Methamphetamine (Meth): Just the Facts

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Methamphetamine C10H15N chemical formula on blackboard

©Shutterstock/Zerbor

If you’ve ever heard about "meth mouth"—where a meth user’s teeth become broken, stained, and rotten, and may eventually fall out—you probably know it’s a common side effect of using methamphetamine (known as meth).

But meth mouth isn’t the only risk that comes with using the drug. Here are other facts about it.

Meth is a type of stimulant drug.

It’s a white, bitter-tasting powder made in labs. Sometimes it’s made into a white pill or a shiny, white, or clear rock called “crystal.” It can also be pressed into little pills that look like the drug MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly).

Meth is sometimes (rarely) prescribed by doctors in small doses for certain medical conditions. But when people use it to get high, the doses are much larger.

Meth, like other drugs, can change how a person’s brain works.

Using meth over and over can reduce a person’s ability to feel good from normal activities. A person can also develop a tolerance to meth; that means they have to take more to get the high they got when they first started using it. 

Other short-term effects from using meth are:

  • Fast heart rate and irregular heartbeat
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Higher body temperature

Some long-term effects are:

  • Anxiety and confusion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Violent behavior
  • Skin sores caused by scratching
  • Severe dental problems, known as “meth mouth”

You can overdose or die from using meth.

In fact, overdose deaths from using meth have been increasing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that deaths involving meth increased by 360 percent over 5 years—from 1,887 deaths in 2011 to 6,762 in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available).

It’s estimated that half of those deaths were in part linked to cheap, dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl that were added to the drug, sometimes without the user knowing it. 

CDC also found that, in the United States, overdose deaths from all stimulants increased by 750 percent  between 2007 and 2017. You might not think this is a problem for teens, since they don’t use meth as commonly as marijuana or alcohol. But in a recent survey, more than 9,000 people aged 12–17 reported they were using it.    

Meth is addictive.

Using meth can quickly lead to addiction, where a person continues to use a drug even though it has negative effects on their health and life.

To learn more, visit our Drug Facts page about meth.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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