Crystal Meth Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms
Crystal Meth Signs and Symptoms

Crystal meth is the crystallized form of the drug methamphetamine. This is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that is like a super charged version of amphetamines. Methamphetamine, most often referred to as meth, is a man-made central nervous system stimulant that begins to poison the body from the first use.

What Does Crystal Meth Look Like?

Crystal meth looks just like the name would imply, like chunks of ice, glass, or crystal. In it’s powder form, it still has a crystallized look, though it is generally white or off-white in color. However, other colors of meth can be found that range from yellow or orange, to brown or pink. This powder can even be pressed into pills.

How Is Crystal Meth Used?

The crystal form of meth is generally smoked. The powder form can be smoked, snorted, or ingested, or it can be dissolved in a liquid and injected. Low intensity abusers generally swallow or snort the drug, while high intensity and binge users generally smoke or inject the drug for quicker and stronger effects.

Are There Other Names for Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth and methamphetamine both have many street names. Some of the references to meth include chalk, speed, crank, or redneck cocaine. Some of the references to crystal meth include glass, ice, crystal, and quartz.

What Is the Federal Classification for Crystal Meth?

In both its powder and crystal form, methamphetamine is a Schedule II Controlled Substance, meaning it has a high potential for both psychological and physical dependence. Methamphetamine is available by prescription for certain medical conditions, however, prescription methamphetamine is rarely sold on the streets as are the powder and crystal forms of the drug.

What are Crystal Meth Abuse Signs and Symptoms?

Low intensity users of crystal meth may exhibit only slight outward symptoms of use, such as increased energy and alertness with a decrease in appetite. This type of user may show slight signs of anxiety, irritability, or paranoia where none had existed before. They may scratch a lot, especially their scalp. However, larger doses and long term use allow for a greater show in symptoms. Some of the symptoms of crystal meth abuse include:

  • Long periods without sleep followed by equally long periods of sleep
  • Mood swings, irritability, aggression, and violence
  • Dilated pupils, twitching of eyes
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Extreme nervousness, scratching, and twitching
  • Burn marks, especially on the fingers or nails
  • A sudden change in appearance
  • Sores, especially on the arms or face

Other physical signs that someone may be using crystal meth include finding bits of foil that may be burned, small plastic bags with bits of crystal or powder, or crumpled soda cans with a hole in the side.

What Are the Short Term Effects of Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth causes the release of dopamine in the brain, leading to an intense feeling of euphoria. In fact, this feeling of intense pleasure is 12 times that produced by sex or any pleasure inducing foods, according to Frontline on PBS1. Using meth also increases energy levels, focus and clarity, improves stamina, decreases appetite, and increases physical activity. However, these are soon replaced, and users may exhibit many of the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate, palpitations
  • increase in body temperature
  • Nonstop talking
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Sudden death

This list is not exhaustive, as meth users can experience many more negative effects, both physical and psychological to this dangerous drug.

What Are the Long Term Effects to Using Crystal Meth?

According to information provided by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR)2, long term use of crystal meth causes the following symptoms:

  • Brain damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Symptoms of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, violent behavior, hallucinations
  • Weakened immune system
  • Stroke
  • Heart infection, lung, liver and kidney damage
  • Death, suicide

Other long term effects associated with methamphetamine use include weight loss, disorganized lifestyle, and malnutrition.

Adverse Effects on the Brain

Crystal meth produces neurotoxicity, or damage to brain cells. Damage can occur in any area of the brain but is often localized to the areas that produce neurotransmitters which help people to feel good. This leads to the inability to feel pleasure as well as to the symptoms often displayed by schizophrenia. Although some neurotransmitter activity may be able to return once meth use has halted, there will be areas of the brain that are permanently damaged.

Physical Effects

Crystal meth takes a toll on the body. It destroys tissue and blood vessels, which decreases necessary blood flow to many parts of the body. The immune system is also weakened allowing many sores and skin infections that are started by the meth user picking at imaginary bugs that are believed to be crawling under the skin. Another common physical factor in those who abuse meth is the presence of “meth mouth”, which consists of rotted, ground down teeth due to excessive jaw clenching, tooth grinding, and lack of oral hygiene.


  1. Frontline; How Meth Destroys the Body;
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR); Methamphetamine

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