Is meth a narcotic?

Meth belongs to the group of drugs called stimulants and is not a narcotic. Read more about the addictive potential of meth and it’s placement under the Controlled Substances Act, here.

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Yes and No!…Depending on the definition.

However, methamphetamine is one of the most addictive substances in the world. The consequences of meth abuse and addiction can be dreadful, and include psychological, medical, and social side effects. Over the long-term, it can ruin a meth addict’s life.

But how is meth classified? In what ways do people abuse it and what are the consequences? In this article, we will cover the answers to these questions, and outline the distinction between legal and medical narcotics. Then, we invite you to post questions in the section at the end.

What is a narcotic? (Medical)

There are often confusions about the meaning of the word narcotic.

The word has a Greek origin from the word “narcos” which means to make something numb, and it initially referred to any psychoactive substance that induces sleep. Today, narcotics are more popularly known under the term “opiates”, especially in the U.S., and include variations of natural and synthetic/man-made origin. The most well-known opiates include:

  • codeine
  • heroin
  • hydrocodone
  • morphine
  • oxycodone

Medically, meth is a stimulant and produces effects opposite of those caused by opiates. Nowadays, meth is rarely used as a medicine. Variations of amphetamine salts can be prescribed by a doctor to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions (sleeping disorders).

What is a narcotic? (Legal)

According to other definitions, however, METH IS a narcotic. The modern definition of the term “narcotic” includes any substance that affects mood and behavior, and is sold illegally for nonmedical purposes. Meth definitely matches this description as it can alter user’s physical and mental state, causing feelings of wakefulness and increase activity levels, and is an illegal substance.

In legal terms, the word “narcotic” is used to refer to drugs that cannot be legally possessed, sold, or transported. The only way narcotic drugs can be used legally is for medical purposes, and only if it’s  prescribed by a physician or a doctor as part of a treatment program.

Narcotic medical uses for Meth

To some people, it may come as a surprise… but there is a legal form of meth that is medically prescribed. Methamphetamine is prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) under the brand name Desoxyn. Doctors should only prescribe Desoxyn to patients only when other treatments haven’t helped significantly, and at doses lower than those typically abused. Desoxyn is prescribed in the form of pills and is generally taken orally once or twice a day under supervision of a psychologist or a physiotherapist.

Meth narcotic abuse

Usually people who abuse this drug in a lower intensity swallow or snort meth. Usually, meth abusers take meth when they want to stay awake in order to finish their daily obligations and work tasks. Getting deeper into meth’s addiction potential, users without control over the use of meth abuse it by smoking or injecting it with a needle. This makes meth users more euphoric and increases their level of rush, which causes addiction more rapidly.

High-intensity meth abusers are addicts who take increasing doses of the the drug repeatedly for a long period of time. When they get to this point of abuse, meth addicts don’t think of the risks and side effects of their habit, but obsess over reaching the pleasurable feelings of rush, energy, and drive. This type of abusers are at a high risk of meth overdose and even death if they do not enter meth addiction treatment. While difficult, help for meth addicts is out there and meth addiction can be overcome!

Why is Meth a Schedule II drug?

Narcotics are controlled substances and their placement and regulation vary from Schedule I to Schedule V in the Controlled Substance Act. This placement depends on several factors such as:

  • the medical usefulness of the narcotic
  • the abusive potential of the narcotic
  • the safety of the narcotic
  • the drug dependence profile

Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substance Act along with other drugs that have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Meth distribution, purchase, or use outside of medical research is considered illegal. What are the signs of meth addiction? Think of the 4C’s:

1. Loss of CONTROL of use.



4. CONTINUED use depsite negative life consequences.

Is Meth addictive?

Yes, meth is highly addictive..

Meth has a highly addictive nature with destructive effects on users’ health. The thing that makes this drug so addictive are the intense feelings of pleasure, well being and euphoria it produces. These pleasurable meth effects can be felt over a prolonged period of time, usually for several hours.

Another effect that drives the repeated use of meth is the ‘crash’. The ‘crash’ is felt as meth effects start to wear off and severe side effects set in, including:

  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • paranoid behavior

In order to avoid these unpleasant effects and to feel good again, a person will use meth again and again.

Soon, the decision whether to continue taking the drug is made in a part of the brain called the “hindbrain”. This region coordinates the fundamental basic functions for survival, such as: breathing, sleep and motor activity. In effect, meth changes the way the brain operates and the way a person thinks. The use of this drug adapts brain function to equate the need for meth to the same level as anything else a person does to survive naturally, like breathing.

Because meth addiction has the potential to change the brain in structure and in function, meth addicts need a longer time to recover than other drug addicts. It may take two years or more for addicts to recover the damages done on the brain. But hope is out there! Addiction can be treated!

Meth narcotic questions

Do you still have questions about the legal classification of methamphetamine as a narcotic or its addictive potential? Please share your opinions and leave us any questions you have about meth in the comments section below. We will try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIH: NCI Dictionary
Medline plus: Pain medications – narcotics
DEA: Narcotics
NIH: Methamphetamine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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