Looking closer

Methamphetamine (meth) is one of a number of amphetamine-type drugs. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.

Methamphetamine (meth) is one of a number of amphetamine-type drugs. It’s a strong and addictive stimulant available in pill, powder, crystal or liquid forms. It can be swallowed, snorted or injected but is most commonly smoked in a glass pipe or bong.

Meth stimulates your central nervous system to release a large amount of dopamine, a ‘feel-good’ brain chemical. After taking meth, people usually experience enhanced feelings of energy, mood, and libido which are followed by a comedown.

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Myths about meth

One common myth is that meth makes people violent. What meth does do is flood the brain with dopamine while inhibiting sleep and suppressing hunger. Without sleep and nourishment, the brain cannot flush out toxins and reset itself.

So, people who continue to use meth over three or more consecutive days can experience the negative psychological effects of not eating or sleeping such as hallucinations and irritability.

With the addition of unnatural levels of dopamine in this state, the brain can tip into temporary psychosis which can have prolonged effects in some people.

People who use meth are often blamed for everything going wrong in society. We rarely talk about the reality of meth, why people use it, the short and long term impact on the person and their whānau, and how to cut back or stop using meth.

Most people do not use meth but some do use it at some stage in their life. They’re a varied group – professionals, trades people, athletes, executives, teachers, university students, mums, or even doctors. Using meth does not make you less of a person.

You can find out more about meth, including advice on how to stay safer, through the NZ Drug Foundation.

Where to go for support

The Meth Help Counselling Service offers free, confidential phone support for anyone in New Zealand. Simply call 0800 METH HELP (0800 6384 4357) to talk confidentially about a meth or P related issue or problem. For example, you can get:

  • Advice on how to be safer when using meth
  • Self-help material designed for people who use meth
  • A follow-up service where calls are arranged in advance at a time that suits
  • Brief but involved help with cutting down or stopping
  • Assistance with finding and getting treatment
  • Support to people waiting for face-to-face counselling
  • Support for whānau and friends of someone using meth

The Meth Help Counselling Service is free. It's staffed by trained counsellors from Odyssey House in Christchurch. They are people with a range of experiences including lived experience of methamphetamine and other drugs.

The service is available Monday to Friday with pre-arranged evening availability. If you need assistance on the weekend or after hours, you can reach out the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. They can arrange for the Meth Help Counselling Service to contact you later. The Alcohol Drug Helpline is available 24/7, and all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat to the team online through the website.

This article was adapted from www.methhelp.org.nz – visit the website for more helpful advice about methamphetamine.