Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal meth

CMAJ. 2008 Jun 17;178(13):1679-82. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.071675.


Crystal meth is a form of the stimulant drug methamphetamine that, when smoked, can rapidly achieve high concentrations in the brain. Methamphetamine causes the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin and activates the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. The levels of dopamine are low in the brain of some drug users, but whether this represents neuronal loss is uncertain. The areas of the brain involved in methamphetamine addiction are unknown but probably include the dopamine-rich striatum and regions that interact with the striatum. There is no medication approved for the treatment of relapses of methamphetamine addiction; however, potential therapeutic agents targeted to dopamine and nondopamine (e.g., opioid) systems are in clinical testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / metabolism*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / metabolism
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Methamphetamine* / adverse effects
  • Methamphetamine* / chemistry
  • Methamphetamine* / pharmacokinetics
  • Risk Factors


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine