Dentalcare logo

An Introduction to Substance Use Disorders for Dental Professionals

Course Number: 545


Methamphetamine (meth) abuse has increased significantly as documented in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports. Between 2002 and 2004, the percentage of meth users who were dependent on the drug increased from 27.5% to 59.3%. It is estimated there are 12.3 million Americans over the age of 12 who have used the drug at least once, with the majority of users between ages 18-34 years. In 2013, there were 595,000 current users of meth compared to 353,000 in 2010.34 In 2019, 5.8% of the US population aged 12 and older had tried meth at least once in their lifetime and 0.4% had used meth in the last month.45 Meth can be made from inexpensive medications (pseudoephedrine) or simple over-the-counter chemicals (lye, muriatic and sulfuric acids) that are easily obtained at stores.43 Street names include Speed, Ice, Chalk, Crank and Crystal.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive synthetic amine that stimulates the release and blocks the re-uptake of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. The action of these neurotransmitting monoamines is to stimulate the reward centers of the brain and give the characteristic “high” of the substance. Lack of appetite frequently accompanies this drug’s effect. The high can last up to14 hours. During the high, the user is typically impaired and unable to care for themselves or others. Long-term use leads to depletion of these neurotransmitters, resulting in emotional depression.40