Psychology in the News

October 15, 2007

Death by Meth

Filed under: addiction, dopamine, drugs — Tags: , , , , — intro2psych @ 1:43 pm

by Isabel Vondermuhll

Crystal meth is methamphetamine hydrochloride, the street form of the drug methamphetamine that comes in clear, chunky crystals and is heated and smoked. It is commonly known as crystal, ice and tina.

As for the science behind it, methamphetamine is a chemical stimulant which is similar to amphetamine, but creates a much stronger effect on the central nervous system.  In its legal form, it can be used to treat ADD, narcolepsy and, for short periods of time, obesity.   Mostly, however, it is used illegally for recreational purposes, for weight loss, and to maintain alertness, focus, motivation, and mental clarity for extended periods of time.  Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasurable or rewarding experiences.   Meth users tend to display OCD behavior such as obsessive and repeated cleaning.  In withdrawal,  meth users show depression-like symptoms, excessive sleeping and eating, anxiety, and drug craving.

What made me decide to write about Crystal Meth was an acquaintance of mine who has since passed away as a result of his substance abuse.  When I was in high school I interviewed him about crystal meth for a health class presentation.  Click “more” to read some snippets:

So why did you decide to try Crystal?
To show those bones!  You know, to get thin.  And for fun!  To experience the world, I don’t know.  It’s something illegal, isn’t that enough when you are 16?  I mean Sarah’s dealer had just gotten out of jail and she was really excited and hyping it up.  I mean, its not like she was addicted or anything.  Yeah, all of us are addicted! No, none of us, I mean at that time.  People always think that it’s like if you do it once or twice you are addicted but that’s totally not true.  I mean, its not like most of us do it everyday, and we’re not like limping in a back alley selling ourselves for crystal. We are still functional human-beings.

Describe what the high was like.

Oh god, how should I explain it?  You know I have this little black spiral notebook which is filled with page after page of what I am feeling like when I’m on crystal.  Basically it’s  euphoria.  When you’re on crystal, you have no fears or inhibitions.  Your thoughts are clear and concise and you are very talkative.  But it’s not like you are just rambling on in a drunken stupor, you know just what you are talking about and everyone can understand you perfectly, and what you say is worth hearing.  Altogether you can function at a higher level.  Books say that you get scared and paranoid when you are on crystal but it was not like that at all.  It’s terrific!  I was smarter, more able to think clearly and make decisions. I know, all the books tell you that you do stupid things when you are on crystal but that’s total bullshit.  They just say that to scare you away.  Let me tell you something, when I was on crystal my SAT scores went up 100 points.  But back to my first time, the high lasted about 5 hours, but I wished it could have lasted forever. Once it wore off I took about 6 more hits.  It was even better the second time around.

What did you feel like once the drug wore off the next morning?
I felt really tired and lethargic.  Somewhat like how I feel right now, haha, delirious? Just kidding. Very emotionally worn down, weak, lots of crying.  I immediately wanted to do it again, well no, I shouldn’t say that, no.  I mean, it was the best drug that I had ever done though.  I didn’t do it again for about two weeks but then I really noticed the changes.  I was thinner, more alert.  My dancing ability was not affected though.

Did you ever become addicted?
Well, that’s a hard one.  Maybe at one point I was addicted, yes.  I was doing it every other day for about three months last year.   But normally I can’t get a hold if it that much.  Usually I will do it once a month for 5 days straight.  I didn’t do it for 5 weeks at the end of the summer and in the beginning of the fall because I lost the source; my dealer wasn’t available.  But now he’s back! Ha ha!

Can you function without Crystal?
Yes, (laughing) not very well.  I mean of course I can function, it’s just that I can function optimally when I’ve got Crystal.  Once I started doing it I realized that.  When I don’t have it, I just am like my old self before I tried Crystal, its not like I don’t function as well now that I have tried it.  It’s just that I get grouchy, tired, and fat, well I mean not any heavier, more tired, or more grouchy than I was before crystal, just not as thin, alert, and happy as I am when I’m on it.

