How Is Methamphetamine Used?
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Verywell / Cindy Chung
Methamphetamine is produced in several different forms, and so it can be used and abused in many ways. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed in pill form. The method of using methamphetamine can vary by geographic region.
Different Ways That Meth Is Taken
There are different ways that meth is administered by its users.
Currently, the most common method of abusing meth is by smoking it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Community Epidemiology Work Group data.
The hydrochloride salt of methamphetamine can be smoked by itself without having to add it to something else or change its form. In this crystal meth or “ice” form it appears as blue-white rocks.
Often, crystal meth is smoked in a small glass pipe called a “flute.” If you are looking for evidence that someone may be smoking meth, finding such a pipe would be a clue.
Smoking meth can lead to the side effects of “meth mouth,” with dry mouth and corroded teeth and gums. Meth often contains other ingredients left from the illicit manufacturing process, which can have many effects beyond those of the drug itself.
The risks of secondhand methamphetamine smoke aren’t yet known, other than that you can test positive for meth after exposure to secondhand smoke.
Smoking meth is believed to be the route most likely to lead to addiction, according to the Office of National Drug Policy.
The powdered form of methamphetamine can be injected into the bloodstream. As with injecting any drug, this carries a high risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B due to sharing needles.
Snorting methamphetamine powder is often done by new users. This can lead to damage of the sinus cavities. A chronic runny nose can be the result and continued use might even lead to a hole being worn into the septum.
Pill or Ingestion
Methamphetamine was originally developed for medical use and administered in pill form. Users can still take meth in that way today, either with manufactured pills, homemade pills, or other means of ingesting the drug.
Effects of Different Methods
Injecting or smoking meth gives the user the biggest and quickest “rush” or “flash.” Snorting methamphetamine results in effects within three to five minutes, while oral ingestion brings effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
Snorting or oral ingestion does not produce an intense rush, but rather a euphoric high, unlike smoking or injecting the drug. The rush or the high produced by meth lasts for only a few minutes.
Many methamphetamine abusers use the drug in a pattern known as “binge and crash,” taking multiple hits in succession. They are trying to maintain the high by taking more of the drug.
Some abusers go on a “run,” which is a form of a binge during which they don’t eat or sleep for up to several days at a time.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Methamphetamine is produced in several different forms, and it can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed. See how meth is administered.