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What is Crystal Meth And Why Is It So Addictive?

By  Anna Giorgi
Get the facts on this dangerous drug and learn how it can hook you.

On the street, it's called, “glass,” “meth,” “shards,” ice,” or “Tina,” among those who make, distribute, and use this highly addictive drug. But among the general public and in the news, it’s called “crystal meth," a reference to the fact that it resembles shards of glass crystals.

This relatively common drug has remained popular among recreational drug users because it works quickly and produces an intense euphoric sensation. Since it’s easily made in home labs, there’s a steady and easily accessible stream of the product for those who become addicted. 

Crystal meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected. It’s often used at parties because it increases wakefulness and allows you to stay alert for longer than normal.

What Is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is chemically similar to the drug methamphetamine, a stimulant that targets your central nervous system. While methamphetamine is made as a controlled prescription drug to treat ADHD, street versions of it are illegal and highly dangerous. 

There are no medical uses for crystal meth. Its contents and appearance can vary by manufacturer. 

“Crystal meth is always synthetic (not organic) and illegally manufactured,” Deni Carise, PhD, chief science officer at Recovery Centers of America and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Because all crystal meth is illicitly manufactured in clandestine street labs, there are no standards.” 

The ingredients used in crystal meth usually include a combination of drugs extracted from over-the-counter medications mixed with more readily available substances such as ether, acetone, iodine crystals, or red phosphorus. The additives increase the total amount of crystal meth produced in one batch to yield a larger profit. 

Why Is Crystal Meth So Addictive?

The drug boosts the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, leading to an increase of this chemical in the brain. Dopamine is associated with motor function, motivation, reward, and the brain’s pleasure centers. 

“Crystal meth causes an intense elevated or euphoric mood that is much stronger than cocaine,” Carise says. “Experiencing these unnatural levels of dopamine causes a strong desire to continue using the drug. It becomes addictive because your body experiences intense cravings to maintain the extremely euphoric state, which often results in constant redosing and binge-like behavior to achieve that goal.” 

People taking even small amounts of this substance can begin to show symptoms of crystal meth use. Some common signs are:

  • Sustained euphoric or extremely happy mood
  • Feelings of being invincible
  • Days of insomnia or constant wakefulness 
  • Hallucinations or delusional behavior
  • Constant itching or scabs
  • Rotten, decaying teeth

Get Help Now

You can avoid the physical and mental consequences of crystal meth use with the right crystal meth rehab. Treatment typically involves detox and behavioral techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for avoiding and coping with potential triggers, along with motivational incentives to encourage abstinence. 

If you or a loved one is using crystal meth, find out how to get the help you need for treatment. WebMD Connect to Care advisors are standing by to help.