Just Ask Us –
Q & A

Please note: will not be able to respond to new questions for the foreseeable future due to limited staffing. We feel that the following three pages address a great deal of the common and most important issues which our visitors have dealt with.

Web Visitor: What does crystal meth actually do to your body to give you your high? I mean does it kill your brain cells like weed, or does it make your brain bleed like acid? I just want to know what my friends are doing to themselves.

Dr. Mike (The New Guy on the Block!!!): Oh my dear – methinks you've been watching too many anti-drug propaganda films! Neither crystal meth or nor any other substance I know of makes your brain bleed. The only thing that'll do that is a hard blow to the head! As far as killing brain cells, that's a rather complicated question. Speed does significantly effect on your brain chemistry. This is what makes it a "psychoactive" drug for better or worse.

Methamphetamine, like cocaine, is a "psychostimulant" that increases the amount of at least three important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, dopamine, and seratonin. As a result, methamphetamine can elevate your mood, induce euphoria, increase alertness, reduce fatigue, increase energy, decrease appetite, increase movement and speech, and provide a sense of increased personal power and prowess. This is the high - you feel the "life of the party". And, unlike a cocaine high which is brief, the effect of meth lasts for six to eight hours or more depending how much you do.

Unfortunately, there's also a down side. The same process also can produce increased blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, paranoia, and sometimes even psychosis. And what goes up must come down. "Crashing", or coming down off of speed, usually involves total physical and mental exhaustion including deep mental depression.

Most of the obvious negative effects of meth use are an indirect result of the high - the fact that tweakers often go for days without eating, drinking, sleeping. Obviously not good for you. As far as "killing brain cells," it seems (from research with mice and rats anyway) that this tweaking with your neurotransmitters may alter your brain chemistry in ways that may be long term or possibly even permanent. But this is with rats - we still don't really know the long term effects of speed on human brains.

Another problem with crystal, or for that matter with any street drug, is contamination due to the cut and the manufacturing process. The folks who brew up speed aren't exactly working in a sterile pharmaceutical plant with a quality control program. Nor is it by any means rare for dealers to dilute the drug with god knows what - as long as it's the right color and consistency. Tests of street samples of speed show an alarming amount of heavy metals including lead and many other toxic substances. Again, obviously not good for you.

So, this is long answer to say, no, it doesn't make your bleed, but, yes, there may be some serious consequences to using speed on a regular basis or in large quantities. It pays to be a wise consumer and investigate what you're putting into your body.

Q: What does crank have to do with AIDS? Most users don't inject it...

A: Crank is not crystal, though it is another form of amphetamine. It can be manufactured and administered in a number of ways. Crank, along with any other form of substance, can impair one's judgement to the point of possibly pre-disposing one to unsafe sex practices.

Q: The Crissy image seems to glamorize crystal and crystal use. What's up with that?

Crissy was created to appeal to a very specific group of gay and bisexual men who are part of the bar and club scene. As such, she personifies what is appealing about speed. She's thin, sexy, fabulous and stays out dancing all night. By creating a diva icon, Crissy will become part of the speed and club culture so that she can effectively deliver HIV prevention messages.

Q: I've heard (and read on one of your pages) that people at the Haight Free Clinic recommend taking certain amino acids to help in crissy recovery. Which one(s) should a person take and where can they be bought? Specific details would help a lot of people who otherwise might not bother looking around for them.

A: For information about the study to find out if the amino acid tyrosine helps people get off speed, call 415-487-3678.

Q: What is the difference between crystal meth and speed? Is one more dangerous than the other?

There's a lot of confusion with the term "speed." Crystal methamphetamine is one kind of "speed" which has a specific chemical structure and a specific set of effects on the body.

"Speed" is the generic name for many different kinds of "uppers" or stimulants, some of which have other chemical structures or may be blends of chemicals.

"Speed" is kind of useless as a term, sort of like "dope." It doesn't really tell you much. It's easy to say and refers to the effects of lots of similar drugs, such as a feeling of excitement, a feeling of more energy and feeling "speeded up."

For a pretty readable book about drugs, try "Uppers, Downers and All Arounders" by Daryl Inaba, a doctor who works at the Haight Ashbury Clinics. It's a standard textbook on drugs and their effects.

This website can tell you lots about crystal methamphetamine, which is currently the most popular type of speed. However, it's not the only type available. It's stronger than most other types of speed, yet there are a few which are more potent and can have stronger impact on the body.

