Learning About Meth (Methamphetamine)

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What is meth?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that's similar to amphetamine. It is sometimes prescribed to treat ADHD or obesity. The illegal form of this drug is called meth. It may also be called crystal meth, speed, ice, crystal, glass, or chalk. It's often made in home labs from cheap, sometimes toxic ingredients.

Meth is usually sold as a white powder or small, clear crystals that may look like ice or rocks. It can be smoked, snorted, or swallowed. It can also be dissolved in water or alcohol and injected.

Meth is very addictive, and it can lead to stimulant use disorder.

How does meth affect you?

People who use meth may become anxious, confused, and violent. It can affect a person's brain so that they cannot tell what is real (psychosis). For example, the person may:

  • Fear that others want to harm them (paranoia).
  • See or hear things that seem real but aren't (hallucinations).
  • Believe things that aren't true (delusions).

In high doses, meth can increase body temperature to dangerous levels. It can cause seizures. Because the drug raises heart rate and blood pressure, it can damage blood vessels in the brain. This can cause a stroke.

Meth can lead to stimulant use disorder. This may also be called substance use disorder. This means that a person uses meth even though it causes harm to themself or others.

A person who has substance use disorder will have two or more of these symptoms:

  • Using more of the drug or using it for a longer time than they ever meant to.
  • Being unable to cut down or control their use.
  • Spending a lot of time getting or using the drug or recovering from the effects.
  • Being unable to do their main jobs at work, at school, or at home.
  • Continuing to use, even though substance use hurts their relationships.
  • Not doing important activities because of their substance use.
  • Using the drug in situations where doing so is dangerous, such as driving.
  • Using the drug even though they know it's causing health problems.
  • Needing more of the drug to get the same effect or getting less effect from the same amount over time (tolerance).
  • Having uncomfortable symptoms when they stop using the drug or use less (withdrawal).

What are the signs of meth use?

Some signs that a person may be using meth include:

  • Going long periods of time without eating or sleeping.
  • Losing weight.
  • Acting nervous. The person may talk fast, seem irritated, or move around a lot.
  • Having wide (dilated) pupils in the eyes and an increased pulse rate.
  • Having dental problems.
  • Having personality changes.

How is stimulant use disorder treated?

Treatment may include group therapy, one or more types of counseling, and drug education.

Treatment focuses on more than drugs. It helps you cope with the anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment that often happen when people try to stop using drugs.

Treatment also looks at other parts of your life. For example, how are your relationships with friends and family? What's going on at school and work? Treatment helps you take control of your life so you don't have to depend on drugs.

Drug use affects your whole family. Family counseling often is part of treatment.

It can be hard to stop using drugs. But many people have overcome a use disorder. And most of them started by reaching out to others, like caring friends or family, their doctor, or a support group.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.