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Understanding Boston’s Crystal Meth Surge

Spices. Heap of salt on the table

In recent years, New England started seeing a rise in methamphetamine use, especially of a variety called crystal meth.1 This powerful stimulant drug is very different from the depressant opioids that continue to be widely used in the region, though no less dangerous. Interestingly, there also seems to be a relationship between crystal meth use and the use of opioids like fentanyl and heroin.2,3,4

Here, we’ll look into possible reasons for crystal meth’s newfound popularity in Boston and the rest of the American Northeast, an area that is still known for high rates of opioid use. Contact our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to learn more and to discuss options for drug rehab.

What is Crystal Meth?

“Crystal meth”, “crystal”, or “glass” refers to crystal methamphetamine, a solid, purified form of methamphetamine, an extremely powerful synthetic stimulant drug. In purer forms, it most often comes in blue-white chunks, though the color might change depending on what it’s “cut” with or how it was manufactured. The drug has powerful stimulant effects and can be extremely habit-forming.5,6,7

How is Crystal Meth Used?

Crystal meth is most often smoked in a pipe or with improvised paraphernalia, crushed finely and snorted, dissolved in liquid and injected, or ingested. In some subcultures, it is seen as a club drug while it is also considered a performance-enhancing drug in others.5,7

The Crystal Meth Threat in Boston

The present popularity of crystal meth is an especially unwelcome development in Boston, as it’s happened just as its serious opioid crisis seemed to wane. Until fairly recently, crystal meth misuse was a relative rarity in New England outside of certain subcultures such as long-distance truck drivers, medical students, and the LGBT community.7

However, since about the second half of the 2010s, crystal meth started to make major inroads among other regular and recreational drug users in Boston, with several weekly seizures of the drug soon following. Today it rivals opioids like fentanyl in popularity in New England.1

Why is Methamphetamine Use Growing?

It’s not just Boston that’s seen a surge in crystal meth use. Similar patterns have been observed throughout many parts of the US in the past decade, particularly in areas where opioids are already a problem. Some reasons attributed to meth’s recent popularity include the following:1,2,3,4,5,9

  • Higher purity. The meth available on the street today is generally much purer and therefore more potent and more habit-forming than was previously the case in previous meth surges. This is largely attributed to the economies of scale international criminal enterprises have managed to achieve in producing the drug.1,3,4,9
  • Lower-priced substitute for other drugs. Not only is crystal meth purer than ever, but it’s also now being sold at extremely low street prices. While meth has always been cheaper relative to drugs like heroin or cocaine, the relative state of the average American’s buying power has made it all the more attractive.1,3,4,9
  • Offsets the effects of opioids. Current patterns of methamphetamine use are often linked to the regular use of opioid drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. Regular opioid users may use crystal meth to compensate for the extreme depressant effects caused by opioids. Some may use crystal meth in this way as a means to enable them to continue working. Additionally, many of the criminal enterprises that deal opioids also have diversified into crystal meth, partly to meet this demand.2,3,4,9

Effects of Crystal Meth

Crystal meth acts on the central nervous system to produce its signature stimulant effects. While it has legitimate medical applications for treating ADHD and morbid obesity, even this type of use is extremely rare due to the potential side effects. Regular use of crystal meth is associated with a long list of physical and psychiatric conditions.5,6,7,8

Short-term effects of using crystal meth include the following:5,6,7,8

  • Increased wakefulness and attention
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling/twitching
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tooth grinding
  • Anxiety symptoms

Long-term crystal meth use is associated with the following symptoms:5,6,7,8

  • Insomnia and other sleeping issues
  • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Constant scratching, often leading to skin problems
  • Aggression
  • Substance use disorder

Find Treatment for Crystal Meth Use in Boston

The Greater Boston area is home to some of the country’s top healthcare facilities and programs. If you feel that you or someone close to you has a problem with crystal meth or other substances, call Boston Drug Treatment Centers at (857) 577-8193 to find specialized treatment in Boston and the surrounding region.



  1. Wakeman, S., Flood, J., & Ciccarone, D. (2021). Rise in presence of methamphetamine in oral fluid toxicology tests among outpatients in a large healthcare setting in the northeastJournal of Addiction Medicine15(1), 85-87.


  1. Trujillo, K. A., Smith, M. L., & Guaderrama, M. M. (2011). Powerful behavioral interactions between methamphetamine and morphine. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior99(3), 451–458. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2011.04.014


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Rising Stimulant Deaths Show that We Face More than Just an Opioid Crisis.


  1. Bureau of Justice Assistance. & U.S. Department of Justice. (2020). The Resurgence Of Methamphetamines: Methamphetamine Abuse Associated With The Opioid Crisis.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, May 16). Methamphetamine DrugFacts.


  1. Kish, S. J. (2008). Pharmacologic mechanisms of crystal methCmaj, 178(13), 1679-1682.


  1. Buxton, J. A., & Dove, N. A. (2008). The burden and management of crystal meth useCmaj178(12), 1537-1539.


  1. Richards, J. R., & Laurin, E. G. (2021). Methamphetamine toxicityStatPearls [Internet]


  1. S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020). 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment.

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