What is the relationship between crytsal and HIV?

There's a really wide range of opinion on how crystal methamphetamine affects the progression of HIV disease. For many practical and legal reasons, it's been easier to study the impact of the legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, on the health of people in general. There's some interesting research on some of the illegal drugs and HIV, but very little has been done about crystal methamphetamine and HIV.

One reason for this is political, as the government takes a longer time to acknowledge a problem than the person on the street. A lot of money and research is going towards understanding crack cocaine and its impact, since the powers that be have noticed that drug problem.

Lots of anecdotal discussion of HIV and crystal meth is totally contradictory, as some claim it kills your immune system off faster, since it is "speed", while others swear it boosted their cell counts. A blended version of these says that it may boost your immune system up to a point, but that it also boosts HIV production, so you end up losing the gains over time. The truth is probably something even more complex.

We do know managing HIV infection requires good nutrition, keeping a higher balance of vitamins, building lean body mass, exercising and sleeping regularly. Crystal meth use, even only occasionally, can lead to skipping meals due to loss of appetite, depletion of vitamins and losing weight, and staying awake for days at a time. Using crystal can also cause dehydration and mood swings when one is tweaking or crashing. It can be a lot of stress on a body.

Also, there was the overdose of a gentleman who was taking ritonavir and two tabs of ecstasy, which is a similar amphetamine. The drug company was reluctant to study the problem, but there may be a few of us who are vulnerable to strange interactions between HIV medications and amphetamines.

For more information, I would recommend the folks at Haight Ashbury Detox in San Francisco, who spend a lot of their time working with people who have been crystal users and who are living with HIV. Their telephone number is 415/565-1908. Thanks for your question and hopefully this answer was useful to you!

How much crystal meth can you do before you start to develop a habit?

You asked an excellent question. It's important to ask it, even though there's no easy answer. It's hard to say when use of anything becomes a "habit,": especially if the standard idea of a "habit" is using every day, such as most cigarette smokers do.

There's also two kinds of "habit," the psychological and the physical. Physical dependency on most drugs is unlikely if the use is once a month or less. The psychological attraction of a substance, such as crystal meth, may lead you to try it more often. For most things and for most of us, there's a blend of both types of "habit." Even for something like exercise!

There are two things you may want to observe to decide if you are developing a "habit." The first is to actually mark your use on a calendar, including how many days it took to get back to "normal," if you stayed up all weekend, etc. If you see that you are spending more and more time using or more frequently, you've probably on the way to a habit. The second thing to look for is if you are changing plans, discarding other goals or changing who you spend time with based upon crystal meth use. Do you find yourself spending less time with people who don't use? Are you getting behind in school work or professional goals? Just a few things to look for...

On the other hand, a lot of people use crystal occasionally and do not have a "habit." Often, their use is restricted to special events, like a vacation, a rave or a three day weekend. As ever, it's a personal choice and a set of personal realities for each of us.

what is the relationship between crystal and the digestive system? i know that it works as an appetite suppressant, but often when I'm tweaking i feel like i have indigestion and gas - even when I've eaten not too long before getting high. is that to be expected.

I haven't heard of any research or major report of indigestion or gas due to crystal meth, but it's entirely possible. As you mentioned, the more well-known effect is appetite suppression.

Hmmm... I'll venture a kooky speculation, as long as you don't hold me to it as any sort of profound "fact." Since crystal meth confuses the body chemistry a bit and leads you to not feel hungry, it may also stir up some confusion in the body that leads to producing other responses. Everybody's response to any substance is totally unique, so crystal may rev up your digestive system in some uncomfortable way. It's not unusual for any stimulant to do so. Personally, a big dose of caffeine has the same effect on me!

Are there any support groups for Crystal/meth users. I started taking speed about 6 months ago, but only have been using it on weekends a couple times per month, but recently the last month, i started taking it every Saturday night before going out clubbing. I really had no idea what crystal meth was until a couple of nights ago surfing the WEB finding information about it. Needless to say, I was horrified! I've thrown my remaining crystal supply down the toilet.

I have a good friend, who I'm afraid is a much heavier user than I am, and can see him beginning to go down hill. I'm not sure what to do about this.

Any information, support groups, just someone to talk to about this will greatly help.

Please hurry!