How have you changed since you started using Crystal?
Well my weight changes constantly.  I get thin when I’m on it and fat when I’m not.  But I’m like a a perfect match for it.  It’s right for me.  Some people can’t handle it, but I can.  Everybody has their thing.

Have you ever thought about stopping?

Well yes, I have stopped for a while.  I stopped for six weeks after this one ballet summer program last year.  But then I got home and I started again.  But its not all the time.  I’ll do it maybe once a month for 5 days straight.  And then you’re on it.  No one notices it, and it feels better.

Do you wish that you had never started?

No, I’m glad I did.  Truthfully, I don’t really care about the long term effects.  I just don’t think about it.


Taken in its oral form, meth users experience increased wakefulness and physical activity, and decreased appetite.  If meth is smoke or injected, it is taken in a higher dose.  The user will feel the effects of the drug immediately in a rush of intense pleasure that only lasts a few minutes.  The user can become addicted and dependent quickly, needing more and higher doses.  In very high doses, meth causes anxiety, aggression, confusion, hallucinations, insomnia, irritability and paranoia.  In even higher doses, hypothermia and convulsions can cause death.  When the user takes meth, it increases his heart rate and blood pressure which can damage blood vessels in the brain.  This can lead to strokes or irregular heart beat, which can cause cardiovascular collapse and death.  By vastly increasing the release of dopamine, methamphetamine appears to damage brain cells, eventually reducing the amount of dopamine available to the brain, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and severe depression, or both.


  1. In the summer of 2006 I participated in a Government run course on Science Based Drug Education and the hot topic for the week was Meth. It has become and increasingly dangerous problem throughout middle America. One such issue that was emphasized is how there are no true treatment centers for Meth addicts. Many criminals find that after a year or more of incarceration they finally have overcome the extreme addiction. Unfortunately, most treatment centers are overcrowded and incapable of handling over a year of recovery time for one addict. Without proper psychological and physical treatment meth users are significantly more likely to relapse and use again than anyone addicted to a different drug. Also, even for those able to conquer their addiction, like my mother-in-law, there are many more hurdles to jump than just withdrawal from the drug. Meth addicts often need extensive dental work, as Meth rots the teeth, long term psychotherapy until their dopamine begins producing itself again, and an overall life change. The highest risk group for Meth addiction are single working mothers and regardless of the type of treatment received, those women will need extensive help financially to keep them out of the conditions that pushed them to use in the first place.

    Comment by 105 student — March 7, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

  2. just a joke.. its all slowly killing you… if you want smarter just get healthy diet and sports!!! find the one u love.

    Comment by jh jh — August 25, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  3. When you know that you’re gonna die consuming that shit , then why try it in the first place. It’s better to hang yourself or cut your wrist instead of getting addicted to meth. I’m happy to be who I am instead of trying to be that one Perfect Person capable of doing anything or everything just to get noticed . I’m NATURAL & i’m proud of that .

    Comment by Joey — April 1, 2011 @ 4:00 am

  4. Stumbled upon this article but I found it very interesting. I know some people who think that way. They work live have kids maintain I suppose. They don’t feel they are addicted.

    Comment by budrina — August 19, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  5. This article hits close to home for me; my best friend was/is addicted to heroin. When I question his substance use, he tends to give similar responses: “I was addicted at one point, but I’m not now; I mean I don’t need to use, I just choose to.” I find it strange that he truly believes he can stop at any time and that he really does see using as a choice, not an addiction. For him, drugs make life vivid and intense, without drugs, life is just ordinary and boring. That is what truly gets me about his drug use/addiction, he does not believe life is happy or worth living without drugs. Life is such a precious gift, there are so many ways to live it, and to live a life on drugs is one of the saddest ways a person can choose to live.

    Comment by Psych 105 — February 23, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  6. This is a very sobering look into the logic of addiction that I can relate to because I have a family member who struggles with addiction. People forget that addiction isn’t as cut and dry as it is depicted. Often, the user will believe at a very basic level that life on drugs is more interesting than sober life so their usage is a choice. They forget that once you decide to live in that world, you prevent yourself from experiencing many of the good things in this one.

    Comment by Jaylin Remensperger — December 8, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

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