Methamphetamine – meth for short- is a very potent and dangerous drug. It acts as a stimulant on the brain and body, and temporarily increases feelings of euphoria, alertness and energy. These effects and its chemical properties make the drug highly addictive, while prolonged use of methamphetamine poses a serious risk to the user’s physical and social health.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine abuse and addiction. This will help you recognize if you (or a loved one) is in need of help to regain your (or their) health and well being. The path away from substance abuse can be difficult, but professional treatment can provide the necessary support for this journey.
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is a man-made drug that affects the central-nervous system. It is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning its use comes with a high addiction risk. It is only legally available on a non-refillable prescription and most methamphetamine in use in the United States is obtained illegally.
Methamphetamine typically comes in two forms, as powder meth or as crystal meth, though the two are chemically identical.
Meth powder is white and bitter tasting, and meth users consume the drug through:
- injecting powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol
- swallowing it (in pill form)
Crystal meth looks like shiny, clear rocks or glass fragments. It is often referred to as ‘ice’ or ‘glass’ and is known as a popular party drug. Users typically consume crystal meth by smoking it through a glass pipe.
After dosing, the effects of meth can last up to twelve hours, though this can be extended if meth is taken with other substances. Typical short-term effects of meth can include:
- euphoric feelings
- a ‘rush’
- increased activity and attention
- increased wakefulness
- decreased appetite
- rapid/irregular heart rate
- body temperature dysregulation
- chest pain
- muscle twitching
- flushed skin
Understanding Meth Abuse:
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and acts as a stimulant on the body. Other illegal stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines and crack. This class of drugs temporarily increase the user’s energy levels, sense of alertness, mood and feelings of pleasure or euphoria.
The ‘high’ from methamphetamines starts and drops quickly, leading people to take repeated doses, known as a meth binge, in a ‘binge and crash’ pattern. Some users take methamphetamine on a longer binge pattern known as a ‘run’. ‘Runs’ typically last several days, during which the user neither eats nor sleeps and continues to dose with methamphetamines every few hours.
The euphoric effect of methamphetamine is a strong factor in leading users into a dependence on the drug. The euphoric rush is caused by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical present in the human body that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, motivation and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.
The amount of this neurotransmitter in the brain is increased during a methamphetamine high. The drug’s capacity to rapidly release high levels of dopamine propels further meth use, as the user desires to repeat the experience associated with reward and pleasure. Those with pre-existing mental health disorders are more likely to enter this spiral.
Methamphetamine is considered more dangerous than other stimulants. This is because a significant amount of the drug remains in the user’s brain and body following usage. With prolonged and repeated meth use, these traces of meth remaining in the user’s body can eventually alter their brain chemistry.
It causes damage to the brain cell synapses responsible for dopamine, leading to mood disturbances and dysregulation. These changes in the user’s brain chemistry affect the ability of the user to experience pleasure without use of methamphetamines, leading to the spiral of dependency characterizing meth addiction.
Methamphetamine addiction is a widespread and serious phenomenon in the United States today. Reportedly 964,000 people in the US had a meth use disorder in 2017, with studies suggesting that this number is rising each year.
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms and signs of meth use and addiction. This will help you to begin to take positive action in you or your loved one’s life. Remember, with support and effective treatment plans, people can and do recover from methamphetamine addiction. The NPAC addiction center is here to support you on this journey past addiction.
Understanding Methamphetamines Today:
Meth use is on the rise according to SAMHSA and the rate of fatal overdoses from meth abuse has risen significantly. Use of methamphetamines is a large contributing factor to the ongoing drug abuse crisis in the United States today.
Most methamphetamine in the United States is either made in the US or in Mexico. It is often made in large illegal laboratories called ‘superlabs’. However it is also made in smaller labs or in home labs. Key chemical ingredients for the methamphetamine synthetic compound can be found in over-the-counter cold and cough medications, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or in household goods such as battery acid and lighter fluid, increasing the risk associated with use of the drug.
Illicit meth can have dangerous impurities, as it is often cut with other drugs such as antidepressants or opioids. This can lead to toxic interactions between the different drugs in the user’s body. This increases the risk of side effects and heightens the possibility of an overdose in the user.
What Are the Effects, Symptoms and Signs of Meth Addiction?
There are a range of meth addiction symptoms which can be both physical, psychological or behavioral. Furthermore, chronic methamphetamine abuse can have serious long-term negative consequences on the user’s health.