There are several support groups in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles. I'm not sure where you live but, try calling Crystal Meth Anonymous at 415/267-5933 in SF. They can provide you with a list of CMA meetings in SF and LA. If you don't live near either city, you might want to consider calling another type of support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Both AA and NA should have a listing in your local telephone book.

I started using crystal meth 6 months ago. It was only a weekend activity at first but recently has become something I do at least 4 and up to 7 days a week. I feel I am losing myself slowly: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Crystal makes me motivated, energetic, social, lose weight, and sexually aroused at all times. Sounds too good to be true BUT I cant remember things anymore, my body is sore and tired, my hairs falling out, and I am overly aggressive and think violently- how long before I act on these thoughts? It has become a lifestyle, the drug and the friends who do it. I need help.........

I don't think there's any way to estimate when anyone will become violent, whether or not they're using drugs. I am very glad that you are concerned about your use now, before anything drastic happens.

I was touched by your note as a classic summary of the "ups and downs" of crystal meth use. I'm not sure that hair loss is directly related to use, though it may be from the stress of using a lot, malnutrition from having less appetite while using, or it may just be an unrelated unfortunate problem.

In your note, you didn't mention if your "runs" were continuous, without sleep. One of the most important things to change may be your sleep patterns. Sleep deprivation, BY ITSELF, can lead to all kinds of strange thoughts and terrible moods. There are countless ugly stories of sleep deprivation being used as a cheap, effective torture device. Even the best and the bravest will snap at some point!

If you can't slow down your use right now, at least make an effort to get some good sleep! You may find your system will come back towards balance with adequate rest.

If you are looking to slow down, please look into some of the services described in the website. If there's not a specific program for speed users in your area, there's bound to be services for people who use other drugs. For instance, heavy cocaine use can lead to a lot of similar problems.

We live in a very competitive and often difficult society. I often wish I was more motivated, energetic and sociable myself. We're all given loads of messages in all media that we should be slim and sexy every minute of our lives. So, it's easy to understand the appeal of a drug which seems to provide you with all these benefits.

You also wrote about the negative consequences of crystal. It's up to you to decide whether it's worth it.

As for it "It has become a lifestyle, the drug and the friends who do it," if it's only been six months, you probably still remember life without crystal and you probably still know people who don't use. If you need help, someone kind and caring among them may be a great place to start.

Services are out there, yet a lot of people have stopped on their own. If you know that you need help, you're already way ahead of the people who are unconsciously headed for trouble.

Ask yourself what steps you are willing to take and then ask yourself who will really, honestly be able to support you in being successful. It takes courage and determination. I also know it's easier said than done.

Hi, i have a question about Crystal Meth, i would like to know how long it stays in your system, and does it show up on Urine Tests?

To make sure I was giving you good advice, I did some fact-checking before I wrote this answer to your question.

Crystal methamphetamine stays in the body for about three to five days after use. After that, it's been mostly flushed out. Of course, it is always possible that someone's body holds on to a substance for a little longer than average.

As for Urine tests, I'm assuming you're talking about the type of generic drug screening used by employers, police or the military to test people for recent use. These days, they do screen for crystal meth. Since crystal meth is made from pseudoephedrine, some people have been "busted" for crystal while dosed up on decongestants!

...hi, any honest answers you can give would be greatly appreciated. my significant other and i have used (by smokeing...though initially by snorting) crystal... my other first began having medical problems we never considered (and still not convinced) related. our use has always been in-frequent and never for any prolonged period. my other was diagnosed with oa. (osteoarthritis) most likely associated with an accident when a child... oa also known as degenerative joint disease, has been a source of pain, ...these we know is the oa...but she has had other symptoms which from second hand sources we have come to wonder about: she has a numbness in her fingers, sensitive skin...(her skin very often feels like it burns) her sense of balance and walking are somewhat impaired (she had these problems even before taking medications for the oa.)

now of recent... i too have begun feeling a numbness in my fingers, and also suffer many more aches and pains than what was common before any use...

beside the use, we also generally have the same diet in common and we have tried to use supplements such as vitamins and minerals...and she has used other supplements that have been suggested for her oa.... ...ok, the question: especially the numbness in the fingers is there any correlation between the symptoms we both share and the use of meth?

