Crystal Meth

General Information

Crystal Meth is an illegal synthetic (man-made) drug.  It varies in texture and purity depending on how it is made. It may be sold as a fine to a coarse powder, crystals, or white chunks with grey or pink bits. It may be taken by mouth, smoked, snorted, or injected. 

Also Known As:
222, chalk, crank, crystal,  dirt, glass, Hawaiian salt, fast, gak, gingo, grit, high-speed chicken feed, ice, Koolaid, kryptonite, ladies, peach, peanut butter, peanuts, pink, poor man’s cocaine, rock candy, shabu, shards, sketch, soiks, speed, spooch, stovetop, tina, tweak, zip.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulants

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How Does it Affect the Body?

Crystal meth is absorbed into the bloodstream where it travels to the brain. The speed at which it reaches the brain depends on how it is taken. The fastest effects are felt within seconds after injection and smoking. Snorting produces effects within 3 to 5 minutes. When taken by mouth, it may take up to 20 minutes to begin to work. Smoking may produce effects that last for 10 or 12 hours.

It acts primarily by causing the release of a chemical called dopamine in parts of the brain responsible for regulating pleasure.


The effects of the drug are unpredictable. It is different for everyone. The way a person feels depends on many factors:

  • age and weight
  • mood, expectations, and environment
  • medical or psychiatric conditions
  • amount taken (dose)
  • the way it is taken (by mouth, injection, or smoking)
  • how often and for how long it has been used
  • use of other drugs including non-prescription, prescription, and street drugs

Short-Term Effects of Ice

There are many unwanted and dangerous effects associated with using crystal meth. Its effects are unpredictable. Some people will experience anxiety and panic attacks. It can also make a person feel euphoric, energetic, and alert. A person may be talkative, have a rapid flow of ideas, and a sense of increased mental capacity and physical strength.

 Effects of crystal meth

Short-term use of crystal meth can produce many other effects:

  • dizziness
  • sleep difficulties
  • reduced appetite
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • teeth grinding
  • sweating
  • dilation of pupils
  • stomach ache
  • muscle tremor (shakiness)
  • increased heart rate and irregular heartbeat
  • increased breathing rate

In addition, a person could potentially experience:

  • high fever
  • chest pain
  • fainting
  • muscle twitching
  • confusion
  • paranoid thinking
  • hallucinations

‘Tweaking’ is a stage that occurs as the effects of a high-dose binge begin to wear off. It is characterized by a dangerous combination of anxiety, irritability, aggression, paranoia, and hallucinations.

These individuals are at high risk of injury or violence. Indeed, deaths related to crystal meth use often result from bizarre violent suicidal or accidental behaviour.

An overdose can lead to death. Death can result from rupture of the blood vessels in the brain, heart failure, hyperthermia (extreme fever), seizures, and coma. There is no specific antidote that can reverse the effects of the drug. If you think that a person has overdosed, contact emergency services immediately.

Sharing drug supplies, such as needles, pipes, straws, and spoons can spread viruses. These include HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

People with diabetes, epilepsy, heart and liver problems or mental disorders are most susceptible to the dangerous effects of crystal meth.

Long-Term Effects

Regular users of crystal meth may:

  • have trouble sleeping
  • ”meth mouth” (severe tooth decay and damage)
  • skin lesions (due to compulsive picking at ‘bugs’ on their skin because of tactile (sense of touch) hallucinations making them believe something is crawling under their skin)
  • feel anxious or tense
  • lose their appetite and lose weight
  • develop repetitive body movements
  • develop high blood pressure
  • experience a rapid heartbeat

Some people may develop paranoid thought patterns, severe agitation, and psychosis. Their behaviour may be erratic, bizarre, or violent. In some cases, psychotic symptoms can linger for years after stopping the drug. Users sometimes attempt suicide while on the drug or during withdrawal.

Some users have long-lasting memory problems and reduced motor skills. School and job performance may suffer from heavy use.

Can Crystal Meth Harm a Developing Fetus?

Yes. Using any drugs during pregnancy can harm a developing fetus.

Crystal meth use during pregnancy may result in prenatal complications such as premature delivery. It is not clear whether the drug causes birth defects. Using methamphetamine also decreases the mother’s appetite, which may slow the growth of the fetus in the womb and result in a lower birth weight.

Is Crystal Meth Addictive?

Yes it is very addictive.

Tolerance to the mood-elevating and sense of well-being develops rapidly with regular use. 

A regular user who stops using abruptly may experience:

  • a strong craving for the drug
  • extreme fatigue
  • lengthy but disturbed sleep
  • intense hunger
  • an exaggerated sense of mental and emotional discomfort (dysphoria)
  • an inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)
  • personality disturbances (psychosis) that can persist

Source: Health Canada

Marc J. Bernard

Marc J. Bernard

Substance Use Disorder & Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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1 888-488-8434
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