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Learning About Methamphetamines

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant. It's like amphetamine, which doctors can use to treat sleep problems, ADHD, and obesity.

There's also an illegal form, called meth. Meth is an odourless, bitter-tasting powder that can be dissolved in water or alcohol. It's usually white, but it can be other colours. It can be in a pill, powder, or small, clear crystals that may look like ice or rocks.

The drug is often made in home labs from cheap, often toxic, ingredients.

Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected.

What is methamphetamine use?

Methamphetamine use can lead to stimulant use disorder. This means using meth in a way that harms you or causes you to harm others. It may also be called substance use disorder or drug misuse. People who use this drug tend to use it again and again (binge) and then sleep for a long time (crash) afterward.

People who use this drug have strong cravings for it.

People who use meth may become anxious, confused, and violent. It can affect a person's brain so that they cannot tell what is real (psychosis). This may include:

  • Fearing that others want to harm them (paranoia).
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).
  • Believing things that aren't true (delusions).

In high doses, it can increase body temperature to dangerous levels. It can cause seizures. Because the drug raises heart rate and blood pressure, it can damage blood vessels in the brain. This can cause a stroke.

What are the signs of use?

Some signs that a person may be using meth include:

  • Going long periods of time without eating or sleeping.
  • Losing weight.
  • Acting nervous. The person may talk fast, seem irritated, or move around a lot.
  • Widening of the pupils in the eyes and increased pulse rate.
  • Having dental problems.
  • Having personality changes.

Signs of stimulant use disorder include:

  • Using larger amounts of the drug than you ever meant to.
    • You've been using it for a longer period of time than you ever meant to.
    • You can't cut down or control your use. Or you wish you could cut down.
    • You spend a lot of time getting or using the drug or recovering from the effects.
    • You have strong cravings for the drug.
  • Not being able to do your main jobs at work, at school, or at home.
    • You keep using even though your drug use hurts your relationships.
    • You have stopped doing important activities because of your drug use.
    • You use drugs in situations where doing so is dangerous.
    • You keep using the drug even though you know it's causing health problems.
  • Needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect, or getting less effect from the same amount over time. This is called tolerance.
  • Not being able to stop using the drug without having uncomfortable symptoms. This is called withdrawal.

How is stimulant use disorder treated?

Treatment may include group therapy, one or more types of counselling, and drug education.

Treatment focuses on more than drugs. It helps you cope with the anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment that often happen when people try to stop using drugs.

Treatment also looks at other parts of your life. For example, how are your relationships with friends and family? What's going on at school and work? Treatment helps you take control of your life so you don't have to depend on drugs.

Drug use affects your whole family. Family counselling often is part of treatment.

It can be hard to stop using drugs. But many people have overcome a use disorder. And most of them started by reaching out to others, like caring friends or family, their doctor, or a support group.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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