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Crystal Meth

What Does Crystal Meth Look Like? Is Crystal Meth Addictive? Crystal Meth Users. Effects of Crystal Meth. Crystal Meth Addiction

What is Crystal Meth? 

Crystal meth is the common name for crystal methamphetamine. It is a powerful and highly addictive synthetic (man-made) drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS) [1]. Crystal meths are usually a colorless and odorless form of methamphetamine that typically resembles small fragments of glass or shiny blue-white “rocks” of different sizes. Crystal meth addiction has devastating effects. It can cause lung disorders, kidney damage, hyperthermia, substance-induced psychosis, stroke, and cardiac arrest. In addition, crystal meth physically alters one’s facial appearance through the physical and psychological side effects. Oral or dental disease, including meth mouth, was one of the most prevalent (41.3 percent) medical comorbidities in meth users.

Crystal eth has been classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [2] as a Schedule II controlled substance, which makes it legally available only through prescription. Crystal meth takes the form of white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline fragments that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

Crystal meth can also be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested. Crystal meth, however, usually has a higher purity level and may produce even longer-lasting and more intense physiological effects than the powdered form of the drug. The meth effects can last for a period of between 4 and 12 hours. People who use crystal meth sometimes combine it with other drugs, such as alcohol or fentanyl (a “speedball”), which can be particularly dangerous and raise the risk of a drug overdose.

Crystal Meth
Severe psychosis caused by meth effects has been reported in countries where the use of the drug is widespread.

Many users will talk about meth using what are called street names or crystal meth slang names to cover up their drug use or addiction. As the effects of meth use are severe, it’s crucial to stay educated on the latest crystal meth slang names, particularly if you’re concerned that a family member or a friend may be using or abusing this drug. Crystal can kill you. High doses can cause the body to overheat to dangerous levels. Methamphetamine overdose nearly tripled from 2015 to 2019 among people ages 18-64 in the United States. 

What does meth feel like? Meth gives the user a rush of energy and intense feelings of pleasure. This is mainly due to the rush of dopamine produced by the drug. Dopamine is a chemical that’s not only responsible for inducing feelings of euphoria. Crystal meth abuse use can have a profound impact on the users’ sleep. This is because meth releases a surge of chemicals known as serotonin and dopamine into the body. This is why most people who are “high” can’t sleep after meth use.

Crystal Meth

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What Does Crystal Meth Look Like?

Generally, these crystals resemble shiny pieces of glass or rock salt. As with the powdered version of the drug, crystal meth can look very different depending on how it was manufactured. To produce these crystals, powdered meth is dissolved in a solvent such as acetone. As this mixture evaporates, you see crystals start to form around the edges of the container. Typically, this type of meth is smoked or injected. You can expect this form to give a much stronger and longer-lasting high than powdered meth.

The color of meth is usually white or translucent, but it can also appear yellow, brown, orange, or pink. It comes in various colors depending on how it is made and what it is cut with. Meth manufacturers have been known to add food coloring or dye to batches of meth to help peddle their product. Whatever the form, the illegal stimulant delivers an intense and energetic high. It can cause dangerous side effects, including a rapid and irregular heartbeat, an elevated body temperature, convulsions, and even death.

Crystal meth can stay in the system longer than a weaker form of the same drug. The question is, how long does crystal meth stay in your system? One of the main reasons to be aware of how long meth remains in the system is the risk of overdose.

Is Crystal Meth Addictive?

Is crystal meth addictive? Yes. Meth addiction statistics in 2020 show that more than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, marking the largest one-year increase in overdose deaths ever recorded. Overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, and particularly crystal meth, have also risen steeply in recent years, and many of these deaths involved the use of an opioid at the same time.

Crystal Meth
As is the case with many drugs, tolerance to meth effects develops when it is taken repeatedly. 

Meth addiction is a serious worldwide public health problem with major medical, psychiatric, socioeconomic, and legal consequences. According to data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 14.7 million people (5.4 percent of the population) have tried methamphetamine at least once.

Meth increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Meth causes an intense elevated or euphoric mood that is much stronger than cocaine. Experiencing these unnatural dopamine levels causes a strong desire to continue using the drug. It becomes addictive because your body experiences intense cravings to maintain the euphoric state, which often results in constant redosing and binge-like behavior to achieve that goal.

Crystal Meth Users 

Even if you don’t know much about crystal meth, you’re probably aware that its use comes with some serious health risks, including addiction. If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s understandable to panic and wants to jump to help right away.

We’ve all seen the way the media portrays people who use crystal meth, whether it’s in fictional TV shows or ubiquitous “before and after” photos highlighting missing teeth and facial sores.

It’s true that meth can cause a range of visible, physical symptoms for some folks, including:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Quick, jerky eye movements
  • Facial twitching
  • increased sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Jerky or twitchy body movements or tremors
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Tooth decay
  • High energy and excitement (euphoria)
  • Frequent scratching or picking at the hair and skin
  • Sores on the face and skin
  • Constant, rapid speech

Meth use can also lead to changes in mood and behavior. Again, the signs below can have other causes, including mental health issues like stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.

