Speed, white snow, chalk, ice, crank, cotton candy, and go fast. These are just some of the street names for methamphetamine. As you can deduce from some of the names, the effects of the stimulant will be rapid but momentary. The ensuing meth comedown can be ugly. This synthetic chemical substance has been proven to cause damage to the brain, perhaps more than any other drug.

Methamphetamine is listed in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act as a Schedule II drug, which is the highest restriction there is due to the extreme physical and psychological dependence, along with a high abuse potential.


It’s relatively cheap since you can score for just five bucks. You can buy one-quarter of a gram for $20 or half a gram at $40. One gram of ice will cost you $80 on the streets. Compare that to crack cocaine, for instance, which will fetch between $100 and $200 per gram.

One characteristic of this drug, which is why it’s very popular, is that it’s fast-acting even in low doses. Although the high will only last a short time, the drug can still be detected in your urine up to three days.

How Does Meth Work?

There are many ways to ingest meth in one’s body. The most common is inhaling or smoking using a tooter, tin foil, and lighter. Another less popular way is through a pill, which they can swallow or snort, because of the delayed effects. The last method is to dissolve the ice in water and inject it directly into the veins.

Meth stimulates the area of the brain that controls the production of dopamine, the hormone that gives you that pleasurable or euphoric feeling. The drug gets the brain into overdrive thereby producing a lot more dopamine than usual. Some estimate that the production can be accelerated by as much as 1,000 times more than normal. This is what gives users that feeling of rush.

However, that feeling of high lasts a very short time. The addict then spends all his life, if he’s not getting any treatment, trying to chase that feeling again. It is then a very vicious cycle of crashing and binging. Some addicts even substitute the drug for their sleep and food for several days and that will have disastrous consequences.

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Short Term and Long Term Effects of Meth

Among the effects of meth use are:

  • Appetite loss

  • A sudden drop in weight

  • Elevated heart rate and temperature

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Bizarre behavior

  • Hyperactivity

  • Hallucinations

  • Irritability

  • Pupil dilation

  • A sudden surge of energy

  • Euphoria

  • Heavy sweating

Prolonged use will lead to a host of other problems. As your body becomes dependent on the drug, the meth comedown will become more violent and the cravings more intense. Long-term effects of meth use include:

  • Loss of teeth

  • Dry skin

  • Severe breakouts

  • Tremors

  • Damaged brain

  • Weakened state

  • Compromised immune system

  • Suicidal and homicidal thoughts

  • Liver and kidney damage

  • Bad breath

  • Stroke

  • Cardiovascular damage

  • Severe malnutrition

  • Paranoia and psychosis

  • Loss of focus or disorientation

If sharing contaminated needles, those addicted are vulnerable to hepatitis A and B, or perhaps even HIV. With their judgment clouded, it’s common for addicts to engage in risky sexual behaviors. In fact, it’s almost always a given that they exchange sex for a fix if they don’t have money to pay.

The damage to the brain of someone who uses meth is equivalent to somebody with Alzheimer’s disease or who suffered from stroke and epilepsy. In fact, past tipping point, it’s very difficult for a someone addicted to meth to be the same again after the onset of brain damage.

Then there’s the possibility of an overdose, which almost always leads to death. One dangerous side effect of meth is hyperthermia, which is elevated body temperature. Couple that with accelerated heart rate and they make a deadly combination indeed. Hyperthermia can also cause your kidney to shut down.

Watch out for the following red flags:

If you are feeling the following symptoms, chances are you may be overdosing. Call medical help immediately.

– Difficult breathing

– Chest pains

– Rapid heartbeat

– Confusion

– Having trouble controlling motor movements

– Extremely painful headache

– Tremors and unrestrained jerking

Methamphetamine and its Cousin, Amphetamine

Meth has been confused with amphetamine so many times and it’s understandable because of some similarities between the two stimulants, particularly on the effects. Also, meth is a derivative of amphetamine developed during the ‘50s in order to treat narcolepsy, Parkinson’s, depression and its ability to shed off excess pounds fast. Its full potential was unleashed during World War II when German and Japanese soldiers used them to be fearless in battle as well as still be functional in the face of sleep deprivation. But it wasn’t until 1994 when methamphetamine use exploded in the United States, first among truckers because they could drive without sleep and finally among street-level users because the stimulant is quite cheap.

As a substance of choice, meth is not as prevalent as marijuana (100 million), for example, or prescription drugs (48 million), cocaine (34 million), and inhalants (23 million). With only 1.3 million people saying they’ve used meth over past year, it’s far-fetched to call it an epidemic. Almost half of that number said they used methamphetamine over the past month, said the Drug Policy Alliance.

Definitely, meth is much more dangerous compared to amphetamine and this can be illustrated by the fact that unlike amphetamine, meth has no medical value whatsoever. Or even if it does, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

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Meth Comedown

Typically, the euphoric effects of meth will last up to eight hours but this interval reduces with prolonged use. It’s not uncommon for some addicts to want another hit after 2-3 hours because of the meth comedown.

