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Meth Addiction and Abuse Information

With shows like Breaking Bad making their way into the mainstream, methamphetamine is becoming one of the more well-known illicit substances.

And while these portrayals typically incorporate a few of the gritty details, they don't truly show how dangerous and destructive an addiction to meth can really be.

What Exactly is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is categorized as a schedule II drug. A few other substances that are also in this category are methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and opium. It is also a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. These types of substances can be artificially produced (like methamphetamine) and can also occur naturally. One example of a naturally occurring CNS stimulant is caffeine.

A stimulant, like the name suggests, causes the user to experience a burst of energy as well as feelings of elation and euphoria with certain kinds of stimulants. A stimulant achieves this effect by interacting directly with the nerve cells of the brain, called neurons.

Some of the 100 billion neurons of our brains have certain areas, called receptors, that are built to recognize and react to particular chemicals called neurotransmitters. When a specific molecule (or one that is similar) binds with these receptors, the neuron begins a chain reaction that results in certain physiological changes. Euphoria, for example, is often attributed to the release and reception of dopamine, one of the brain's neurotransmitters.

Stimulants like meth and cocaine achieve their energizing and often euphoric effects on the body because they contain chemicals that mimic these neurotransmitters when interacting with the brain. As such, the body produces higher levels of dopamine for longer periods, leading to what's known as a "high" or a "rush."

Meth Addiction

Is Meth the Same as Speed?

One common misconception is that meth and speed are the same drug. While it's true that methamphetamines are sometimes sold as speed, it's more likely that speed obtained illegally on the street is actually made of amphetamines.

Amphetamines are much more commonly used in the medical sector to treat disorders like ADHD or insomnia.

When compared to the effects of amphetamines, meth is pronouncedly more potent and faster acting. As such, meth is also much more addictive than amphetamines and is more likely to be abused.

What Are Some of the Medical Applications of Methamphetamines?

Contrary to many people's beliefs, meth isn't just a street drug. In fact, as with most drugs that are currently abused today, methamphetamines were at first used to medically treat certain ailments.

Like other CNS stimulants such as Ritalin, methamphetamine is also used in conjunction with other programs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) under the brand name Desoxyn which comes in an immediate release and extended release tablet.

Due to the tendency for stimulants to put the body's processes into overdrive, Desoxyn has also been used in treatment programs aimed at reducing patient obesity as well.

As with other drugs that have a high risk of abuse, methamphetamines can only legally be used with a legitimate doctor's prescription.

Meth and Crystal Meth Street Names

Like the street names used to refer to many other drugs, slang terms for methamphetamine and crystal meth are usually related to how they appear.

Powdered methamphetamine, for example, can appear brown, yellow, orange or pink. As such, its street names tend to reflect that. Here are just a few ways methamphetamine is referred to on the street.

  • Brown
  • Chalk
  • Cinnamon
  • Yellow Powder
  • Crank
  • Speed
  • Tweak

Crystal meth also has separate physically descriptive street names that correspond with its similar appearance to shards of glass. Here are just a few:

  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Quartz
  • Shards
  • Blade
  • Hot Ice

How is Meth Used?

Methamphetamine abuse can come in several forms. The only legally available form of the drug is a tablet that can be either immediate or extended release and can only be obtained by prescription.

Illicit abuse of meth can occur in a variety of other ways. In addition to taking a pill or tablet without the explicit permission of a doctor, meth abuse can involve:

  • Inhaling/Smoking
  • Snorting
  • Injection by dissolving the powder in water or alcohol

Crystal meth is essentially the same as methamphetamine but simply condensed into a crystalline form as the name suggests. This makes it easier to quickly abuse the chemical and has a more potent effect.

This form of methamphetamine is commonly abused on the club scene and is thought of by many as a "party drug," embraced by this particular demographic due to the manic and energizing effects produced.

The Methamphetamine High

The high associated with meth is both intense and rapidly acting, especially when it's smoked in the form of crystal meth. In fact, users have described the drug's onset as being almost instantaneous.

The feelings produced by the sudden flooding of the brain with dopamine are, as mentioned before, a combination of extreme energy as well as euphoria. Abusers might have an increased motivation to complete goals as well as a sudden surge of confidence in both physical and mental abilities (which, of course, is entirely imagined).

The actual high associated with crystal meth can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours according to some sources but, as with most substances, depends primarily on the individual.

While the effects can be quite long-lasting, the comedown can bring with it a host of dangerous and uncomfortable physical feelings and emotions. Some of these effects may include:

  • Paranoia
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Anger
  • Unexplainable fear
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of edginess
  • Repetitious behaviors like scratching

Methamphetamine abuse typically occurs over a period of time where abusers (sometimes referred to as "meth heads") will go on a prolonged binge known as a "run," using every few hours to stave off the unpleasant side effects of crashing. The result can be patterns of continuous use that could extend for several days, sometimes neglecting sleep and food entirely.

