How does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?




Methamphetamine is a psychomotor stimulant. In the brain it mimics a neurotransmitter (“messenger chemical”) at serotonin and dopamine receptor sites. Receptors and neurotransmitters function like a lock (the receptor) and key (the neurotransmitter.) A given receptor will interact only with the specific neurotransmitter that “fits” it. Sympathomimetics like methamphetamine mimic particular neurotransmitters so well that they can “unlock” the actions that those neurotransmitters and their receptors usually have.

The neurotransmitters that meth mimics are monoamines: serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The drugs stimulate the release of these neurotransmitters, which leads to elevated levels of the neurotransmitters in the synapses (the gaps between neurons.) In addition, methamphetamine inhibits monoamine oxidase, the enzyme responsible for the destruction of serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine, further increasing their levels in the brain.

Among dopamine’s and serotonin’s functions are influencing aggressive, defensive, social and sexual behaviors, so meth users often display exaggerations in these behaviors.

Methamphetamine also stimulates locomotor activity, and produces stereotypic behaviors. Stereotypic behaviors are the random, meaningless, repetitive, and compulsive actions that “tweakers” display: twitches, jerks, patterned actions, picking at themselves, etc. Stereotypic behaviors have been related to the norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin systems. Stereotypic behaviors may also be called punding. Punding is performing a useless task compulsively again and again. Users report being aware of their punding behavior, but they say they are unable to stop it. More harmless punding or tweaker habits include coloring, writing, playing cards, or taking apart and putting back together items in a prolonged and bizarre manner.

Pregnant Women May Impose Serious Injuries on their Babies

Our knowledge of the effects of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy is limited because studies of this issue have used small samples and have not been able to account for the possibility that mothers used other drugs besides methamphetamine. But the available research points to increased rates of premature delivery, placental abruption (separation of the placental lining from the uterus), and various effects on babies prenatally exposed to methamphetamine, including small size, lethargy, and heart and brain abnormalities. A large ongoing NIDA-funded study is examining developmental outcomes in children born to mothers who abused methamphetamine. Thus far, researchers have found neurobehavioral problems such as decreased arousal and increased stress and subtle but significant attention impairments in these children.

Ultra Sound

As with other drugs, a meth-abusing mom can cause a baby to be born addicted to the drug she was using. Worse than that, these children may suffer problems that far outlast the withdrawal syndrome they may experience. They suffer higher than usual numbers of birth defects to eyes and cleft palates. Heart defects and mental disabilities also occur in greater numbers.

Children born to mothers who had used meth still showed mental effects when they were five years old. They tended to be smaller and handled stress poorly. They were more lethargic than babies born to non-meth-abusing mothers and reached developmental milestones later.

Even in their teens, these children tended to achieve at lower levels in mathematics, language and sports.

By now, it should be obvious to the reader than the abuse of methamphetamine is terribly harmful to the body, the mind and unborn children. One hopes that understanding these terrible, permanent risks would keep one from ever touching this drug.

If you care for someone who is addicted to methamphetamine and who needs help getting off this drug, contact Narconon International.