Someone using meth might have noticeable changes in behavior and emotions, including:

  • Increased activity, like hyperactivity or restlessness
  • Impulsive or unpredictable behavior
  • Aggressive or violent reactions
  • Anxious, nervous, or irritable behavior
  • Suspicion of others (paranoia) or other irrational beliefs (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Going with little or no sleep for days at a time

What is a Meth Head?

A meth head is a crystal meth user (also referred to as a “tweaker”.) Meth heads are known for their extreme paranoia, flagrant dishonesty, and lack of non-methhead friends. A meth head will steal your stuff and then help you look for it. This is a stereotypical definition of a meth head. Your “typical” meth head is someone who likes to get high and often smokes throughout the day.

They never really stay in one place for too long because they are always on the go. They house surf and carry a backpack with all their worldly belongings. They will sell whatever they have to get a pipe load, and they will appear dirty because they are constantly working on something, whether it be their bicycle or rewiring their car stereos.

Then you have your “functioning addict” these are the ones you don’t and won’t even suspect are meth users at all. They are not the stereotypical meth heads. They are your rugged, clean-cut men, your prim and proper women. The men that own and are running your local heating and airconditioning business and the women that sit at their desks making your appointments and sending you your invoices

Others say that “Meth Head” is actually used by law enforcement and those out there who have no clue what using meth is like and therefore have no first-hand knowledge of what meth actually does to the human mind and body. They use the term only to label meth users. To say “meth head” is similar to stereotyping a group of people based on a characteristic.

It, along with many other terms like “crack head” or “nerd” is not only derogatory, but it can make one not come across in a manner to be taken seriously. One shouldn’t stereotype users of a substance, just as one shouldn’t stereotype race, gender, age, etc.

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Short Term Effects of Crystal Meth

Most users try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug. In some cases, people indulge in a form of binging known as a “run,” foregoing food and sleep while continuing to take the drug for up to several days. [2]

The short-term meth effects of crystal meth include the following:

  • Even taking small amounts of meth can cause harmful health effects such as irritability
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, or nausea
  • Erratic, aggressive, or violent behavior

Long Term Effects of Crystal Meth

Meth effects can lead to many damaging, long-term health risks, even when people stop taking meth, including these symptoms:

  • Permanent damage to the heart and brain
  • High blood pressure leads to heart attacks, strokes, and death
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Anxiety, confusion, and insomnia
  • Severe dental problems 
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, or violent behavior (psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after meth use)
  • Intense itching, causing skin sores from scratching
  • Premature osteoporosis

Effects of Crystal Meths on the Brain

Long-term meth users may develop life-long problems with verbal skills, and memory, and may even develop Parkinson’s disease, an incurable nervous disorder with symptoms of trembling hands and extreme muscle stiffness. Animal studies show as much as 50 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after long-term exposure to relatively low levels of methamphetamine. In other animal studies, a single high dose of the drug has been shown to damage nerve endings in the dopamine-containing regions of the brain. The nerve endings do not die but do not grow back to their original sizes.

Crystal meth
Meth Effects are harmful to all major body organs, and some health damages are irreversible.

Effects of Crystal Meths on the Heart

Crystal meth’s stimulant effects can heavily raise the person’s heart rates, and over time, chronic and excessive use of this drug can result in heart palpitations. This alarming symptom is usually experienced as a powerful pounding feeling in the neck or chest. Crystal meth use can also lead to arrhythmia, also known as an irregular heartbeat.

These can feel like a “skipped” heartbeat, and if the arrhythmia becomes severe, it can lead to collapse, lightheadedness, or even cardiac arrest. In addition, overuse of meth can raise blood pressure, and over time, chronic high blood pressure can damage arteries, causing them to harden and block blood flow to various organs. Unfortunately, the symptoms can be silent as the damage transpires, and meth users may not be aware of the harm to their bodies until it’s too late.

Effects of Meth Use on your Physical Appearance

Meth Face

Meth face is the name for the decline in physical appearance in the face of many meth addicts, especially those who have a prolonged history of abuse. Meth face usually includes dental problems, skin issues, sores, false aging, and an overall deterioration of the face. The adverse effects of meth on the face typically get worse with heavier and more frequent use. When meth use stops, many of these effects can be reversed, but these changes often take time, effort, and professional help.

Meth Premature Aging

Chronic meth use causes people to age beyond their years. A person may look haggard as their skin becomes leathery and takes on a grey cast. As an individual’s skin loses its elasticity, they may have more wrinkles than a person typically should at their age.

Meth has also been linked to the development of certain diseases that are associated with aging, including coronary artery atherosclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and liver steatosis (fatty liver disease). Recent research has found that meth can cause cellular aging and inflammation, factors that may contribute to these problems.

Meth Mouth

Meth mouth is a term used to describe the visible effects of oral disease in a person who uses meth because of the widespread tooth decay that often happens with the drug’s use. People who use meth may have blackened, stained, broken, or rotting teeth, both due to side effects of meth itself and related lifestyle factors.

The typical decay pattern involves the maxillary and mandibular teeth’ facial and cervical areas with eventual progression to frank coronal involvement. Eventually, the best course of treatment for someone struggling with oral disease caused by meth use, such as meth mouth, is to treat the addiction.