I am very sorry to say that I am not familiar with the numbness or burning sensations you are describing. It's not something I've heard about before, but it may be that other people have felt the same way and just chose to ignore it. Since I'm not a doctor, I really can't say anything meaningful about the interaction between osteoarthritis and crystal methamphetamine.

If either of you has persistent symptoms like those you describe, I would definitely seek medical help. I know some doctors are not cool about talking about recreational drug use, so make sure you have somebody you can be honest with, especially if either one of you is already being treated for another condition. If your doctor is too uptight to hear about your meth use, consider changing doctors!

It's a crazy world, so perhaps you are, unfortunately, discovering some new problem. I'd recommend talking this over with somebody at the Haight Ashbury Clinics. They can be reached at 415-565-1908. Please feel free to say I referred you there.

Can you tell me how my boyfriend can keep his erection when we occasionally have sex while doing crystal? The intensity is incredible but he loses his erection, is there anything we can do? What is the drug nicknamed "hard-on in a bottle"?

I wish I had more details about your situation to give a more specific answer. You describe one of the two meanings of "crystal dick, " which is having trouble getting and maintaining an erection. Oddly, the other type of "crystal dick" is an erection that won't quit for hours, including sometimes having a hard time getting off and having an orgasm! Crystal methamphetamine gets you high by stimulating activity in your brain, slamming neurotransmitters harder and faster than normal. This can be great fun, but it can also throw off the delicate balance required for sexual performance. A general feeling of excitement and even a rush of sexual feeling doesn't guarantee that the male equipment will get all the appropriate signals to fill with blood and close off the chambers of the penis that, filled with blood, maintain an erection.

There's no predicting how each of us will react to crystal, so some people have this problem all the time, some have it some of the time, some infrequently, some never. It's not clear what one can do to change that. Of course, there's always devices such as cockrings to assist in maintaining an erection, but one has to get hard before that does much good. Like all erection problems, spending too much energy on stressing about it will not help. Trust me, I've been there! It may not be what you want to hear, but it may be that a little less crystal would allow more regular function.

As for the "hard-on in a bottle," there are many products which claim to do this. Many of these are bogus! I've seen a lot of creams which give a tingling sensation and enhance excitement, but I'm not convinced they work to give you an erection on their own. For those who enjoy other drugs associated with sex, such as poppers (usually amyl nitrate), they may call these a "hard-on in a bottle." I don't want to make stuff up & lead you astray from one rumor to another!

Glass is a form of Crystal Meth. Is it possible to get AIDS through snorting glass?

Drug names are so hard to follow from one place to another! In California, the word "glass" may also refer to another type of amphetamine, called methylamphetamine. This is similar to crystal methamphetamine in chemical structure, but is not as popular. A lot of people find the high and the crash from methylamphetamine to be too harsh for their taste. Or, your "glass" may have a little of each, as you can mix them together in powder form. Snorting anything presents no real risk for getting a disease like AIDS. HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which is believed to cause AIDS is transmitted from person to person in body fluids, most commonly in blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

It may be a leap of logic, but if someone told you that one could get AIDS from snorting glass, they may have skipped the details and meant that they snorted glass and then did something else... like having unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone. The only ways that doing drugs causes HIV transmission is if one is sharing needles or other equipment. So, if you shared a straw with someone who had HIV and a bleeding nose, that would be a way to get the virus. As long as there is no body fluid in the drugs, or the surface you are using or in the straw or other tube you use to snort, you should be fine. Thanks for asking and good health to you!

What are some of the residual chemicals from manufacturing crystal, and what are their potential effects on a user? What are some of the things which may be cut into crystal or other kinds of speed, and what are their side effects?

That's an excellent set of questions! I'll make an effort to give you some good information, but you may want to call the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics at 415-565-1908 for more information.

Crystal methamphetamine varies greatly in purity, either due to the relative talent of the people who make it, or the amount which it has been cut to make more profit.

As for residual chemicals, most crystal is "cooked" using pseudoephedrine, an ingredient of many cold medicines, red phosphorous, black iodine and toluene (also known as paint thinner). Toluene is toxic and the by product of making meth are very toxic chemicals. Again , this all depends on the level of skill and care in the production of a batch of crystal.

Each week, police and other authorities are faced with the great challenge of cleaning up labs seized in busts. Often, the chemicals are simply dumped in a yard or stream, which may have to be completely dug up!