What Are Some Long-Term and Short-Term Health Effects of Methamphetamine Use?

Meth is an incredibly potent and dangerous drug with a plethora of both short-term and long-term side effects.

In the short term, meth produces effects that are similar to many other stimulants. Some of the basic physical effects include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increase rate of breathing
  • Boosted wakefulness and energy
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Confusion

Some of the long-term signs of meth addiction and abuse include a drastic alteration of physical appearance.

"Meth mouth," for instance, is one particularly striking side effect of abusing meth reported in many long-term abusers. A combination of poor hygiene choices, dry mouth, and the inherently acidic nature of crystal meth lends to a particularly damaging oral environment that contributes to especially rapid tooth decay.

Methamphetamine addicts will likely also be severely undernourished. Both the intensification of the body's natural processes caused by using the stimulant as well as the manic state produced make meth abusers less likely to eat regularly.

The methamphetamine high and comedown also result in abusers typically engaging in highly repetitive behaviors such as scratching. As such, a meth addict may have an alarming number of open sores or scabs covering their body - the result of the manic behavior caused by the drug.

What's more, meth also causes a constriction of the blood vessels, making it much harder for your body to heal itself and letting even a minor cut remain visible for several weeks.

Another long-term health effect of continuous meth abuse is a higher likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. One noticeable change characteristic of the high is an increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors like unprotected sex or mixing with other drugs. Both of these can result in transmission of diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens.

And finally, crystal meth addiction has been shown to have a link with severe changes to areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Researchers theorize that these physical effects on the brain might explain some of the emotional and cognitive problems that many long-term users exhibit. Even more frightening is the fact that while some of these changes may reverse after periods of abstinence from using, many may in fact be entirely permanent.

What to Look for If You Suspect a Friend Has a Meth Problem

Identifying that someone you care about is addicted to methamphetamine is the first step towards a drug-free life. In addition to being able to function without having to endure constant cravings to use, they'll also be able to avoid some of the devastating and potentially permanent effects of this dangerous substance.

So, what are some of the signs of a meth addiction in someone you care about?

  • A significantly altered physical appearance (e.g. drastic weight loss, numerous scabs and sores on face and arms, "meth mouth")
  • Frequent anxiety and restlessness
  • Money problems
  • Has a hard time maintaining a job and regularly misses school or work
  • No longer attends social engagements or activities they may have enjoyed before

These are just a few things to look out for when it comes to trying to spot an addiction problem. There are plenty of other meth addiction signs to keep your eyes open for.

What's important is getting them the help they need.

What Des Meth Withdrawal Look Like?

Continuous and prolonged use of meth or crystal meth is highly likely to result in addiction. Like all other illicit substances, meth abuse can cause the brain and the body to acclimate to the higher levels of dopamine that accompany using. As such, addiction to meth will typically lead to consumption of higher amounts of the drug to produce an equivalent high. This is called building tolerance.

When a user experiences the negative effects associated with withdrawal, their bodies are returning to a normal state of functioning without the chemical crutch of the substance. The result for meth users is that symptoms of withdrawal might include:

  • Severe depression
  • Intense cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis

While meth is structurally and chemically similar to many stimulants, it has a significantly longer half-life in the body which means it takes longer for our systems to break it down. While this contributes to the especially long-lasting effects of the drugs, it also results in an especially intense and drawn-out withdrawal process, sometimes taking up to 4 weeks in certain extreme cases.

Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment and Recovery

As of now, there are no government-approved medications used specifically to treat the withdrawal effects of meth and crystal meth addiction making medication-assisted recovery highly unlikely.

With no treatments to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms and incredibly intense cravings for the drug, rehabilitation for meth addicts can be particularly difficult. Researchers have even estimated that relapse rates for meth users can be upwards of 88%.

That's why it's critical that you or your loved one who is struggling with a crystal meth problem seeks out the help of a qualified professional treatment center. They'll be able to use a variety of addiction therapies (scientifically proven to be the most effective methamphetamine treatment method) in order to get you clean and help prevent future relapses.

Methamphetamine: A Dangerously Addictive Drug

As you can see, crystal meth is an incredibly dangerous drug and should be avoided at all costs. Not only is it one of the most highly addictive substances on the market today, it can also result in a myriad of both psychological and physical side effects that might last for the rest of your life, even after full rehabilitation.

So if you or a loved one has a methamphetamine use disorder, be sure to get the help you need today.


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