Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(8):1175-1176

See related article on methamphetamine abuse.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine (meth-am-FET-ah-meen), or meth, is an addictive drug. In small amounts, it can be given by doctors to treat some illnesses, but it is often sold by people illegally in very dangerous forms.

Some other common names for meth are crystal meth, ice, crank, speed, and tina. Meth can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed. Meth abuse is linked to risky sexual behavior, criminal activity, and death.

Illegal meth is often made in home labs by mixing over-the-counter medicines. Fumes from a home meth lab can irritate skin. The chemicals can also cause poisoning. Sometimes home meth labs explode and burn or kill people.

What does meth do?

When people use meth they feel excited and have a lot of energy. This feeling lasts about six to 24 hours. However, using meth can cause a heart attack, stroke, high body temperature, or seizures. Using meth while you are pregnant can harm your child or cause you to go into labor early.

What happens if I keep using meth?

Tolerance to meth is instant. That means, from the beginning it takes more meth to get the same effect. People who are addicted to meth will need more and more to feel the effects.

You may feel depressed or unhappy when you stop using meth for even a short time. Even if you don't use it often, you can have cravings and withdrawal problems like depression, tiredness, and feeling anxious.

What problems does meth cause?

Over time, using meth causes problems like violent behavior, feeling anxious or threatened, mood changes, confusion, sleeplessness, and hearing or seeing things that aren't real.

Using meth over time also changes how you look. You age quickly and your teeth decay. Many people who use meth don't get proper nutrition and lose weight. If you inject meth you may get skin rashes. Some people pick at their skin and get infections.

Children in homes where meth is used are often neglected or abused. They are also at risk of injury and physical symptoms.

How is meth abuse treated?

Meth abuse is treated with individual or group therapy to help you quit. Joining a support group or drug treatment program also may help. Ask your doctor to help you find a program or group near you.

Where can I find more information?

Your doctor

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment

Montana Meth Project

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

National Institute on Drug Abuse

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