An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

crystal meth in a bag

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Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug similar in many ways to amphetamines. Stimulants are the second most popular class of illicit drugs after marijuana.

Meth was synthesized in the 1880s and was widely used in the second world war by German soldiers, who were provided with the drug by their government as an aid to alertness. This led to the first wave of meth use when the public gained access to this government-issued drug.

Methamphetamine and amphetamine were commonly prescribed during the 1950s and 1960s for a range of medical conditions, including narcolepsy, depression, and obesity. People began using methamphetamine and amphetamine recreationally in the 1960s, along with many other drugs, although meth waned in popularity until the 1980s.

Meth recently gained popularity after the synthesis of a smokeable form of crystallized methamphetamine (d-methamphetamine hydrochloride) or crystal meth.

Top 5 Things to Know

  1. Crystal meth goes by many different names. You might hear it called ice, crystal, tina, speed (traditionally a name for amphetamine), crank, jib, shards, or gak. It can look like slightly transparent crystals or bluish-white rocks.
  2. Meth can be taken in many different ways. Most commonly, it is snorted, smoked in a pipe, or injected, but it can be taken orally, as a pill or capsule, or mixed into a drink.
  3. Meth has been used as a "party 'n' play" or PnP drug, particularly among a sub-group of gay men who sometimes use the drug rectally, which is sometimes known as "booty bumping."
  4. People take meth for many different reasons. In addition to the rave or party connection, people use meth as a stimulant to stay awake or to lose weight. Street youth report taking meth to cope with life on the streets and to stay vigilant, and may consider it a more positive choice than heroin or crack.
  5. Meth has severe physical and mental consequences, especially if taken for extended periods of time. Despite myths in the media, treatment for meth use can be effective.

Health Risks and Considerations

Like other addictive substances and behaviors, meth can be used recreationally by some people who do not become addicted. However, the complex effects that the meth high has on people's mental state and behavior mean that using meth always carries a risk.

The longer you use meth, the worse it is likely to affect you, and the harder it is to quit and make a full recovery.


If you have been using meth to lose weight, it is worth noting that long-term meth use tends to take its toll on users' appearance, often aging people prematurely and leading to irreversible dental problems, sometimes known as "meth mouth." Talk to your doctor about safer ways of losing weight that will make you look better, not worse, and—most importantly—not put your health at risk.


In addition, meth is not an effective way to study. Although some students may use meth to stay up late studying, it can cause long-term cognitive and mental health problems. 

Brain scans have confirmed the long-term damage done by meth. If you believe you have attention problems, and meth helps you to focus, your doctor can prescribe safer, more effective medications to help with this or help you identify other, non-drug strategies that may help.


Some people find that meth improves their mood, but this is a temporary effect. When you come down, you are likely to feel worse than ever. Your doctor can give you much safer, more effective medications for depression and other mental health problems.

You might also find that the psychological treatments for meth addiction are just as helpful for problems with depression and anxiety.


Finally, if you have been using meth as part of a social scene—whether it is a club, "party 'n play," or another social group, think about whether you would prefer to spend your time on other activities or with other people. Some people use drugs for a long time, simply because those around them do, but there are always alternatives. 

Meth may seem exciting at first. But as the excitement wears off, like other addictions, meth use can be hard to quit and bring about serious health risks.

Next Steps

Meth is a dangerous drug to take. So, while quitting is advised, it can be accompanied by a variety of physical and psychiatric symptoms. If possible, it is best to come off the drug with medical supervision.

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.

Once you are through meth withdrawal, treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy can be helpful for overcoming meth addiction. If you have other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis—all of which can be substance-induced—it is important to get treatment for these conditions as well.

If you have social difficulties, such as trouble finding and keeping decent housing, there are programs designed especially to help with these kinds of problems for those who are in recovery from drug problems. If you don't have contact with social services, try calling your local crisis line for help with accessing these services.

A Word From Verywell 

Life on crystal meth is full of ups and downs. Part of recovery is getting some balance in your life, which may at first seem boring, but could open up a whole new world of possibilities for you.

4 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. The University of Arizona. Methamphetamine history and origin.

  2. NIH. Methamphetamines.

  3. Rommel, N., Rohleder, N., Wagenpfeil, S.,Härtel-Petri, R., Jacob, F., Wolff, K., Kesting, M. The impact of the new scene drug “crystal meth” on oral health: a case-control studyClinical Oral Investigations. 2016;20(3):469-475. doi: 10.1007/s00784-015-1527-z

  4. Fast D, Kerr T, Wood E, Small W. The multiple truths about crystal meth among young people entrenched in an urban drug scene: a longitudinal ethnographic investigationSoc Sci Med. 2014;110:41–48. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.03.029

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.