Methamphetamine Abuse, Complications

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug. It belongs to the class of drugs known as amphetamines. This drug is known as speed, meth, and chalk. In the smoked form, it is often called ice, crystal, crank, and glass. It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Meth use causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense of well-being. The effects of meth can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial rush, there is typically a state of high agitation, which can lead to violent behavior.

Methamphetamines have many medical uses. Unfortunately, the way this drug is used today is not prescribed by physicians and is not the pure drug made by manufacturers and dispensed by pharmacies. Meth is fairly easy to make from commonly available materials. Therefore, a large portion of this drug is made illicitly by cookers in homemade kitchens or labs.

Making meth is very dangerous. The end product is often impure and contains toxic materials hazardous to the cooker, user, and anyone in contact with the process. Areas where the drug is made are usually tainted and need decontamination to remove lead and other poisons. These toxins are especially harmful to children. Most illegal meth makers abandon the sites after they are done making the drug.


  • Most of the complications of using this drug come from:

  • Abusing the drug by using much more of the drug than is safe.

  • The presence of impurities in the substance itself.

  • As the user continues to take the drug over a period of time, it takes more of the drug to give them the effects they are seeking.

  • The body builds resistance (tolerance) to the desired effects and the unwanted and often dangerous side effects increase as well. This is why meth abusers often have problems with their heart, brain, circulation, and mental state.

  • Acute lead poisoning. A method of illegal meth production uses lead as one of the ingredients. Errors in production may result in contamination. There have been cases of acute lead poisoning with needle use.

  • Fetal exposure to meth may result in prenatal complications such as:

  • Early (premature) delivery.

  • Altered neonatal behavioral patterns. These include abnormal reflexes and extreme irritability.

  • Birth defects.


There are 2 types of treatment:

  • Short-term (urgent) medical treatment. This helps to preserve life and prevent or minimize damage from the complications described above.

  • Long-term substance abuse treatment. This helps to achieve recovery from drug abuse or addiction. Most hospital providers can provide referral information for such treatment if the hospital does not offer it.


After treatment discharge, it is essential to do the following:

  • Follow all instructions from your caregiver very carefully.

  • Take all medications as prescribed. If you cannot, call your caregiver right away.

  • Keep all appointments for further evaluation and counseling.

  • Do not use drugs, alcohol, and all other mind and mood altering drugs unless prescribed by your caregiver.

  • Do not operate a motor vehicle or machinery until your caregiver says it is okay.


  • You have twitching or shaking (seizure).

  • You become shaky or agitated.

  • You become light-headed or faint.

  • You notice sudden or gradual weakness on one side of the body or an arm or leg, or are unable to walk.

  • You have a sudden, severe headache or blurred vision.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • You develop chest pain, feel sick to your stomach (nauseous), or throw up (vomit).

If you have any of the above symptoms, do not drive. Have someone else drive you or call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.).


Addiction cannot be cured, but it can be treated successfully. Treatment centers are listed in telephone directories under:

  • Alcoholism and Addiction Treatment, Substance Abuse Treatment or Cocaine, Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous. Most hospitals and clinics can refer you to a specialized care center.

  • The US government maintains a toll-free number for obtaining treatment referrals: 1-800-662-4357 or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).

  • Other websites for more information are: and

  • In Canada, treatment resources are listed in each province with listings available under: The Ministry for Health Services or similar titles.