How Is Meth Used?

Uses of methamphetamine

Verywell / Cindy Chung

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Methamphetamine (meth) can be produced in several different forms. If you're unfamiliar with this drug, you might be wondering how meth is used. Depending on the form, people might use meth by smoking it, snorting it, injecting it, or swallowing it in pill form.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the preferred method of using meth can vary by geographic region. Each method of use has different effects, both short and long-term, although all are dangerous.

Meth Misuse Patterns

Meth misuse often occurs in a pattern known as "binge and crash," or taking multiple hits in succession in an attempt to maintain the high. Some people also go on a "run," which is a form of a binge during which they use meth without eating or sleeping for several days at a time.

Smoking Meth

The most common way of using meth is to smoke it, with 66% of users choosing this route of administration. Smoking enables the drug to quickly enter the bloodstream and, subsequently, the brain. This produces a quick and intense rush or "flash" that lasts for a few minutes and provides feelings of extreme pleasure.

How is meth smoked? The hydrochloride salt of methamphetamine can be smoked by itself, without having to add it to something else or change its form. Meth that is smoked is known as crystal meth or "ice" as it looks like blue-white rocks.

Crystal meth is typically smoked in a small glass pipe called a "flute." If you are looking for evidence that someone may be smoking meth, finding such a pipe would be a clue.

Meth often contains other ingredients left from the illicit manufacturing process, which can have many effects beyond those of the drug itself. For instance, smoking meth long-term can lead to "meth mouth," which involves having a dry mouth and corroded teeth and gums.

The risks of secondhand methamphetamine smoke aren't yet known, other than that you can test positive for meth after exposure to its smoke.

Injecting Meth

The second most common way to use meth is through injection, a method preferred by 24% of users. This method of meth use is increasing over time while the number of people smoking meth is decreasing.

People who inject meth use the powdered form of this drug, which can be injected into the bloodstream. As with smoking, injecting meth results in an immediate and intense rush that provides feelings of pleasure for several minutes.

Some people both inject and smoke meth at the same time. Research indicates that this type of use is associated with more frequent meth use along with more violent behavior and crime.

Injecting meth or any drug carries a high risk of bloodborne infections due to sharing needles. This could result in serious, lifelong medical conditions such as HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B.

Snorting Meth

Roughly 10% of meth users report that they snort this man-made stimulant, making it the third most common form of use. People who use meth by snorting it don't experience the immediate rush as when smoking or injecting this drug. Instead, they have feelings of euphoria, often within three to five minutes of snorting the drug.

Snorting involves forcefully breathing in the drug so it enters the nose. This can lead to damage to the sinus cavities. People who snort meth might develop a chronic runny nose, and continued use can even lead to a hole developing in the septum (the cartilage and bone inside the nose that divides the nasal cavity in two).

Ingesting Meth Orally

Methamphetamine was originally developed for medical use and administered in pill form. It is used medically in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and, in some cases, may be prescribed short-term to help people with obesity lose weight.

Users can still take meth orally today, either with manufactured pills, homemade pills, or other means of orally ingesting the drug. Like snorting, taking meth orally provides feelings of euphoria. However, the effects take a bit longer than when meth is snorted, usually 15 to 20 minutes.

Someone who starts to use meth by ingesting it orally can develop a tolerance to the drug, causing them to progress to other more immediate methods of use.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Methamphetamine research report.

  2. Pro G, Hayes C, Montgomery B, Zaller N. Demographic and geographic shifts in the preferred route of methamphetamine administration among treatment cases in the US, 2010-2019. Drug Alcoh Depend. 2022;237:109535. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109535

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Methamphetamine.

  4. McKetin R, Sutherland R, Peacock A, Farrell M, Degenhardt L. Patterns of smoking and injecting methamphetamine and their association with health and social outcomes. Drug Alcoh Rev. 2021;40(7):1256-1265. doi:10.1111/dar.13364

  5. Radfar SR, Rawson RA. Current research on methamphetamine: epidemiology, medical and psychiatric effects, treatment, and harm reduction efforts. Addict Health. 2014;6(3-4):146-54.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Methamphetamine.

  7. United States Department of Justice Archive. Meth awareness.

Additional Reading

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.