What Are Methamphetamines?

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Methamphetamines, also known as “meth,” is a potent stimulant drug that has become widely abused in recent years. With a long history of medicinal and recreational use, the drug creates a sense of euphoria that can last up to 24 hours, leading to a high risk for dependence.

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How Methamphetamines Work: Understanding the Pharmacology and Mechanisms of Action

Methamphetamines are powerful central nervous system stimulants with a complex pharmacology and chemical makeup that distinguishes them from other stimulants. Methamphetamines are synthetic substances derived from amphetamine but with a unique molecular structure that allows them to infiltrate the brain more effectively. This results in a rapid release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to an intense surge of pleasure and heightened alertness.

The chemical makeup of methamphetamines involves a blend of various precursors, including pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which undergo a series of reactions to produce the final crystalline product. Its components are cheap and easy to obtain, and it can be manufactured in very simple labs, which is why the substance is so pervasive.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with a dependence on meth or any other substance, Guardian Recovery can help. We will work with you to develop an individualized and effective program to help you recover from addiction and get you on the road to long-term recovery. We believe in the benefits of a full curriculum of clinical care, beginning with medical detoxification, transitioning into a higher level of treatment, and concluding with personalized aftercare planning. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options in your area.

The Differences Between Methamphetamines & Amphetamines

Methamphetamines and amphetamines are two powerful stimulants that have noteworthy differences, despite being chemically similar. These differences lie predominantly in the intensity and duration of their effects on the central nervous system.

Amphetamines are known for their effectiveness in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Because they affect the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine and providing a surge of energy, amphetamines are sometimes called “study drugs.” One study found that 13% of college students used amphetamines to improve academic performance.

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to by its street name “crystal meth,” is a more potent drug than amphetamine. This potency translates to a higher rush of energy, alertness, and a surge in self-confidence when consumed. It is known for its long-lasting effects, which lead to dangerous binge-use regimes, making it a more addictive substance than its amphetamine counterpart.

Meth is made from amphetamines derived from pseudoephedrine, a common element in cold medicines, and common household chemicals like drain cleaner, battery acid, and lighter fuel, which are toxic.

Legitimate Medical Uses & Applications of Amphetamines

Amphetamine drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both adults and children. Other common brand names include:

  • Concerta.
  • Dexedrine.
  • Focalin.
  • Metadate.
  • Methylin.
  • Vyvanse.

Their stimulant qualities also make amphetamines a treatment for narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by sudden episodes of daytime drowsiness or even loss of consciousness. They are also sometimes used to treat obesity because they suppress the appetite and increase stamina.

Street Names Commonly Known for Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine has garnered a variety of street names throughout the years. Knowledge of these street names is critical for law enforcement officers combating the substance’s distribution and those wishing to assist friends and family members in battling addiction.

Illicit drug users and sellers often refer to meth by names such as:

  • Crystal.
  • Ice.
  • Glass.
  • Chalk.
  • Blue or Walter White is a nod to the popular Breaking Bad television series.

Legal Status & Drug Classification

Methamphetamine and most amphetamines are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning they have an accepted medical use with a high potential for abuse and dependence. Other substances in this class include cocaine, methadone, and oxycodone.

The production, sale, and possession of Schedule II drugs are strictly regulated. But illicit manufacture of this drug is common in clandestine laboratories across the country and abroad, making it readily available on the street for recreational users.

From a legal standpoint, drugs are separated into three classes based on how dangerous they are and their impact on society. Meth and some amphetamines are considered Class B drugs, along with cannabis, ketamine, and mephedrone.

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Identifying the Various Types of Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine comes in various forms, with distinct characteristics, appearances, and consumption methods. Each type poses dangers to users regarding potency, purity, and potential contaminants.

Crystal meth, which resembles shards of glass or bluish-white rocks, is smoked or injected.

Powder meth, a fine, white powder, is often diluted in liquids or snorted.

Base meth has a soft, putty-like consistency and is injected or swallowed.

Rock is large chunks of the drug, usually yellow in color, that are ingested orally.

Symptoms & Side Effects of Methamphetamines on the Body & Brain

While meth has effects that users find attractive, it also causes far less pleasant physical symptoms, including:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Profuse sweating.

Perhaps most severe is the impact of meth on the brain. It can cause changes in normal dopamine production by disrupting the pleasure-seeking portion of the brain’s reward system. This results in an increased feeling of euphoria which, in turn, leads to intense cravings and compulsive behaviors.

Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Methamphetamine Abuse

When individuals who have become addicted to meth attempt to stop using it, they may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to intense cravings, depression, paranoia, fatigue and exhaustion, irritability, and aggression. Other common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much or too little), and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure). In some cases, these withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months.

Overcoming a dependence on meth is best accomplished at a licensed facility in a program that includes psychological counseling and medically supervised detoxification and recovery programs tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Those struggling with meth addiction can move towards a healthier lifestyle with the proper treatment and support.

Recreational & Illicit Use of Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine is a popular recreational drug because it produces intense euphoria and increased energy levels, making it appealing to those looking for a quick high. Additionally, meth can cause users to become more alert, focused, and productive, making it attractive to those looking for a quick performance enhancer.

Because it is easy and cheap to manufacture, meth is readily available on the street or via the internet.

Short-Term & Long-Term Health Consequences of Methamphetamine Use

The short-term consequences of using meth can be severe and potentially life-threatening. These include an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and even death due to respiratory arrest or cardiac arrhythmia. In addition, the impact of the drug on cognition can lead to impulsive behavior, irrational decision-making, impaired judgment, and hallucinations or delusions. Other short-term effects include decreased appetite, tooth decay, skin sores from scratching, insomnia, and an increased risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Other short-term effects of methamphetamine use include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, tremors and twitching, anxiety and restlessness, confusion, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Long-term abuse of methamphetamine can lead to addiction and serious health problems such as brain damage, psychotic behavior, and violent outbursts. In addition to these physical and mental health risks, methamphetamine use is also associated with an increased risk of social isolation and financial difficulties due to the expensive habits often accompanying chronic drug abuse.

Harm Reduction Strategies for Amphetamine Use

Harm reduction strategies are crucial in alleviating the adverse effects of risky behaviors, especially in substance use and addiction. These approaches are rooted in empathy and understanding, acknowledging that barriers to quitting or achieving abstinence may be overwhelming for some individuals.

Through interventions such as needle exchange programs, supervised consumption sites, and medication-assisted therapies, harm reduction seeks to minimize the potential risks associated with certain behaviors while prioritizing individuals’ physical and mental health needs. Some of these strategies include:

  • Good nutrition.
  • Plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Staying hydrated.
  • Keeping up with personal and dental hygiene.
  • Using less frequently and smaller amounts of the substance.

By embracing a comprehensive and compassionate framework, harm reduction strategies offer hope and practical support for those navigating challenging life circumstances, ultimately fostering healthier communities.

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Methamphetamines can produce an intense feeling of euphoria, improve concentration skills, and give you a burst of energy, but the negative effects far outweigh the positive. Because it interacts with the reward center of your brain, it’s very easy to develop a dependence on meth that is hard to break.  No matter the substance, the best way to overcome addiction is with the help of experienced, trusted professionals like those at Guardian Recovery. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and skilled administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you have to do is ask; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs3/3981/index.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631950/
  3. https://nadk.flinders.edu.au/kb/methamphetamines/general-methamphetamine-information/are-there-different-forms-of-methamphetamine
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  5. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-manufactured
  6. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/references
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6117601/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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