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Is Meth A Stimulant?

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

March 29, 2019

Methamphetamine is a dangerous and highly addictive stimulant. It is similar in structure to other stimulants like amphetamine but functions differently in the body and brain. Meth addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s life and will likely require formal treatment to overcome.

Methamphetamine is a powerful and incredibly addictive drug that is illegal in the U.S. It falls under the stimulant category of drugs. Meth works by acting on the central nervous system in the body.

On the street, meth is commonly referred to as ice, chalk, crystal, and other terms. It is commonly found in a white and odorless powder form.

Methamphetamine was originally created in the early 20th century. It is derived from another stimulant – amphetamine. When meth first hit the scene, it was used as a prescription medication for nasal decongestion and bronchial inhalation.

Meth is a Schedule II stimulant as classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and addiction and is illegal outside of a prescription. This drug is rarely prescribed today for conditions such as ADHD and obesity.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Meth is a stimulant drug that structurally resembles other stimulants like amphetamine. However, while these stimulants may have similar physiological and behavioral effects, the two drugs are very different in how they work.

Methamphetamine works by releasing high levels of dopamine into the brain. It can also block the re-uptake of dopamine when used in lower doses. This can cause large amounts of dopamine to be built up in the brain and can cause neurotoxicity.

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Unlike many other stimulants with relatively short half-lives, methamphetamine stays in the system for up to 12 hours after it is consumed. In contrast, stimulants like cocaine have a half-life of one hour, meaning that half of the drug has left the body one hour after taking it.

When compared to other stimulants like amphetamine, more of meth enters the brain. This makes it a much more powerful stimulant than other options and provides a longer-lasting high. However, this long-lasting high can have more serious effects on the central nervous system.

What Are The Stimulant-Like Effects Of Meth?

Meth is a powerful stimulant that can produce a number of effects even at low doses. Some of the most common effects experienced include increased alertness and energy and decreased appetite.

Other stimulant-related effects of methamphetamine include:

  • euphoria
  • increased attention
  • decreased fatigue
  • hyperthermia
  • rapid heartbeat
  • elevated blood pressure

This drug, like other stimulants, can also cause a number of problems for the cardiovascular system. These include irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure.

Getting Help For Meth Addiction

Intensive formal treatment is often the most successful path to recovery from meth addiction. People addicted to meth will also likely require a detox program to withdraw from the drug completely.

While medications have shown to be successful in the treatment of other drug addictions, there are currently no approved medications for the treatment of addiction to methamphetamine.

Once a detox program and inpatient treatment program have been completed, many people will need lifelong support to remain sober. Twelve-step groups and other support groups offer a safe place to build relationships with others in recovery and share experiences.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine abuse?

National Institute on Drug Abuse - What is methamphetamine?

National Institute on Drug Abuse - How is methamphetamine different from other stimulants, such as cocaine?

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