Methamphetamines and their side effects

Originally Published: December 3, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 1, 2008
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(1)
Alice,

Although I really dig your web site and will recommend it to others, I noticed that you present no 411 on methamphetamine. Could you tell me some about this type of drug (crystal, glass/ice, etc.)?

Thanks,
new fan

(2)
Dear Alice,

I've smoked crystal meth about five times in two months and have stopped for about a week. Even now I have side effects like dry mouth, dehydration, and sweaty hands. The side effects are gradually slowing down except for the sweaty hands. I am wondering if this side effect will go away or if it is permanent. I also think that my CNS has taken some damage. Is that also permanent?

Thanks,
Frozen

Dear new fan and Frozen,

Methamphetamines, also known as "crystal," "crystal meth," "crank," "tweak," "go-fast," and, in its smokable form, "ice" or "glass," is a member of the stimulant class of drugs, often referred to as speed. It is similar in effect to other amphetamines, but packs an even more intense punch.

Crystal meth was first seen in South Korea and Taiwan, and came onto the market as a legal appetite suppressant. It is still available in a prescription form to temporarily address obesity, although it's infrequently used for this purpose. The methamphetamine available on the street, however, is most often culled from underground labs, where the drug is cooked up in varying potencies and with differing purity. It usually appears as a white powder, or, in the case of ice, as whitish crystals. It is sometimes odorless, but it can also have a strong ammonia smell — the by-product of illegal, sketchy production in bootleg labs.

As with other stimulants, crystal meth decreases appetite, reduces fatigue, boosts alertness and confidence, and, at higher doses, creates feelings of exhilaration and euphoria. Users are usually talkative, energetic, and have a sense of well-being. When injected or smoked, it brings on an intense rush; this sensation is often what causes users to "chase" their high and use more and more crystal, increasingly often. This is part of what makes crystal so potently addictive.

Methamphetamines arouse the central nervous system, increasing heart rate and elevating blood pressure and body temperature. With repeated and/or high dose use, it can cause nausea, tremors, dizziness, hyperthermia (when the body temperature rises to dangerously high levels), heart failure, and stroke. Psychologically, meth can cause anxiety and hallucinations. Heavy users have also experienced something called toxic psychosis, a phenomenon in which the person feels panicked and paranoid, and may behave violently toward other people or themselves. They may also get seemingly stuck in repetitive physical movements or speech patterns. Although these symptoms usually resolve when the methamphetamine is cleared completely out of the body, they sometimes linger for weeks or even months. Scientists believe this is probably due to damage of neurotransmitters in the brain.

When crystal users go on a binge — what's called "amping" or "tweaking" for days on end — they often experience poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and other undesireable side effects. "Tweaking" can go on and on until the user has run out of money, is mentally confused and disoriented, is physically exhausted, or worse. Overdose on methamphetamine is highly possible, especially in this scenario.

Another factor to consider is that whether someone is smoking, swallowing, injecting, or snorting crystal meth, they're likely to be careless about other aspects of their health. In addition to lack of sleep and malnutrition, risk of HIV and Hepatitis C infection go way up if users share their needles to get a fix. Also, although stimulant use has been associated with difficulty maintaining an erection, methamphetamines seem to increase sex-drive. Feeling pumped and confident, some users engage in unsafe and/or rough sex, increasing their exposure to HIV, Hep C, and other STIs.

"Frozen," the symptoms you are experiencing might or might not be related to your crystal use. It's possible that your body is still recovering from its over-stimulation and, with proper nutrition and plenty of rest, the symptoms will subside. However, checking in with your health care provider and discussing your methamphetamine use and concerns could help to put your mind at ease. If your use is creating concerns for you (medical or otherwise), it might be a good time to examine the reasons you are using crystal (or any other drugs, for that matter), and how they're affecting your body, mind, and relationships.

For more information about speed, read Where's the freaking info about speed? in Alice's Alcohol and Other Drugs archive.

Alice

July 16, 2008

21376

To the reader:

I was a meth addict for 13 years. I did the rehab thing a couple of times, tried N.A. and tried cold turkey. What ended up working for me was my family and myself sold our...

To the reader:

I was a meth addict for 13 years. I did the rehab thing a couple of times, tried N.A. and tried cold turkey. What ended up working for me was my family and myself sold our house and moved to a different state. I did not go searching out those same people in my new home. In Georgia, where I am from, I had been a bartender for many years and just couldn't seem to break off my "connections." My husband had to start over on a whole new career but hey I am alive and setting the kind of example for my kids that I always wanted to.

—Happy in a new town.

P.S. I have been sober for 3 years now. Yeah!!!!!

April 30, 2008

21441

To the reader:

From what I see regarding meth, it is a drug that you do not want to even try. It ages you quickly, rots your teeth, and makes you look like a druggie. It messes with your...

To the reader:

From what I see regarding meth, it is a drug that you do not want to even try. It ages you quickly, rots your teeth, and makes you look like a druggie. It messes with your brain considerably, gives you hallucinations and paranoia and sometimes the brain damage is irreversible.

March 14, 2007

21208

Alice,

Well, I smoked for 9+ months, and I sometimes still smoke meth. I've noticed that it's hard as hell to get off of it, even though it has started to eat away at my teeth and my memory...

Alice,

Well, I smoked for 9+ months, and I sometimes still smoke meth. I've noticed that it's hard as hell to get off of it, even though it has started to eat away at my teeth and my memory is gone. I can't even run without some residue from my lungs coming up.

I don't know... really, it's just messed my life up physically and emotionally — I have lost a lot. My family and friends have all turned their backs on me. Right now, I'm cleaning up... well, I'm trying to... because it's very addictive.

