Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Methamphetamine

Hi there! Mind Matters (formerly referred to as Mind Over Matter) is a series that explores the ways that different drugs affect your brain, body, and life. In this issue, we are going to talk about methamphetamine.

View the Mind Matters Teacher's Guide.

What is methamphetamine? 

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that can make you feel extra energized. It can look like a white powder, or it can be made into a clear crystal shape. Most methamphetamine is made in big labs, but people sometimes try to make it in their homes by mixing chemicals with certain types of cold medicines.

Did you know? More than 99% of 8th graders in the U.S. have never used methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine labs can be dangerous because cooking these chemicals can cause toxic fumes and explosions. 

Illegal methamphetamine is called “meth.” Other names for meth are “speed,” “crystal,” and “ice.”

Learn more on our Drug Facts page: How many teens use methamphetamine?

How do people use methamphetamine?

When people are on a meth binge, they might give up food and sleep for days.

People can smoke methamphetamine or snort the powder up their nose. They can also inject methamphetamine into their bodies with a needle. People use the crystal version of methamphetamine by smoking it in a glass pipe.

Some people take the drug again and again over a long period of time. This is because the high that people feel from taking methamphetamine doesn’t last long. This is called a binge.

Learn more: What questions do teens ask about methamphetamine?

Illustration of the dopamine molecule

How does methamphetamine work?

Methamphetamine creates more of the chemical dopamine in your brain. These large amounts of dopamine can change the way the brain works and can lead you to look for the drug again and again. 

Can you become addicted to methamphetamine?

Yes, you can. Methamphetamine is very addictive. Over time, methamphetamine can change the way your brain works. If you stop using methamphetamine, you can start to feel really sick. This makes it hard to stop. This is called addiction. 

Anyone can become addicted to methamphetamine. It doesn’t matter where you live or how smart you “meth mouth” are. There is no way to predict who is likely to become addicted. The right treatment can help someone who is addicted feel better and stop using methamphetamine, but treatment is hard work and it can take many years to recover from addiction. The best approach is to never start using the drug in the first place.

How does methamphetamine affect your brain and body?

Illustration of a girl depicting the short and long-term effects of meth addiction

Short-Term Effects

  • More energy
  • High body temperature
  • Fast heart rate
  • Faster breathing
  • Not feeling hungry

Long-Term Effects

  • Anxiety, confusion
  • Itchy skin, causing sores from scratching
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Rotting teeth, "meth mouth"

Learn more about “meth mouth.”

What if someone I know needs help?

If you think a friend or family member has a problem with drugs, talk to an adult you trust—like a parent, coach, or teacher—right away. Remember, treatment is available and people can get better.

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Content on this site is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.