernalia, like needles, glass pipes, rolled-up dollar bills, spoons, aluminum foil, tourniquets
- Violent outbursts
- Extreme mood swings
- Major changes in sleep
- Unexplained financial problems
- Symptoms of paranoia
- Absences at work or school
- Withdrawal from friends and family
There’s no doubt that meth is a dangerous drug. It can be addictive. It can also be fatal. That said, it’s possible to get the help you need for your meth use. Learn about meth addiction treatment at Footprints to Recovery here.