Methamphetamine

Meth, chalk, ice, the names are plenty for this stimulant. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, psychoactive substance. It is most often a white, odorless powder that dissolves in water and alcohol. Methamphetamine was first developed in the early 20th century from amphetamines. It was first created in nasal sprays and bronchial inhalers. Like its parent drug, methamphetamine causes talkativeness, decreased appetite, and euphoria. Methamphetamine is more potent than its parent drug; more of the drug gets to the brain, and it has longer effects on the body. There are more harmful effects, too.

The manufacturing of methamphetamine is so simple it is created in homemade labs. Of course, there are the “Superlabs” with complex operation like those seen in Hollywood films. In the more common household labs, ingredients are bought over the counter at your neighborhood grocery store, such as red phosphorus from match books and Drano. The chemicals involved in making meth (ether, lithium, anhydrous ammonia, etc.) have a high toxicity level and can even cause explosions. Meth labs emit a strong scent of ammonia and the toxins can cause damage to the surrounding environment even after the lab has been shut down.

Abuse of Meth & Methamphetamine Treatment

Methamphetamine is currently listed as a Schedule II drug, meaning it is only legally available through prescription. As it is in the stimulant class, drugs like it have been cleared as treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Methamphetamine has a high probability of addiction. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, methamphetamines accounted for 103,000 trips to the emergency room in 2011, making it the fourth most used illicit drug. Methamphetamines are most prevalent in the West and Midwest regions of the United States.

Methamphetamines can be ingested a variety of different ways, including smoking, injecting, and snorting depending on how soon the user wants to feel the euphoric effects. Because the effects of methamphetamine disappear before the drug is completely gone from the bloodstream, users take more of the drug to keep up the high. Some even avoid sleep for days and use meth to maintain the effects.

Meth vs. Cocaine

Methamphetamine and cocaine are both classified as stimulants. As such, they have similar effects on the brain; however, there are significant differences between the two. Below is a comparison of the two stimulants:

Cocaine

  • Stimulant and local anesthetic
  • Plant-derived
  • Brief high upon smoking
  • In 1 hour, 50% of the drug is removed from the body
  • Blocks dopamine re-uptake
  • Limited medical use as anesthetic

Methamphetamine

  • Stimulant
  • Man-made
  • Long-lasting high upon smoking
  • In 12 hours, 50% of the drug is removed from the body
  • Increases dopamine release and blocks dopamine re-uptake
  • Limited medical use for ADHD, weight-loss, and narcolepsy.

As shown above, the two have similar effects, yet they differ. Cocaine is completely metabolized in the body within a few hours, where methamphetamine takes a day to leave the body. Due to this, methamphetamine stays in the brain longer, providing longer stimulant effects. Methamphetamine also provides a higher level of dopamine than cocaine. As both drugs block the reabsorption (re-uptake) of dopamine, cocaine prolongs dopamine effects while methamphetamine increases the release of the chemical.

Immediate and Prolonged Effects of Meth Use

Dopamine is involved in feelings like motivation, pleasure, and motor function. The high amounts of dopamine released by meth use make the user feel the “good feelings”. These feelings cause the user to take more and more of the drug, causing an elevated probability of overdose. Meth also causes the heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to increase. Dehydration and seizures are also highly probable with increased use. Hyperthermia is an increase in the body temperature beyond its ability to control. If this goes untreated, the person might experience a heat stroke and this can even be fatal. Other effects include:

  • Increased attention and decreased fatigue
  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria and rush
  • Increased respiration

Meth has various long-term effects as well, addiction being one. This can happen with as little as one use. After experiencing the euphoric effects the drug gives, when the user begins to come off of the drug, they might seek out another to have the euphoria again. As they keep taking the drug their bodies build up a tolerance, which causes them to take more and more of the drug to feel the same euphoric effects. This is how an addiction happens, and it often sneaks up on the user without their being aware of it.

Other symptoms observed with chronic meth users include significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood swings, and violence. Delusions and paranoia are also common amongst meth users. It is not uncommon to see meth users scratching their arms, believing that there are insects crawling beneath their skin. The mental health issues that meth causes can last for years after the user quits meth. The brain damage caused by meth continues long after the user stops meth. Studies have shown that chronic meth users show significant damage in areas of the brain responsible for emotion, motor function, memory and verbal learning.

In addition to the internal effects, continued meth use has long-term physical effects as well. Prolonged meth users experience massive weight-loss, severe tooth decay and loss, and skin sores. “Meth mouth” is caused by a combination of poor nutrition that drug addiction is known to lead to, and the chemicals in meth drying out the salivary glands of the mouth. This leaves the teeth exposed to the acids in the mouth. Meth users are also known to grind their teeth during their high. The skin sores are a result of the picking and scratching that the user does in the delirium that there are insects under their skin.

Hepatitis is also a major risk with meth users, as well as HIV and STDs. Addicts will share needles with others, which increases the risk of transmitting disease. The influence of meth can lead to poor judgment; while high, users are known to have unprotected sex, increasing the likelihood of STDs.

The best way to handle meth addiction is through effective methamphetamine treatment. Contact us today for more information on how to help someone struggling with an addiction to this drug.

References

National Institute on Drug Abuse – http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine-abuse-addiction/are-methamphetamine-abusers-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-