Utah Department of Public Safety

Investigations - Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine in its powdered form may be "snorted", mixed into a solution and "injected", or in its rock form it may be melted into a gas and "smoked". The consumption results in a temporary sense of exhilaration, hyperactivity, loss of appetite, insomnia, extreme amounts of energy, and talkativeness. The use of Methamphetamine produces physical symptoms such as, dilated pupils, excessive sweating and body tremors, bad breath, dry mouth and lips, itchy nose and dizziness. The abusive side effects of small methMethamphetamine include irritability, nervousness, insomnia, nausea, hot flashes, dryness of mouth, sweating, palpitations, anxiety, aggressive behavior, hallucinations, and paranoia. Pulse rate has been known to increase well above 100 beats per minute and blood pressure over 140/90 for days. Tolerance develops rapidly, and it takes increasingly larger doses to achieve the desired effects. When smoked, Methamphetamine reaches the brain in about 6-seconds, which is twice as fast as when injected. It enters directly into the lungs before entering the left side of the heart, where it is then pumped to all areas of the body and brain. Initially, the high lasted between 8 to 24 hours, however as more is consumed, more is needed to reach the desired effects. After a Methamphetamine high, users go into a deep sleep that can last up to three consecutive days. Extreme cases may lead to suicidal tendencies and violent-prone behavior. Some addicts have been known to stay awake for periods of 1 to 2 weeks straight.

meth precursorProlonged use of Methamphetamine may lead to brain damage, affecting the Central Nervous System (CNS). It may bring on delusions and a condition resembling paranoid schizophrenia. There is a possibility of a brain hemorrhage or stroke, or recurring heart disease as Methamphetamine use accelerates the aging process in the heart vessels. Methamphetamine may also lead to fatal kidney and lung disorders, permanent psychological problems, malnutrition, lowered resistance to illnesses, and liver damage.

Throughout the United States, between 1988 and 1991, there was a decrease in Emergency room treatment, however from the second half of 1991 through the first half of 1995, Methamphetamine related treatment has increased 346 percent.

At one time Methamphetamine users could be categorized as whites, between the ages of 25 and 35, with the abuse almost equally distributed between men and women. However that has changed and users now range from 10 years of age to the mid 50's.

The phrase "SPEED KILLS" was coined by the drug culture years ago,
unfortunately, it could not be more true.

meth abuse

Patterns of Abuse

Methamphetamine abuse has three patterns: low intensity (does not involve psychological addiction), binge, and high intensity. The binge and high-intensity abusers smoke or inject meth to achieve a faster and stronger high; the patterns of abuse differ in the frequency in which the drug is abused and the stages within their cycle.

  • Rush (5-30 minutes)
    The abuser's heartbeat races and metabolism, blood pressure, and pulse soar. Feelings of pleasure.
  • High (4-16 hours)
    The abuser often feels aggressively smarter and becomes argumentative.
  • Binge (3-15 days)
    The abuser maintains the high for as long as possible and becomes hyperactive, both mentally and physically.
  • Tweaking
    The most dangerous stage of the cycle. See section below.
  • Crash (1-3 days)
    The abuser does not pose a threat to anyone. He becomes almost lifeless and sleeps.
  • Normal (2-14 days)
    The abuser returns to a state that is slightly deteriorated from the normal state before the abuse.
  • Withdrawal (30-90 days)
    No immediate symptoms are evident but the abuser first becomes depressed and then lethargic. The craving for meth hits and the abuser becomes suicidal. Taking meth at any time during withdrawal can stop the unpleasant feelings so, consequently, a high percentage of addicts in treatment return to abuse.


  • increased alertness
  • sense of well-being
  • paranoia
  • intense high
  • hallucinations
  • aggressive behavior
  • increased heart rate
  • convulsions
  • extreme rise in body temperature
    (as high as 108 degrees which can
    cause brain damage and death)
  • uncontrollable movements
    (twitching, jerking, etc...)
  • violent behavior
  • insomnia
  • impaired speech
  • dry, itchy skin
  • loss of appetite
  • acne, sores
  • numbness


  • disturbed sleep
  • excessive excitation
  • excessive talking
  • panic
  • anxiousness
  • nervousness
  • moodiness and irritability
  • false sense of confidence and power
  • delusions of grandeur leading to
    aggressive behavior
  • uninterested in friends, sex, or food
  • aggressive and violent behavior
  • severe depression


  • fatal kidney and lung disorders
  • possible brain damage
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • disorganized lifestyle
  • permanent psychological problems
  • violent and aggressive behavior
  • weight loss
  • insomnia
  • behavior resembling paranoid schizophrenia
  • decreased social life
  • malnutrition
  • poor coping abilities
  • disturbance of personality development
  • lowered resistance to illnesses
  • liver damage
  • stroke
  • death

Meth Abuse

Meth AbuseBrain imges for (11C)d threo-methylphenidate, which show the concentration of dopamine transporters in a control and in a methamphetamine abuser tested 80 days after detoxification. The abuser shows a much lower concentration than the control. Scale is at right.

Dopamine transporters help transport "used" dopamine, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, back into the nerve cells that produce it, thus terminating the pleasure signal.

[Last Update - Friday, 08-Mar-2013 16:25:37 MST]