Crystal Meth Addiction and Abuse

Crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant. The drug has destroyed families and lives, and overcoming dependence requires a combination of will and intensive, long-term rehabilitation. 

More About Crystal Meth

What is Crystal Meth?

All forms of amphetamine are classified as Schedule II drugs. This means that under a doctor’s supervision, they have some medicinal or therapeutic properties but offer a high risk of abuse. The most common clinical indications are for treating obesity or managing chronic disorders like narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).

The street drug methamphetamine has been around since the 1960s. It’s a white or brownish powdery substance derived from amphetamines, mainly created by extracting it from Benzedrine inhalers used to treat congestion and boiled down to a crystalline powder that can be chopped or crushed and snorted or smoked. Meth can also be dissolved in water and injected.

Crystal meth is a newer, purer form of the drug that made an appearance in the 80s. Like meth, it can be cooked at home but is more typically synthesized in a laboratory setting. As the name implies, crystal meth is comprised of larger chunks; it’s also cheap and easily available, and it’s very popular on the club scene. Various crystal meth ingredients and its appearance contribute to crystal meth street names like glass, ice, and crystal. Smoking crystal meth through a glass tube is the most popular mode of delivery, but it can also be dissolved and injected or crushed and snorted.

The crystal form of meth delivers a very powerful high that take affect almost immediately after ingestion. That first rush induces feelings of euphoria and extreme confidence, which quickly settle into a hyperactive, agitated state. In some cases, it can suppress painful recollections and replace them with a temporary feeling of happiness. The effects can last for 6 to 12 hours after use, and it isn’t uncommon for a binge to last for several days.

What Does Crystal Meth Look Like?

As stated, crystal meth ingredients and the way it’s manufactured contribute to it appearance. Fans of the popular TV series, Breaking Bad, will recall the fictional version as being referred to as “Blue”. Copycat formulations have been created since then, but the most common colors are clear white, yellowish, pale orange or pink. The purer the end product, the more translucent the chunks or shards of crystal. It can sometimes take on the appearance of quartz before it is ground or chopped.

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How Addictive is Crystal Meth?

According to crystal meth facts and statistics from various reporting agencies, it rivals heroin and crack cocaine for rates of addiction, destructiveness, and relapse. Snorting or smoking crystal meth leads to fast addiction, sometimes after just one or two uses. It is occasionally mixed with heroin and injected, which reduces some of the more frenetic side-effects but increases the odds of overdose and death.

The signs of an overdose include high body temperature, hypothermia, convulsions, and death. Chronic use leads to serious, sometimes irreversible health problems like advanced gum disease and inflammation in the lining of the heart.

Because reporting agencies don’t differentiate between methamphetamine and crystal, it’s difficult to isolate statistics to one form of the drug over the other. Both are addictive and highly destructive – crystal hooks users slightly faster due to its high concentration of amphetamine – and they follow the same path to addiction and relapse. They also share similar abuse and withdrawal symptoms, and indications for treatment are the same. The main difference seems to be the appearance, purity, and contaminants added or used to process the drug for consumption.

According to research obtained by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health from the British Medical Journal, more than half a million Americans use meth each week, and 12.5 million have tried is at least once in their life. The death rate from overdose rose by 225 percent over the course of a year, from 2014 – 2015. Worldwide, use is estimated at around 35 million people.

Meth and its derivatives hook users by causing a flood of the feel-good chemical dopamine into the brain, which exaggerates feelings of happiness and well-being. Chronic use affects normal brain function, which can take almost a year to restore after detox and rehabilitation. In areas where meth usage is high, crime rates have risen proportionately. This has led law enforcement to label meth and crystal addiction as among the biggest challenges to public safety.

Detecting Crystal Methamphetamine Use and Addiction

It’s estimated that crystal meth is up to three times stronger than cocaine, and it’s one of the hardest drugs to quit permanently. Women, who were the primary marketing demographic for prescribing and selling amphetamines in the 50s and 60s, make up close to 42 percent of all emergency room admissions for meth-related treatment. That’s more than for any other illicit drug.

Modern recreational use often begins in the teens and accelerates in the college-age demographic. Abuse is more prevalent in rural areas, possibly because one of the chief ingredients is fertilizer. Knowing the symptoms of use can help with early intervention and a more complete recovery.

The signs of meth use include:

  • Aggressiveness, agitation, and irritation with no apparent cause
  • Wild mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Tooth decay and bleeding gums
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Picking at the skin and hair
  • Changes in habits, appearance, and peer groups
  • Dilated pupils and rapid eye movement

There’s also a very characteristic symptom called “tweaking”. This can be described as the end result of a meth binge. The user has achieved a maximum state of euphoria, and no amount of the drug can satisfy their cravings. They begin to feel desperate and panicked and may experience the sensation of bugs crawling on or under their skin. During this phase, they may remain awake for days, exhibiting a combination of drug-induced psychosis and sleep deprivation. They’ll become increasingly paranoid, lose touch with reality, and are prone to inflicting harm on themselves or others. This phase is often followed by a crash from exhaustion and deep sleep, which can last for up to three days.

Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction

The good news is that crystal meth dependence and addiction are treatable. But, they can’t be kicked without help. Programs providing secure residential rehabilitation with medical detox is the best hope for a lasting recovery.