Use of methamphetamines exhibits a range of psychological, physical and behavioral symptoms. It is important to be able to identify these symptoms as they can act as warning signs for the development of potential meth abuse in the future. These symptoms are clearest in those with an addiction to methamphetamines. This will help you to identify if someone you know is using, abusing or is addicted to methamphetamines, allowing you to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction
Methamphetamine use can have clear effects on someone’s physical appearance. These changes can take place very quickly following the use of meth. The following physical symptoms are associated with methamphetamine abuse:
- increased heart rate, blood pressure and temperature
- erratic twitching
- red eyes
- appetite loss
- skin abrasions, bruises and sores
- rapid weight loss
- rotting teeth
- inflamed gums (‘meth mouth’)
- increased libido
Methamphetamines can cause problems with dry skin. This often becomes uncomfortable leading the user to scratch and pick at their skin. The scratching is often exacerbated by hallucinations, where the user has the impression that something is crawling over their skin.
TOOTH AND GUM DAMAGE:
This is often referred to as ‘meth mouth’. It is identifiable by inflamed, receding gums and crumbling, stained and rotting teeth.
Meth causes an increase in libido and adrenalin, as well as general risk-taking tendencies. This increases the likelihood of engaging in unprotected sexual activity and the concurrent risk of sexually transmitted diseases. It is reported that there are higher than average rates of sexually transmitted diseases among people using meth.
Longer-term risk factors:
Prolonged meth use can have serious physical effects on the body. Health disorders that typically co occur with include:
- organ failure
- damage to blood vessels
- collapsed veins (if injecting)
- increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- memory loss
Psychological Symptoms of Meth Addiction:
Meth has strong effects on a person’s psychology, which can become manifest in a variety of different ways.
One of the clearest signs of meth use is known as ‘tweaking’. This is a period of intense anxiety and insomnia that lasts between 3 and 15 days. Tweaking occurs at the end of a meth use binge, once the drug has been used repeatedly over the binge period to the point where it is unable to produce a rush or high in the user’s body any more.
Tweaking has associated psychological effects, which include:
- violent tendencies
As previously discussed, meth use produces an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine. After repeated meth use or a binge the body is depleted of dopamine, leading to extreme fatigue. In the crash phase the person is likely to feel depressed and have prolonged periods of sleep. This can last from between 1 and 3 days.
Other Psychological Symptoms
Meth use is associated with a range of other psychological effects. Signs of meth abuse can include:
- inability to concentrate
- memory loss
- intense mood swings
Behavioral Symptoms of Meth Addiction:
Significant symptoms of meth addiction can be found in a person’s behavior. Meth addiction is likely to cause changes in a person’s life choices and priority-making. The physiological and addictive qualities of meth means that the drug is likely to become a major life priority for the user. Someone who is addicted to meth typically promotes meth-use as a primary priority in their life decisions. As a consequence, they will exhibit a loss of interest in things that they had previously found important, be that work, relationships, friendships, family or hobbies. With chronic addiction, meth is likely to hold an increasing amount of importance to a user’s life, with the disavowal of their prior interests becoming more evident.
Meth significantly changes how a person thinks, behaves and acts. It can have major consequences on their ability to live their life, as well as posing serious risks to their health. Importantly, addiction has been recognized as a mental health disorder. This allows addiction to be seen as an inability to control drug use, even though the effects of this drug use is having a negative impact on other aspects of a person’s life.
Signs of methamphetamine addiction will also manifest in a user’s personal life. It will alter their relationships with the people around them. Behavioral signs include:
- increased dependency on the drug
- obsession with getting the next dosage
- lack of control over frequency of drug use
- relationship problems with family and friends
- neglect of previous interests and hobbies
- lack of personal self-care
- withdrawing from relationships and family members
- involvement in criminal behavior
If after reading this you think that you or a loved one is displaying signs of methamphetamine addiction, remember that there are always addiction treatment options available.
Treatment at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic:
Meth is a very powerful drug with highly addictive qualities. Methamphetamine addiction is considered to be a mental illness – our NPAC treatment center offers addiction therapies to those who are seeking to find health again.
Medical professionals recommend that a person with a drug abuse disorder seeks support when trying to overcome their addiction. Withdrawal from meth and other substances is a very difficult process to go through, inducing a range of physical and psychological challenges. Our dedicated addiction treatment center has been developed to provide the necessary therapeutic environment for detox and withdrawal. Without this support, there is a significant chance of relapse.
Our addiction treatment facility has twenty-four hour support to ease you through withdrawal symptoms, which can include intense cravings, psychosis, depression and irritability. The treatment process aims to be as holistic as possible. We employ various therapy methods, such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Interviewing
- Rapid Resolution Therapy
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
We can help you start a positive journey away from addiction and into a place of mental health and well being. Contact us today to begin your new life in recovery.