Crystal Meth Addiction: Causes, Effects, and Treatment

April 9, 2021

In 2020, the world shifted its focus to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, another pandemic continues to grow in many parts of the world, and that is the use and misuse of synthetic drugs and chemicals. In a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there has been a record level rise in the production and trafficking of these drugs, which include crystal methamphetamine. While this drug is widely misused, with around 24.7 million reported abusers worldwide, it remains a highly misunderstood drug.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal methamphetamine or crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine, a potent and highly-addictive stimulant that affects the brain. It is white, odorless, and bitter and often comes in the form of a powder, fine glass-like fragments, or shiny blue-white rocks. 

It was first synthesized in the early 20th century from its parent drug amphetamine, a synthetic substitute for ephedrine in treating respiratory problems. Over the years, amphetamine-like substances like crystal meth have become commercially available under various names such as Benzedrine. These drugs were used to treat a broad range of illnesses like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and alcoholism. Other uses that followed were for depression, weight control, or just to simply stay awake.

Much like amphetamines, crystal meth induces increased activity or even hyperactivity in the user. It also produces a powerful feeling of confidence and a pleasant sense of well-being or euphoria. Compared to amphetamine, crystal meth impacts the brain much more, making it a much stronger stimulant. This set of characteristics and its short-term effects on the user’s overall disposition make it more susceptible to misuse, and inevitably, abuse.

How do people use Meth?

Historically, methamphetamine’s effects on sleep and fatigue were recognized early in its production. Soldiers and pilots during World War II used meth to counter exhaustion and lack of sleep. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, amphetamines and methamphetamines remained openly available in the US markets. It was in the 1950s when civilian use of these synthetic drugs escalated, which was mainly due to the arrival of their new forms: Dexedrine, Dexamyl, Desoxyn, Biphetamine, etc. 

They were intended to be prescription drugs but were later leaked to the illegal markets. During this time, users have begun injecting these drugs and have become part of the growing drug culture in the 1960s. At the same time, stricter regulations were underway for these drugs, removing certain forms in the market. This absence of commercially produced methamphetamine created a vacuum for a lot of users, thus leading to the illicit manufacturing of this drug, especially crystal methamphetamine, which is relatively easier to reproduce.

Today, people who are looking for the intense rush of pleasure and euphoria mainly use methamphetamine in crystal form. Crystal meth is often smoked, but it can also be consumed via:

  • Snorting
  • Swallowing through pills
  • Injecting powder dissolved in water or alcohol

There is no legal use for crystal meth. It remains illegal due to its high addiction liability and dependence, as well as the dangerous effects it poses on a user’s overall health.

Implications of Crystal Meth Use

Over the years, crystal meth has become one of the most popular party drugs due to its powerful stimulating effect on its user. Similar to cocaine, crystal meth provides a spike of energy and creates a false sense of happiness and confidence in its users, enabling them to have the endurance to party–and some, engage in sexual activities–for longer hours.

Like most street drugs, the effects of crystal meth usually last for only a few hours. Since the ‘high’ from this drug starts and fades quickly, users will more likely take repeat doses, quickly being hooked on the drug.

Moreover, users are more likely to build a tolerance for this drug as they progress in their consumption, often exhibited by taking the drug in a ‘binge and crash’ pattern to be able to recreate and sustain the ‘buzz.’ Some may take crystal meth in a ‘run,’ a form of binging in which the user continuously take the drug every few hours for up to a few days, giving up food and sleep.

Although not all who dabble in illegal drugs will get hooked, it is important to consider the other factors that may come into play for an individual to develop a crystal meth addiction.

What Causes Meth Addiction?

The type of substance and method of use will surely affect the progression of drug dependence, as well as these risk factors:


A major risk factor for addiction is heredity. As much as half of an individual’s risk of addiction to substances is based on genetics, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A history of addiction in a person’s family often means that the individual is more likely to experience it too.


The relationships that surround an individual directly affect the possibility of them having an addiction. Absent parents, turbulent childhood, and peer pressure all increase risk-taking behaviors and experimentation with substances.

Underlying mental health issues

An underlying mental health issue is another risk factor in developing an addiction. An addictive disorder aggravates other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and having those conditions increases a person’s likelihood to turn to substances. This creates a vicious cycle in which a person’s addiction progresses quickly, accompanied by severe consequences.

Early Exposure

The age at which an individual begins a behavior also affects their likelihood to be affected by addiction. This can also impact a person’s brain development, as addictive behavior increases the risk of developing mental health disorders as a person ages.

It is also important to remember that having these risk factors is not a guarantee that a person will develop an addiction. Some people with none of the risk factors can still be affected, while on the other hand, people with every single risk factor will never suffer from addiction. Addiction develops differently in every person.

What Are the Effects of Crystal Meth Use?

Crystal meth mainly affects the brain by flooding parts of it with dopamine, a naturally-occurring chemical that regulates feelings of pleasure. This results in the temporary intense rush of happiness, especially with its first-time use. Users are likely to replicate this intense acute sense of euphoria and often yield unsuccessful results. This only leads to the user retaking the drug in higher doses and entering into the cycle of addiction.

Short Term Effects

Apart from the false sense of well-being and intense feelings of pleasure, crystal meth can cause:

  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • High body temperature
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite

These temporary effects prove to be fatal, especially for long-time users.

Long Term Effects

Crystal meth users who take the drug via injection are at great risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C. Long-term use of crystal meth also affects users’ judgment and decision-making, leading to bad personal hygiene and health, and risky behaviors such as unprotected sex. Continuous use of the drug can also cause:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental and skin problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Cognitive problems (memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, etc.)
  • Violent behavior
  • Psychosis

Crystal meth addiction destroys a person’s life. Aside from the health risks it poses, addiction robs the user of control over their ability to think and communicate clearly, which leads to negative consequences in their family and other relationships.

Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction

The use of crystal meth varies across genders and generations: women trying to lose weight, truck drivers and college students wanting to stay awake for longer hours, and even just the ever-curious wanting to try something new. However, dabbling with the use of this drug poses a great risk as it is highly addictive, and dependence on crystal meth often leads to irreversible adverse effects, which, when compounded, often leads to death. However, crystal meth recovery, although difficult, is POSSIBLE. 

Those who are in the grip of crystal meth addiction will need professional help. Although there is no one fool-proof path to meth recovery, the good news is that various treatments are available. If you or someone you love is struggling with crystal meth addiction, acting fast is of utmost importance as this kind of addiction progresses quickly. Counseling, addiction group therapy, and medical detox are just some of the options to consider, and with the right program, treatment, and support, it is possible for an individual to fully recover and leave crystal meth for good.

We are here to help

We highly encourage you to get in touch with us if you know anyone who is in need of drug treatment centers in Arizona. Visit us at Buena Vista Health and Recovery Center in Cave Creek, Arizona, or let us assist you by calling us at (800) 922-0095.

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