Crystal can be cut with a lot of other stuff. Some common materials are not so great for your body, especially if one is injecting. I've heard of talcum powder, cornstarch, and even crushed cold medicine pills which have pseudoephedrine. Of course, there are even more strange things people have done to cheat a customer!

The side effects can be as mild as a nose lined with talcum powder from snorting cut crystal, to much more serious if one is allergic to some product used to cut a drug. There have even been reports of poison being added to crystal to foil police or as some twisted act of malice. It's a big world, and some of us are quite strange.

Recently, there's been a scare about poisoned meth in Northern California, supposedly using a chemical which is undetectable and very potent. It may be a myth, but I'd ask a few questions about where my drugs came from before using them!

I've used meth for almost 3 years and whenever i quit for over a month, my nose gets spontaneous pains that last for 5 seconds to 2 minutes. also, i shake sometimes when i try to sleep and once i got such a bad head rush I fainted and shook on the ground for a minute. I don't remember doing it, but my mom said thats what I did. Whats going on?

I am sad to hear that you are having these troubles! I'm not a physician, so there's no way to make an appropriate diagnosis. Please, please, please see your doctor soon and, if you don't have a doctor you feel comfortable talking to about your symptoms and your drug use, get a new doctor! There's free clinics in most towns, so there should be an option for you, especially doctors who work at drug treatment centers. As I always say, it's a big world and there's six billion of us who may have all kinds of unusual experiences. Logically, there are four major possibilities:

1) Crystal use caused some type of damage to your nervous system, which is unusual but not impossible
2) You are developing some health problems not related to crystal and they are more noticeable when you're not using. Obviously, you'd notice a major convulsion, but you would expect to have trouble sleeping while tweaking, right?
3) A combination of #1 and #2.
4) You're pulling our "virtual leg" to see what we'll say!

Except for reason #4, I'd make a doctor's visit a top priority! In San Francisco, you can call Haight Ashbury Detox at 415/565-1908 and talk to someone with more medical expertise about your problem

I have been noticing that my memory isn't as good as it used to be and sometimes I forget things within seconds of first thinking of them. Is this a result of crystal use, or just getting older, and is it permanent damage?

I will quickly say that I'm not a virtual doctor and that I have nowhere near enough information to answer your question. There are a large number of problems which can cause memory loss, including several diseases, such as Alzheimer's, which have nothing to do with crystal methamphetamine.

In your situation, I would be most distressed, since my brain is one of the few body parts which hasn't let me down yet! Please see a physician as soon as possible, as there may be something very important to discover.

As I always say, if you are not comfortable mentioning your drug use to him or her, you need a new physician. It's crucial to discuss all factors. A good doctor would appreciate your honesty and would be very concerned about a change in memory.

I have used crystal off and on for the last five years. My typical cycle is binge (up 2-4 days, 1 day break) for a month, and then stop for five to six months. I would like to know about the damage caused by the use of this drug on teeth, nose, stomach, lungs, kidneys, and anything else that might be effected. I would also like to know how long it takes before damage starts to take place, and can the damage be repaired?

Thanks for your question. Actually, it's very hard to answer! Your question would serve very well to guide a research agenda on the effects of crystal methamphetamine on the body. I think it might be best to call my local resource, the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics at 415/565-1908 for more information.

Unfortunately, much of our country's research agenda is about the effects of drug use as it happens and getting people to stop using, so there's not a lot of information about periodic use.

I can say that one of the larger areas of concern in the brain, since it is affected by intense and prolonged crystal use. Also, the brain is the only organ which we cannot rebuild or replace with new cells, as you may recall from biology class. When some damage is done, the brain finds alternate ways to function but cannot "repair" or rejuvenate itself. Luckily for all of us, nature provides more grey matter than we minimally need!

Some of the other areas of the body may be affected by crystal, but it's hard to separate the impact of crystal itself from the impact of skipping meals or not sleeping correctly. The stress due to using on a binge may be just as much of a problem as the the drug, if not more so, in the overall impact on your health.

If you're concerned, one easy step is to eat better and consider some vitamin supplements. At Haight Ashbury, they are pioneering using tyrosine, which is an amino acid, as treatments for users.

A friend of mine lost all his teeth and blames crystal! It may be that he had bad teeth and they got worse (or neglected) while he was using, but that's one scary story of many I've heard. Of course, every body is different, so it's up to you to take notice of effects and, hopefully , take some action for your health. Good luck and take care!

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