Methamphetamine: Abuse, Effects, and Addiction
Meth is widely known as a highly addictive and dangerous drug. Anyone who becomes addicted requires help from medical professionals and addiction experts to break the cycle of abuse.
Meth is widely known as a highly addictive and dangerous drug. Anyone who becomes addicted requires help from medical professionals and addiction experts to break the cycle of abuse. This is because meth addiction has both physical and mental health effects.
It can be extremely difficult to regain sobriety all on your own, especially once dependence has set in. It may feel impossible to regain your self-control. But with proper treatment, people who are addicted to meth can start rebuilding their lives.
With that in mind, it is very important to take a closer look at what the drug does and how it affects people. This will help loved ones to spot the early signs of addiction and hopefully stop it before it develops into a life-threatening condition. This should also motivate people to avoid meth and other addictive substances in the first place, to reduce the risk of getting addicted.
Meth abuse is a common problem. In 2017, more than 960,000 people in the US over the age of 12 had a meth use disorder. That same year, 1.6 million people reportedly used the drug within the last 12 months.
The dangerous substance is costing the United States around $550 million in drug treatment programs every year.
Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is a stimulant for the central nervous system. Its primary ingredient is amphetamine, which is mixed with other substances.
Meth comes in the form of a white crystalline powder, but it can sometimes be yellow, pink, or brown.
It was in 1970 that the FDA began to regulate this drug by classifying it as a Schedule II substance. Before then, meth was legally available as a decongestant and even as a weight loss aid.
Because of its availability, many people abused meth and took it recreationally as a stimulant—which led to the FDA’s decision to control the substance. It is worth noting that there is still one version of methamphetamine that is available as a prescription drug. Desoxyn is still on the market and is used for the treatment of ADHD and obesity.
Meth Abuse and Effects
People who abuse meth typically do so by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. Recreational users only abuse the illicit forms of the substance, meth and crystal meth. In rare occasions, meth is compressed into pill form and then taken orally.
Crystal meth is a form of methamphetamine that is usually smoked. This crystal-like substance is either clear or blue.
Meth and crystal meth have street names such as glass, crystal, ice, crank, tweak, chalk, and redneck cocaine.
Aside from the fact that meth itself is very dangerous, sometimes drug dealers would “cut” meth with other substances to score a bigger profit. The meth is cut with opioids, antidepressants, and other prescription medications so they could sell less of the actual meth for the same price.
Of course, this is extremely dangerous for the person taking the “cut” version of meth. Because of the drug’s interactions with other substances, the likelihood of suffering from an overdose is significantly higher. It can even be fatal.
It goes without saying that taking meth is considered drug abuse. But people abuse this drug anyway because of the intensely euphoric high that it produces. When taken, meth causes an increase in blood pressure as well as heart rate. It triggers the neurotransmitters in the brain that activate the reward system. This is the addictive sensation that gets people hooked.
The initial rush lasts up to 30 minutes, but the high itself can last from 8 to 24 hours. This also depends on the method of administration. While injecting meth directly into the bloodstream causes a stronger high than snorting the drug, the high also wears off more quickly.
Addicted individuals stay up for days in a row just to keep the high going.
Signs of meth abuse include hyperactivity, talkativeness, elation, alertness, loss of appetite, agitation, paranoia, confusion, irritability, anxiety, aggression, insomnia, tremors, and irregular heartbeat. If you think someone you care about is abusing meth, watch out for these signs and other uncharacteristic behavior.
Continued abuse of meth may lead to “meth mouth” and tooth decay. They may get skin sores and infections from picking at their skin—a common behavior among those who abuse meth.
Just like other drugs, meth addiction is characterized by the inability to quit the substance even when the person is already suffering from its negative health effects.
Meth can cause addiction even after the first time someone takes the drug. The intense dopamine rush that meth induces may motivate the user to keep taking the substance again and again, just to feel that high.
It is common among meth users to stay high for days at a time by taking the drug over a period of several days. This leads to tolerance, which easily leads to dependence. Drug dependence means that the body has adjusted to the presence of the drug and can no longer feel “normal” without it. This is why some people go through severe withdrawal once they attempt to quit a certain drug. The same thing applies to meth addiction and dependence. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, depression, and insomnia. Withdrawal often motivates meth users to keep taking the drug.
Repeatedly attempting to quit and then relapsing is another indication of addiction.
Meth and Other Drugs
Aside from the fact that some drug dealers will cut methamphetamine with other substances, there are also some meth users who deliberately take it with other substances. We need to emphasize that the risk of a fatal overdose when doing so is very high, as even meth alone is an extremely potent drug.
Alcohol is one of the substances that is most commonly taken with meth. Some people drink alcohol and take meth at the same time to get an even stronger high. Doing so can be fatal, as the drug combination increases the risk of overdose.
Alcohol has sedative effects while meth has a stimulant effect. Consuming both at the same time can lead to high blood pressure, chronic liver damage, cancer, and even death. It also increases the risk of experiencing hallucinations and developing psychosis.
Another popular combination is meth and morphine. The combination of meth and an opioid is commonly referred to as “speedball.” As expected, the combination of these drugs produces a much greater high than either drug can generate separately.
Taking speedball causes problems with mobility, often making users struggle to walk properly. This makes them prone to accidents and injury—on top of the existing risk of overdose.
Finally, meth is sometimes combined with Xanax, particularly by users who are aware of meth’s anxiety-inducing properties. Knowing that meth can sometimes cause anxiety, some recreational users would take it with Xanax, which is a medication designed to combat anxiety. Although on paper that sounds like a good idea, this actually leads to even bigger problems.
The combination of meth and Xanax is highly addictive, and it may cause heart problems. The fact that meth speeds up the heart while Xanax slows it down shows that this is not a match made in heaven. It can lead to heart arrhythmias, and even fatal heart failure.
If someone in the family is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against substance abuse. Because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.