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Methamphetamine in Wisconsin

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth, is a powerful, highly addictive substance that affects the brain and body. It falls in the category of drugs known as stimulants. Methamphetamine is commonly sold in crystal or powder form. It can be injected, smoked, snorted, or taken orally.

Methamphetamine is sometimes mixed with other substances. These other substances include cannabis, opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, cocaine, and ecstasy.

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What you should know

Northwest Wisconsin experienced a surge in methamphetamine use in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

State laws enacted in the mid-2000s restricted access to substances used to produce methamphetamine in home labs. Yet, in recent years, Wisconsin has seen a new surge in methamphetamine use, which has spread across the state.

Methamphetamine is less expensive and it has a longer euphoric effect than other illegal stimulants. Today, the majority of the methamphetamine available in Wisconsin is produced in Mexico and transported here by drug-trafficking organizations.

The most common ingredient in methamphetamine can be found in over-the-counter cold medications. But methamphetamine made in illegal drug labs can also occasionally contain substances that appear in paint thinner, acetone (also found in nail polish remover), ammonia (also found in cleaning fluid), iodine crystals, red phosphorus (also in pesticides), and lithium (also found in batteries).

If you see methamphetamine use, report it to law enforcement. Call 800-622-3784.

Do not enter an active methamphetamine lab. Contact local law enforcement immediately. Learn more about the human health hazards of manufacturing methamphetamine and the cleanup of methamphetamine labs.

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Buying meds to make meth? Know the consequences.

Retailers of cold and allergy medications containing ingredients used to make meth record information on each sale. This helps police identify suspicious purchases. Purchasing these medicines for someone who is using these medicines to make meth is a felony. You can be arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to prison.

How does methamphetamine affect your health?

Methamphetamine affects your brain. Methamphetamine causes changes in the brain circuits that control reward, stress, decision-making, and impulse control, making it more and more difficult to stop using even when it is having negative effects on your life and health. Frequent use also can lead to tolerance and withdrawal, so you need more of the drug to feel normal. Additional effects of using methamphetamine can include anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, paranoid or delusional thinking, and serious psychological issues.

Methamphetamine affects your body. Methamphetamine use increases heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of stroke. Other negative consequences of long-term methamphetamine use are extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, and skin sores caused by scratching. Methamphetamine use affects the levels of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It affects, among other things, movement, motivation, emotions, and feelings of pleasure. Because meth causes a flood of dopamine to the brain, the natural supply gets depleted. Thus, activities that would increase pleasure may no longer do so. This can lead to depression.

Methamphetamine affects your self-control. Methamphetamine can cause aggression, violent behavior, and loss of contact with reality.

Methamphetamine affects more than the user. Methamphetamine use impacts the user's family and friends. Children found in meth labs may experience emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. The chemicals used to produce meth can cause fires and explosions, produce toxic vapors, and damage the environment.

Signs of methamphetamine use

It is not easy to tell if someone is using methamphetamine, but symptoms may include:

  • Inability to sleep or unusual sleep patterns.
  • Psychotic behaviors such as paranoia and hallucinations.
  • Mood swings or increased aggression.
  • Nervous obsessive activities, such as scratching.
  • Irritability, anxiety, or confusion.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Changes in physical appearance, including deteriorating skin and teeth.

Treatment and recovery 

The most effective treatments for methamphetamine use are behavioral therapies. Some people also benefit from peer recovery support programs including Narcotics Anonymous. Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the effects of methamphetamine or that help people be abstinent longer or that can help reduce the use of methamphetamine by an individual living with a methamphetamine use disorder.

How to get help


Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline logo without 211 number
This free and confidential service is available 24/7.

These regional treatment centers serve people in northern Wisconsin.

Hope Consortium
Call 844-305-4673

Ladysmith Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center
Call 715-532-2373

Lake Superior Community Health Center
Call 715-395-5380

HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and Libertas Treatment Center
Call 715-735-0095

NorthLakes Community Clinic
Call 888-834-4551

Last revised May 14, 2023