How Does Methamphetamine Affect The Brain? Effects Of Crystal Meth Abuse

Methamphetamine, also known as meth or crystal meth, is a synthetic central nervous system stimulant that is usually smoked or snorted by the user. It is manufactured in laboratories using household items found at the pharmacy and hardware store such as pseudoaphedrine and acetone, and usually looks like white rock or glass.


On the list with cocaine and PCP, Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports methamphetamine to be a highly addictive and dangerous mood altering substance, and researches agree it’s use is associated with a number of consequences on the brain and central nervous system.

How Does Methamphetamine Affect The Brain?

Methamphetamine abuse can lead to a number of short-term and long-term effects on the brain.  According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, a meth user’s brain can show significant changes in the behavior of the dopamine system associated with language and motor skills after just 14 months of prolonged use. A 2015 study performed by researchers Nicole A. Northrop and Bryan K. Yamamoto also shown that meth use induces a decrease in structural proteins resulting in an increase in BBB permeability, as well as damage to dopamine and serotonin terminals.

What Long-Term Side Effects Of Methamphetamine Use?

Long term meth use can lead to:

  • Addiction
  • Pyschosis (paranoia, hallucinations, obsessive compulsive behavior)
  • Changes in brain structure
  • Decline in thinking and motor skills
  • Memory loss
  • Violet mood swings
  • Severe dental issues
  • Weight loss

Where Did Methamphetamine Come From? What Is the History Of Meth?


Methamphetamine was first synthesized by Nagai Nagayoshi in 1893.  From there is was introduced to consumer markets as a over-the-counter nasal decongestant. Years later, the FDA has classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug, only to be prescribed for conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy.


During WWII, the US, Japan and Germany all supplied their troops with methamphetamine tablets, which decreased hunger and need for sleep while increasing aggression. After the war, all three countries experienced high levels of methamphetamine use by both former soldiers and civilians, and when the drug was outlawed in the 1960’s, illegal drug markets took the place of the neighborhood pharmacy, and by the 1970’s gangs were responsible for manufacturing and distributing the product.


By the 1980’s a crystalline form of methamphetamine was invented, and crystal meth swept the nation. By 1990, crystal meth had largely replaced cocaine as the major stimulant of choice among drug users, and unlike heroin which is derived the the poppy planted and needs to be imported, meth can be manufactured anywhere. Drug labs producing methamphetamine began popping up across the United States, and the war on methamphetamine still rages till this day.


Currently, methamphetamine “superlabs” continue to increase in numbers around the world, and methamphetamine seems to be a growing problem not only for the United States, but the world.