crystal meth abuse signsCrystal methamphetamine, more commonly known as crystal meth, is a form of the drug d-methamphetamine, which is a man-made stimulant drug. Individuals make crystal meth using the drug ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, a central nervous system stimulant often found in cough syrup or other cold medications. Other substances are often used, such as ingredients that are extracted from brake cleaner, batteries, alcohol, drain cleaner, and antifreeze, to make crystal meth more potent.

Crystal meth appears as small pieces of glass or blue-white rocks of different sizes. The drug is highly addictive and abused for the long-lasting euphoria it produces. It is typically smoked or snorted.  It is known by several different street names, including:

  • Glass
  • L.A. glass
  • Crystal glass
  • Ice
  • Hot ice
  • Super ice
  • Crank
  • Cristy
  • Quartz
  • Stove Top
  • Shards
  • Tina

What Does Crystal Meth Do? 

Like most stimulant drugs, crystal meth directly increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is directly involved in motivation, the experience of feeling reinforced or rewarded, pleasurable experiences, and certain motor abilities. The effect of crystal meth is to rapidly release dopamine in the brain, which produces the euphoria that users experience. The drug is highly addictive, and abusers frequently become addicted quite rapidly.

Dangers of Manufacturing Crystal Meth 

woman sad at homeMost of the ingredients to make crystal meth can be purchased legally. Equipment is typically just a mishmash of household items and amateur chemistry equipment, such as aluminum foil, rubber tubing, glass bottles, etc. All of the chemicals used to make crystal meth are harmful, and many are flammable.

When individuals cook crystal meth, the process creates phosphine gas and other gases that can be highly toxic if you inhale them. Many of the gases, such as phosphine gas, are quite flammable, and combining ammonia and alkali metals in the production of crystal meth leads to the risk of explosions.  Crystal meth is made in many home laboratories or even in cars, and the risk of explosions from using all these volatile chemicals increases in close quarters.


The production of crystal meth produces quite a bit of toxic waste that is not used in an effort to get high and is not part of the drug itself. This toxic waste, such as ammonia hydroxide, can be toxic if ingested.


How Long Do the Effects Last?

The effects of crystal meth are variable, depending on how the drug is taken and how long the person has been using it.

  • If crystal meth is snorted or smoked, the effects can last as long as 12 hours,
  • If it is taken orally or injected, the effects are somewhat shorter, typically lasting 6-8 hours.
  • Users develop tolerance very quickly and tend to binge heavily on the drug. This can lead to differing lengths of effects.

Short-Term Physical Effects 

Short-term effects of crystal meth use include:

  • Extreme euphoria and wellbeing
  • Decreased appetite: Stimulant drugs are often used as diet aids and appetite suppressants. Since crystal meth is a powerful stimulant, this is an immediate side effect for many people.
  • Cardiovascular effects such as rapidly increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure, and increase in in body temperature
  • Increased respiration
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to sleep
  • Extreme excitability or hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Dilated pupils
  • Aggressiveness
  • Bizarre or erratic behaviors
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions, especially of the paranoid nature
  • Other psychotic behavior
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Potential fatalities with overdose

Long-Term Physical Effects

Long-term physical effects include:

  • Permanent cardiovascular damage, such as chronic high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, and increased risk of stroke
  • Lung damage (especially if smoked)
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Severe teeth decay
  • Severe nasal damage (if snorted)
  • Weakened immune system
  • A severe lack of self-hygiene leading to issues with the skin, potential infections, illnesses, etc.
  • Sexual disorders
  • Brain damage that can ultimately lead to dementia
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic behavior, including paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, other altered sensory experiences, such as “meth bugs” (the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin)
  • Marked changes in a person’s appearance, making the person look far older
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • Addiction

Physical Signs That Someone May Be Abusing Crystal Meth 

There are physical signs that may help determine if a person is abusing crystal meth. The more signs the person exhibits, the more suspicious one should be that there is an issue. These signs include:

  • Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • Significant weight loss, In spite of the person not being ill or dieting
  • Dark circles under the eyes; appearing gaunt and unhealthy
  • Chronic problems with the nose, such as running nose, nosebleeds, etc.
  • Cracked and dry skin especially in the area of the fingertips and/or lips
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    • Major tooth decay that occurs rather quickly (“meth mouth”: rotting teeth or tooth loss)
    • Development of an odd twitch, such as an eye twitch
    • Chronic bad breath
    • Sores on the skin, red spots, or abscesses
    • Dry mouth
    • Burn marks on the fingers or mouth
    • Teeth clenching or grinding the teeth
    • Talking or rambling excessively
    • Seeming unable to sit still and continually fidgeting
    • Experiencing periods of insomnia and then excessive sleepiness
    • Scratching or picking at the skin
    • Compulsive actions or odd repetitious behaviors
    • Short-term memory loss
    • Seeing or hearing things that are not really there
    • Moodiness that may alternate with extreme euphoria
    • Paranoia

    Other signs include behavioral signs, such as social isolation, disappearing for days at a time, developing financial problems, resorting to stealing money or other things, and relationship issues.

Help Is Available

Crystal meth is an extremely dangerous and addictive stimulant drug. Because it contains many toxic chemical components, it can seriously jeopardize the health of someone who abuses it. It can be potentially fatal in overdose or result in serious negative long-term health effects that cannot be reversed. If a loved one, relative, or friend is suspected of using crystal meth, it is extremely important to take steps to secure professional treatment. Recovery is possible, with professional care.