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Meth Awareness

Meth Awareness

Meth Awareness In The News

Methamphetamine abuse has become a tremendous challenge for the entire Nation. Education, prevention, and community involvement are key parts of our National Strategy to reduce the demand for meth. People who know about the destructive effects of meth on the user and the community, are far less likely to use meth.

Please share what you learn about meth with everyone you know and together we will end the scourge of methamphetamine.

What is methamphetamine?
How is meth made?
How does meth affect a user?
How does meth affect everyone else?


Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant drug that dramatically affects the central nervous system.  It is usually illegally produced and distributed.

Meth comes in several forms, including powder, crystal, rocks, and tablets.   When it comes in the crystal form it is called “crystal meth.” 

Ice Methamphetamine Ice Methamphetamine
Meth needle

Meth can be taken by swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting it with a hypodermic needle. 


Unlike drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, which are derived from plants, meth can be manufactured using a variety of store bought chemicals.

The most common ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, commonly found in cold medicine.  Through a cooking process the pseudoephedrine or ephedrine is chemically changed into meth.  The ingredients that are used in the process of making meth can include: ether, paint thinner, Freon®, acetone, anhydrous ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium (taken from inside batteries). 

Photo of a home meth lab Photo of a home meth lab
Photo of a home meth lab

Meth is often manufactured or “cooked” in very crude laboratories.  Many of these labs are not sophisticated operations and do not require sophisticated chemistry equipment.  And the people who cook the meth usually do not have any chemistry training.  Cooking meth is relatively simple, but highly dangerous and toxic. 

There are two basic categories of meth labs:

Superlabs produce large quantities of meth and supply organized drug trafficking groups that sell the drug in communities across the U.S. Most of the larger labs are controlled by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations operating in the U.S. and Mexico.

Small Toxic Labs produce smaller quantities of meth.  These labs can be set up in homes, motel rooms, inside automobiles, and in parks or rural areas -- really almost anywhere.

Photo of a home meth lab


Using meth causes an increase in energy and alertness, a decrease in appetite, and an intense euphoric “rush.”  That’s in the short term. 

With sustained use, a meth user can develop a tolerance to it.  The user may take increasingly higher doses of meth trying to catch that high she first experienced.  She may take it more frequently or may go on binges.  She may change the way she takes meth.  For example a user may have started by taking a pill, but as she develops a tolerance she may begin injecting it.  Addiction is likely.

In the long term, a person using meth may experience irritability, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, confusion, aggressive feelings, violent rages, cravings for more meth, and depression.  They may become psychotic and experience paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions.  The paranoia may lead to homicidal or suicidal thoughts.

A fairly common hallucination experienced by meth users is the so-called crank bug.  The user gets the sensation that there are insects creeping on top of, or underneath, her skin.  The user will pick at or scratch her skin trying to get rid of the imaginary bugs.  This scratching can create open sores that may become infected.

Photo of a Face of Meth (Left) and 11 Months later (right) Photo of a Meth Hands

Photos courtesy of Sheriff’s Department, Multnomah County, Oregon


Meth reduces the amount of protective saliva around the teeth. Meth users also consume excess sugared, carbonated soft drinks, tend to neglect personal hygiene, grind their teeth and clench their jaws, leading to what is commonly called “meth mouth.” Teeth can eventually fall out of users’ mouths—even as they do simple things like eating a sandwich.

Photo of a Meth Mouth Photo of a Meth Mouth
Photos courtesy of: Sharlee Shirley, RDH, MPH; Jim Cecil, DMD, MPH, University of Kentucky, School of Dentistry

High doses of meth can elevate body temperature to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels.  High doses can also cause convulsions. 

People can die as a result of using meth.

Because meth is so addictive, the distance between the short and long term effects may not be very long. 


As you can imagine, all those toxic chemicals used in the meth manufacturing process take a toll on the environment.  Every pound of meth made can generate up to five pounds of toxic waste that may seep into the soil and groundwater. 

The manufacturing process also generates toxic fumes.  These fumes can severely harm anyone exposed to them.  Meth labs also generate highly explosive gases.

Meth also has a very serious impact on children.  Many children are rescued from homes with meth labs or meth using parents.  Meth, chemicals, and syringes are all within reach of these children.  Parents high on meth neglect their children.  And the mental, physical, and emotional consequences for these Drug Endangered Children are often severe.

Millions of our tax dollars are spent each year to clean up meth labs, to care for Drug Endangered Children, and to pay for law enforcement to deal with the meth problem.

Photo of a home meth lab Photo of a play area

Photo provided by: Cheyenne Albro, Director of the Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force, (Marshall Co. lab); Kentucky Drug Endangered Children Training Network.

Photo provided by: Det. Tim Ahumada & Det. Joyell Lucero, Phoenix Police Dept.

Photo of a home meth lab

GO IN DEPTH: National Institute of Justice’s Report on Methamphetamine

National Drug Intelligence Center’s National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment


Now that you know about meth, pass it on.


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