But what is meth comedown?

To simplify, this is the period when you crash as the effects of the drugs wear off.

A meth comedown should be not confused with drug withdrawal. One way to give a mental picture is to compare this phase with a hangover from alcohol.

Symptoms of meth comedown:

  • Deep sadness

  • Lethargy and a feeling of hopelessness

  • Lack of motivation

  • Depression

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Dehydration, which leads to headaches

  • Jaw pain due to clenching

  • Intense cravings

This stage will last until the next fix. This is why those struggling with addiction can not think of anything else but getting that next score so they can satiate their cravings. If it’s not too late, these symptoms will typically disappear with discontinued use.

Meth Comedown and Tweaking

One dangerous aspect of the comedown is what is known as tweaking. For instance, the user has not slept fitfully for three days or up to 15 days. His body is in pain and he’s suffering from all these nasty symptoms. Once he scores another fix, however, he overcompensates not only to avoid the horrible experience again but also to replicate the original euphoric state the initial moment when he took meth.

However, that’s not likely to be repeated and that can cause some frustration and irritability, and even hostility. It’s not uncommon for meth addicts—or any other substance abusers really—to lash out or to act out their frustrations through violent means.

You can spot somebody who is tweaking, called a tweaker, by how rapid the eyes flit, which is about 10 times the normal amount. The behavior is also high-strung and erratic. He’s also going to be jumpy. Otherwise, he will look as normal as anybody else. Experienced counselors, however, can spot those struggling with addiction from a mile away.

What Happens During Meth Comedown?

The effects of meth will last from 4-12 hours. The meth comedown will occur almost immediately afterward. Whereas you felt euphoric when the drug was still in your system, you will feel downright miserable when the effects fade away. It’s not inversely proportional, either. The longer you use, the lesser the feeling of high and the more intense the misery.

When you are in come down, it’s likely that you will stay in bed and catch up on sleep. Of course, that’s assuming you can sleep at all. Hunger pangs are typical symptoms of a comedown. You will also feel some terrible headaches just like a hangover.

It is possible to alienate your loved ones with common irritable and erratic behavior. You will definitely have trouble concentrating and making decisions. The only thing on your mind, in fact, is where to find the money to buy your next supply. It’s common for meth addicts to have trouble staying on the right side of the law. Crime and drug use most often times go hand-in-hand.

The meth comedown is defined as a “recovery period.” For addicts, there’s a fine line between a comedown and withdrawal.

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Withdrawal from meth will be very uncomfortable and even dangerous. This is why detox should always be done under the close supervision of medical personnel. Self-detox is not recommended in this case.

Ice will mess up the natural production of dopamine in the brain. When you suddenly cut off that supply, the brain will scramble to produce the hormone. Your body will again have to get used to the state of being meth-free.

You may feel the following symptoms during meth withdrawal:

  • Intense cravings for meth

  • Increased level of appetite

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Fits of anger

  • Confusion

  • Depression

  • Paranoia

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Violent tendencies

The withdrawal will last between one and two weeks, which is also the same duration of the detox program.

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Meth Addiction Treatment

Because it targets the dopamine-producing region of the brain, relapse is quite high among amphetamine users. This is why constant post-rehab monitoring is needed.

But meth addiction is totally treatable.

Most treatment centers will deal with meth addiction through a combination of detox, Cognitive behavioral therapy, or The Matrix Model, which is an all-encompassing outpatient program specifically designed for people addicted to stimulants. It involves, among others, one-on-one counseling, group therapy, regular and random drug tests, family therapy, and community support groups. Holistic methods are also adopted to supplement traditional methods of treatment.

Some rehab facilities employ advanced individual sessions instead of group counseling. These sessions can be intense because they can be scheduled several times a day instead of once a week. You also can’t hide behind the group because you are face-to-face with the therapist as you thresh out all your unresolved issues.

The idea behind most addiction treatment is that substance abuse is just a symptom of a much deeper issue. This can be summarized in five points:

– Past events or experiences that continue to hound you

– A chemical imbalance in your body

– Current stress that you can’t handle

– Genetic predisposition

– Early exposure

Even if the treatment center can flush out the toxic substance from your body, without addressing the underlying causes above you are likely going to relapse. Drug rehab programs can only do so much. In fact, they are considered only as the first step toward recovery, which sometimes can take a lifetime. There’s no such thing as a silver bullet that can be a cure-all for addiction.

After the drug rehab, the patient will deal with cravings and temptations all his life. What treatment centers actually do is to empower the individuals and equip them with the right tools to manage those cravings and make sure they don’t give in to the temptation.

Drug rehab can be done through inpatient or outpatient programs. Both have their own pros and cons. With meth addiction, however, it’s recommended that you check into a facility where you will be monitored and evaluated 24/7, especially during the crucial two-week withdrawal period. This can assist in the process of getting clean and help you on the road to recovery. You do not have to face this process alone and it’s best that you do not. Meth can be difficult and dangerous to stop abruptly. It’s best to make sure you have trained professionals on your side.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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