What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine (meth) is a schedule II drug. It’s a synthetic, white, bitter-tasting powder that works as a central nervous system stimulant. People may use meth recreationally for the enhanced euphoric feeling, and increased energy. However, some people begin using meth to lose weight.
Methamphetamine abuse is a growing problem in the United States. The legal form, known as Desoxyn, may be prescribed for severe ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression. Even though Desoxyn is legal, there’s still high potential for abuse. Healthcare professionals are often leery about re-filling a prescription, and more likely to prescribe an amphetamine instead.
Much of the illicit meth in the United States comes from Mexico, or illegal meth labs, which make it widely available to the public.
Meth is not a new drug. It was used in medical settings in the early 1900s to help treat depression and obesity—it was abused then just as it is today. In 2012, 1.2 million Americans reported using methamphetamine for the first time in the past year.
Since its early days, meth has taken on a lot of different names. Some of the most common names for meth are:
Many people start off using meth for energy, weight loss, or just to feel good, without realizing the high potential for addiction. Today, with an increase in public knowledge of its dangers, and increased availability of resources in treatment, the common goal is that meth abuse will steadily decline.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is an extremely potent drug. Even a small amount can increase a person’s wakefulness and physical activity, while decreasing their appetite.
When someone is high on meth, they might not be able to eat or sleep. As the effects of meth begin to wear off, serious withdrawal sets in. To avoid this, a lot of people will use the drug again and again. This is known as a meth binge. As a result of continued meth use, a person may experience extreme fatigue, and lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
Meth floods a person’s brain with dopamine, the chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure, motivation, and happiness. Dopamine naturally occurs when you go for a run, eat good food, play a game, or listen to music. Abusing meth results in an excess of dopamine in the brain.
Even a small dose of meth also blocks dopamine re-uptake. Meth may cause the brain to stop producing dopamine from normal activities, often resulting in depression.
Some of the other effects of methamphetamine include:
- loss of appetite
- decreased fatigue
- increased wakefulness
- decreased appetite
Meth does a lot more than just change a person’s behavior—it changes their physical appearance. As a result of meth, people can lose their teeth, become gaunt and unhealthy looking, and start to develop abrasions and scabs from constantly picking their skin, and scratching.
How Is Methamphetamine Abused?
Meth can be snorted, injected, ingested orally, or smoked. Any method of meth abuse can be addictive. The high from meth may last anywhere from eight to 24 hours. After the high, people abusing meth may experience either a heavy crash, or go on a binge to maintain the high.
Some people use meth with another drug, such as alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, or opioids. Mixing meth with other drugs increases the risk of overdose, and polysubstance addiction. With polysubstance addiction, a person rarely uses one drug without the other so they can achieve the desired effects. As a result, they become addicted to each drug.
The powder form of meth can be consumed orally, snorted, or injected into the veins. Crystal meth is a glass-like form of the drug that most people smoke.
Smoking or injecting methamphetamine puts the drug into the brain almost immediately, and elicits an intense rush of energy and euphoria. Snorting and swallowing meth produces euphoria, but not the intense rush that comes with smoking and injecting.
One of the most common ways to abuse methamphetamine is in a binge and crash pattern. A meth binge reaches a peak high, and can last for days. As the drug wears off, the withdrawal symptoms reach incredibly low points.
Dangers Of Methamphetamine Abuse
People may start using meth simply out of curiousity, but may begin gradually increasing their dose size, or change their method of use. A person can get high off a small amount of meth, but using a large amount often results in increased blood pressure, body temperature, and can also increase the risk of hyperthermia (overheating).
Using a large quantity of meth also puts a person at greater risk of overdosing. There is no equation for how much meth will cause a person to overdose because each person’s body responds to meth differently than the next person’s body. Any amount of meth is considered dangerous.
Some of the biggest dangers of meth abuse are:
- increased respiration
- irregular heartbeat
- rapid heart beat
Meth abuse and overdose kills thousands of people every year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “the number of drug overdose deaths that involved methamphetamine increased, from 1,388 in 2010 to 3,728 in 2014.”
Most of the people illegally producing meth are not licensed chemists or pharmacists, and the chemicals used to make the drug are extremely dangerous to humans. Meth ingredients may include pseudoephedrine, lithium, acetone, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, paint thinner, ether, and sulfuric acid.
There is a potential for chemical burns, or even explosions that have hurt a lot of innocent people with illicit meth production.
When a person quits taking methamphetamine, they will likely experience an intense crash at the beginning of the withdrawal phase. These withdrawal symptoms are the brain’s reaction to lack of dopamine, lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of meth, and so on.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms from meth are:
- excessive sleeping
- increased appetite
To avoid meth withdrawal, many people simply keep using it; some even stay clean for a little while, then relapse. Continuing to use meth may increase tolerance, worsening one’s addiction, using more of the drug, and thus increasing the risk of overdose.
Treatment For Methamphetamine Addiction
The obsession and compulsion to abuse meth does not usually start from initial use, but it can, and those suffering from a meth addiction may not be able to stop based on willpower alone. Addiction is defined as a disease, so in order to recover, it needs to be treated as a disease.
Many people try to quit meth with resolutions, abstinence, or switching to a “less dangerous” substitute. Most of the time, the mental obsession doesn’t go away, and as a result, those people are unable to stop.
At an inpatient drug rehab center, you or your loved one will be given the tools to recover and overcome methamphetamine. Addiction can stem from psychological, environmental, physiological, societal, and genetic factors so each of these areas will be tended to at rehab.
The comprehensive care offered at an inpatient rehab center may include group activities, behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and a caring environment conducive to sober living. Addiction treatment teaches people how to love themselves again, while trusting others, and learning to live a drug-free life.