Meth Sores on the Mouth

The mouth is a common location for meth users to develop sores.  Here a the common sores caused by meth:

  • Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that appears red and swollen. Untreated meth sores can develop into cellulitis, which is a bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis is common but can cause dangerous health complications if left untreated.  
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are more likely to occur in people who use meth than in non-drug users. The infection starts as painful red bumps that become abscessed and require medical care to be drained. 
  • Abscesses are pus-filled sores caused by a bacterial infection. They usually appear red, raised, and painful to touch. Abscesses can be treated with antibiotics and by draining the infected area.

Meth Mites and Crank Bugs

Meth can cause tactile hallucinations, which is when a person feels something that doesn’t exist. Long-term meth abuse may make a person feel as if they have insects crawling on or burrowing beneath their skin. Referred to as “crank bugs” or “meth mites,” the scientific term for this is formication. The sensation is most commonly experienced on the face and neck.

In an effort to relieve the sensation or get rid of the perceived bugs, people will pick at the skin. This skin picking can become an obsessive behavior and render the skin scaly, dry, irritated, and covered in sores. The more someone continues to pick at sores, the longer it will take to heal, and there is an increased risk of infection.

Skin Picking Disorder

When someone finds an imperfection on their skin, such as a scar or scab, they may develop skin picking disorders. They begin picking at the spot, causing more damage to the area and preventing healing. This leads to a vicious cycle in which the skin-picking addiction wins. Skin picking is particularly dangerous for those suffering from meth mites (also known as meth sores) or heroin itching. 

Meth Rash

Because crystal meth weakens the immune system, the body has a difficult time fighting off infections. Someone with low immunity and poor personal hygiene is a perfect candidate for meth rash. Meth rash can occur on the face, but it usually develops under the arms, on the back and shoulders, and between the legs.

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Crystal Meth Addiction

Crystal meth addiction doesn’t just affect users in the short term. Meth use also has lasting and permanent consequences that can change the rest of the user’s life. Thankfully, seeking treatment for meth addiction as soon as possible after an addiction develops can help the individual avoid these lasting consequences. But unfortunately, the truth is that the longer meth is used, the more likely and more severe these consequences will be.  The consequences of meth addiction affect all aspects of the body, including the mind, body, and appearance.

Long term Meth Effects

The long-term meth effects can be more severe than those of some other illicit stimulant drugs, and some of the meth effects can be irreversible. One of the adverse consequences of meth abuse is developing an addiction to the drug. Individuals who become addicted to meth will continue compulsive drug seeking and drug use despite negative meth effects due to brain changes that alter the person’s reward system.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Just like any other form of drug addiction, people who repeatedly use meth eventually develop a tolerance to the drug, needing a higher dose to get the same meth effect, and they experience meth withdrawal symptoms when the drug leaves their system. 

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety: Research suggests that approximately 30% of people going through meth withdrawal experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder
  • Depression: People often experience a period of depressed mood as they withdraw from methamphetamines. This often lessens after a few weeks but may continue for a more extended period for some people.
  • Fatigue: While meth often causes people to feel energized and hyperactive, withdrawal from the substance can cause severe sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Intense cravings: As with many other addictive substances, people frequently experience strong drug cravings as they go through withdrawal.

Research has shown that the brains of individuals who abuse meth long-term are rewired to the point that they may find it hard to experience any pleasure other than that given by the drug. This change may provoke even further drug use.

In addition to being addicted to meth, individuals who use this drug for a long time may show symptoms that can include significant confusion, anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. A person struggling with meth addiction also may exhibit several psychotic features, including visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions—for instance, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin, also known as skin picking disorder. 

Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or even years after quitting using the drug. Stress has been shown to cause spontaneous recurrence of meth psychosis in people who use the drug and have previously experienced psychosis.

Crystal Meth
Abusers often need to take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change how they take it in an effort to get the desired meth effects.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction

Having a mental health disorder, or mental illness, is common among individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol, meth in particular. This is known as having co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. Living with mental illness and a substance use disorder can affect the treatment and addiction recovery process. The most effective treatment for people with both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder (SUD) is dual diagnosis treatment.

If you think that a loved one is abusing meth, you should first research crystal meth and the addiction associated with it. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved ones with options to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, make sure that you offer compassion and support instead of judgment. 

Lastly, offer your support throughout the entire treatment process. In addition, prolonged meth use can have severe physical and psychological effects, so it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. Inpatient drug rehab offers intensive care that can help you get through the early stages of withdrawal promptly. We Level Up treatment rehab & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Meth addiction with professional and safe treatment. 

Medically-Assisted Detox

Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.


Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Please, do not try to detox on your own. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. However, getting through the detox process is crucial for continued treatment. We Level Up provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to medically assist your recovery. So, reclaim your life, and call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

 crystal meth
For more information on how you can help a loved one struggling with crystal meth abuse, call us at We Level Up.

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[1] NIDA –
[2] DEA –
[3] The Dangers of Crystal Meth – We Level Up NJ