Chemical composition of meth

Methamphetamine (also known as meth, P, ice) is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects your central nervous system.

Meth is available in pill, powder, crystal or liquid forms. It can be swallowed, snorted, or injected, but is most commonly smoked in a glass pipe.

While all drugs bring a risk of harm, meth is particularly strong and addictive which means people who use it can quickly become dependent to it.

What exactly is meth?

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that impacts your central nervous system. It causes the release of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. This is part of what makes meth so addictive – dopamine is the neurotransmitter in your brain responsible for making you feel good, and forms part of the reward system.

What are the immediate effects of meth?

The effects of meth can include:

  • Feelings of pleasure
  • Increased sociability
  • Physical alertness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Lower inhibitions
  • Increased sex drive
  • Confusion
  • Impaired concentration
  • Reduced appetite

What are the risks of meth?

Meth poses a risk to your physical and mental health. This is partly from the drug itself and partly from the things you tend to do when using it. Harm can also be caused by contaminants and by-products of the manufacturing process. This is particularly risky if you inject meth.

Meth use over a long period of time can lead to health problems like:

  • Difficulty sleeping, and concentrating
  • Decreased appetite, leading to health issues such as malnutrition
  • Heart problems, high blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke or heart attack
  • Mood changes, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Aggression and violent behaviour

Large doses or a strong batch of meth may result in overdose, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke, and even death.

Always call 111 if you or someone else is showing signs of overdose, like:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular/racing heartbeat
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden severe headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Extreme agitation and confusion
  • Passing out

The safest drug use is to not use at all, but if you’re thinking of using meth, make sure you know the risks. Check out the NZ Drug Foundation for more information on how to be safer and what to look out for.

If you have any concerns about your own drinking or drug taking, get in touch with the Alcohol Drug Helpline Call 0800 787 797, or text 8681, to speak with a trained counsellor – they’ll be able to provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat with the team through their website.