This page is dedicated to the following drugs and their effects on addiction. Methamphetamine, Speed, Crack


Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is chemically related to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some limited therapeutic uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity. Methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Street methamphetamine is referred to by many names, such as “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” Methamphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “glass,” and “tina.”

Health Hazards Methamphetamine releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine as well as serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time, methamphetamine appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder. Methamphetamine is taken orally or intranasally (snorting the powder), by intravenous injection, and by smoking. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the methamphetamine user experiences an intense sensation, called a “rush” or “flash”, that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use produces euphoria a high, but not a rush. Users may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and in increasing doses.

Animal research going back more than 20 years shows that high doses of methamphetamine damage neuron cell endings. Dopamine- and serotonin-containing neurons do not die after methamphetamine use, but their nerve endings (“terminals”) are cut back, and regrowth appears to be limited. The central nervous system (CNS) actions that result from taking even small amounts of methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hyperthermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hyperthermia and convulsions can result in death. Methamphetamine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Other effects of methamphetamine include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia. Its use can result in cardiovascular collapse and death.



Regular use can produce a need to increase the dose to get the same effect, and can lead to physical dependence on the drug.
Speed can produce a powerful craving for more of the drug.
Long-term use can result in serious mental and physical problems.


Speed can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected.
Swallowing is the safest method of using speed. The effects come on gradually and last longer than with other methods.
Snorting speed takes effect faster than swallowing but it can damage the nose.
Smoking speed takes effect immediately and can more easily lead to addiction.
Injecting is the riskiest method of using speed.


The dose reaches the brain almost immediately, increasing the possibility of overdose.
Impurities are introduced directly into the bloodstream and can cause septicemia and other infections.
Repeated injections damage the veins, leading to thrombosis and abscesses.
Sharing syringes can cause hepatitis and HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS.
Clean needles are available from needle exchange programs.


The ‘comedown’ off speed can make you feel tired, lethargic and depressed. This may tempt users to take more, and can lead to dependency.
Speed users are at higher HIV and hepatitis risk through unsafe sex and needle sharing.
Although rare, speed can cause seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and death from overdose.
Many users become physically run down, which leaves them susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.
Extended use of speed can cause psychosis. The user may think that everybody is out to get them, or that they are being followed or watched.
Mixing speed with other drugs, particularly other stimulants, can increase the risk of adverse reactions.
Speed is illegal. Possession can result in long prison terms.


Crack Addiction Information

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant. Physical effects of cocaine use, including crack, include constricted blood vessels and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Users may also experience feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.10 Smoking crack delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing effects comparable to intravenous injection. These effects are felt almost immediately after smoking, are very intense, but do not last long.11 For example, the high from smoking cocaine may last from 5 to 10 minutes, while the high from snorting the drug can last for 15 to 20 minutes.12 Evidence suggests that users who smoke or inject cocaine may be at even greater risk of causing harm to themselves than those who snort the substance.

Cocaine smokers may suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath, and severe chest pains with lung trauma and bleeding.13 Smoking crack cocaine can also cause particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users.14 An added danger of cocaine use is when cocaine and alcohol are consumed at the same time. When these substances are mixed, the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third substance, cocaethylene. This intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects, while also possibly increasing the risk of sudden death.15 Most cocaine-related deaths are a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.16 Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug.

Compulsive cocaine use seems to develop more rapidly when the substance is smoked rather than snorted. A tolerance to the cocaine high may be developed and many addicts report that they fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first cocaine exposure.17 Drug Episode: A drug-related ED episode is an ED visit that was induced by or related to the use of drug(s). Drug Mention: A drug mention refers to a substance that was recorded during an ED episode. Because up to 4 drugs can be reported for each drug abuse episode, there are more mentions than episodes. During 2002, emergency departments (ED) nationwide reported 42,146 crack mentions to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Crack accounted for 21% of the total cocaine mentions during the year. The number of crack ED mentions has increased from 33,789 in 1995, but has decreased from 46,964 in 2001.18

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