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Teen Meth Use

Methamphetamines also referred to as crystal, crank, glass, ice, or speed are one type of illegal drugs used by teens. This article discusses the statistics of teen meth use, the effects of such use, warning signs of meth use, and meth treatment.


Methamphetamine, or meth, is a stimulant with addictive properties. Since there's only one legal methamphetamine product (it's used to treat AD/HD and obesity), most meth use is illegal as well as dangerous. Meth is used through snorting, oral ingestion, injection, and smoking.

Teen Meth Use Statistics

Meth use among teens has been diminishing in the last decade, according to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study (YRBS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being in 2009 only about a third of what is was in 2001 for both 10th graders and 12th graders.

Age 2001 2003 2004 2005 2009
Percentage of Students Trying Methamphetamines
10th grade 9.7 7.5 5.3 4.1 3.7
12th grade 12.8 8.0 6.2 4.5 4.1
College students - 5.8 5.2 - -
Young adults - 8.9 9.0 - -

Overall, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse of 2000 reported that 4 percent of the population of the US (8.8 million people) had tried methamphetamines at least once.

Teen Meth Effects

When speaking of meth effects, one might either discuss the effects that users are seeking through their meth use or the effects that the use of the drug brings about. In the first category are a feeling referred to as a "flash" or "rush" that comes from the stimulant effects and a feeling of euphoria. Unintended effects include addiction; anorexia; convulsions and hyperthermia, which can lead to death; damage to brain cells and neurons; irregular heartbeat, respiratory problems, and strokes.

Teen Meth Use Warning Signs

The only warning sign that would be particular to the use of meth (as opposed to any other illegal substance) is finding the substance itself or paraphernalia for its use, or a reference by the teen to one of the many nicknames for meth.

However, because meth is so addictive, general symptoms of addiction are typical in ongoing meth users, in addition to the symptoms that are associated with the use of stimulants. Signs of addiction include a marked increase in secrecy, inability to maintain attention, and changes in attitudes toward money and spending habits.

Like other amphetamines, meth use may be signaled by alterations in mental status that include agitation, aggression, confusion, euphoria, or paranoia. Other signs include reduced appetite, weight loss, memory loss, disturbed sleep, and quickened breathing. A terrible, but not immediately dangerous, effect is brain damage, that some have compared to Alzheimer's disease in its effects. Those who inject meth may also acquire HIV, and because of the risky sexual behavior undertaken by meth users, unintended pregnancy, with possibly severe health issues for the unborn child, may also result.

The most dangerous signs are the combined spike in body temperature (hyperthermia) and convulsions, breathing, heart, or blood pressure changes, any of which may be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Teen Meth Use Treatment

Because some of its warning signs are life-threatening conditions, treatment for teen meth use makes those a priority. Thus, emergency treatment would look for elevated body temperature, convulsions, irregular heart beat, signs of a stroke or heart attack, respiratory distress, etc. Another top concern would be the unborn child of a pregnant meth user. Because it is addictive, treating withdrawal is also a likely necessity, and may require hospitalization.

Experts advise that teens receive treatment at facilities that specialize in care of teens and that drug-using teens be screened for depression. Once any life-threatening or dangerous symptoms are treated, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used - alone or with other approaches - to treat teen drug abuse.



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