Thank you for your time.

willy wonka

February 24, 2006

21033

Alice,

The sweaty hands and the thirst I don't think go away. I've been clean and sober for a 18 months and I still occasionally get those. My best advice is stay away from the stuff, the...

Alice,

The sweaty hands and the thirst I don't think go away. I've been clean and sober for a 18 months and I still occasionally get those. My best advice is stay away from the stuff, the sooner you get away the better...

January 31, 2006

21022

Dear Alice,

My husband and I have been using meth on and off for about 2 and a half years, and let me tell you, it's not all fun and games once it has got a hold of you. He went to jail for...

Dear Alice,

My husband and I have been using meth on and off for about 2 and a half years, and let me tell you, it's not all fun and games once it has got a hold of you. He went to jail for a night and I thought that he was done, he said he never wanted to go back down that road. But it seems the longer we do it, the better we are at hiding it, and it becomes a game, more like a nightmare you cant wake up from. If you've never done it, I urge you strongly not to.... it will ruin your life, or what brain cells you have left, it's not fun when your loved one thinks that there are people outside watching you everywhere, when all he's really seeing are the trees..

September 29, 2005

20959
Dear Alice,

The side affects are the loss of EVERYTHING to me, a recovering "ice" addict. I lost my husband, my home, two high paying jobs, my good credit, and the trust my family had in me...

Dear Alice,

The side affects are the loss of EVERYTHING to me, a recovering "ice" addict. I lost my husband, my home, two high paying jobs, my good credit, and the trust my family had in me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paula, Alabama

August 25, 2005

20941
Dear Alice,

"Ice" is destroying my son, and our family. He has been hospitalized 6 times because of it... and has been evicted from 3 apartments because of it. He is homeless now, and on a 14-day...

Dear Alice,

"Ice" is destroying my son, and our family. He has been hospitalized 6 times because of it... and has been evicted from 3 apartments because of it. He is homeless now, and on a 14-day hold in a mental hospital because of the extreme side effects of it. It has messed up his brain so badly he can't see the direct connection between his meth use and the destruction of his life. The drug is poison, and the people who sell it are the worst kind of life form. I only hope and pray my son will realize how this drug is robbing him of his life, and that his brain cells haven't been permanently damaged.

August 2, 2005

20935
Dear Alice,

I used Meth for approximately 3 years before I actually woke up. It robbed me of my health, my money (lots), and my marriage of 8-1/2 years.

Looking back now, I wish that I...

Dear Alice,

I used Meth for approximately 3 years before I actually woke up. It robbed me of my health, my money (lots), and my marriage of 8-1/2 years.

Looking back now, I wish that I would have never tried it because once I did, it just sucked me right in and that was it. I had made several attempts to stop "using," but it overpowers, you don't realize it.

Presently, I have not used in 5 years, but have watched those I use to "party" with have strokes, go to jail, neglect their children and themselves, one even died because of meth. It is so sad that some people don't have enough respect for themselves to quit hurting themselves.

"Stronger Now"

October 19, 2004

20812
Dear Alice,

I met a wonderful, intelligent, passionate, caring man. Then I lost him to meth. When I had to make him leave, he took my heart with him. Please don't underestimate the destruction...

Dear Alice,

I met a wonderful, intelligent, passionate, caring man. Then I lost him to meth. When I had to make him leave, he took my heart with him. Please don't underestimate the destruction of meth: it kills. It doesnt "just" (slowly, quickly) kill the user, it kills the hearts and souls of the user's girlfriends, parents, family, friends... Meth kills. Please don't use it, or if you're already enchanted with it, please stop. Now. Yea, just like that if you value anything or anyone other than your high.

Honestly,
Wolfes' ex.

August 20, 2004

20783
Alice,

I've been a user of "ice" for about 2 years now. I've smoked it, snorted it, and did it in "hotrail" form, which is another way of using "ice." I have had several big problems in my life...

Alice,

I've been a user of "ice" for about 2 years now. I've smoked it, snorted it, and did it in "hotrail" form, which is another way of using "ice." I have had several big problems in my life to deal with and I found that using "ice" was a way to releive my stress and worries. At the beginning of my use, I didn't "need" it and only used on occasion. Now, 2 years later, I find myself needing it everyday. I have lost a lot of money and a dear relationship. The drug didn't have everything to do with my problems BUT it had a LOT to do with it. I hope that anyone reading this will understand that in using "ice" or any form of "meth," IT will HURT you whether it's a medical or mental problem!! PLEASE DON'T USE DRUGS!!!

YOUR VERY CONCERNED FRIEND,
CAT

May 9, 2004

20642
Dear Alice, It has been eight months since I last smoked ice and still have a tingly tongue, numbness in my limbs, tremors, and bouts of anxiety. I am looking forward to the day that I will quit...
Dear Alice, It has been eight months since I last smoked ice and still have a tingly tongue, numbness in my limbs, tremors, and bouts of anxiety. I am looking forward to the day that I will quit being punished for doing such a terrible drug (if there ever will be a day). I would highly recommend to all your readers to never try it or stop doing it immediately. I never would have guessed that this would have happened to me. It hasn't to any of my other friends who used, but it did happen to me and could happen to anyone. Thanks, Cookie

February 4, 2000

20340
Dear Alice,

I have used speed for seven years straight. Many times my usage and addiction outdid my money and I used to lie, steal, and cheat to support my habit. What you fail to mention is that...

Dear Alice,

I have used speed for seven years straight. Many times my usage and addiction outdid my money and I used to lie, steal, and cheat to support my habit. What you fail to mention is that there is hope out there for the addict who still suffers from this disease. Narcotics Anonymous has helped me to obtain one year clean and sober, and I cannot stress the importance of this program. Maybe you could put a connecting web site to an NA program site.

Thanks,
Recovering