Meth Addiction and Abuse

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause addiction in as little as one use in some users. This is mainly due to the rush of dopamine produced by the drug. Dopamine is a chemical that’s not only responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure, but also for motivation, memory retention, learning, and reward processing. The rush of dopamine produced by meth is much higher than the natural amount of dopamine that is produced in the brain, which causes people to continue using the drug in order to keep those heightened pleasurable feelings.

Many individuals who use meth take the drug over a period of several days, staying perpetually high throughout this duration of time. This often ends up in the development of a tolerance; after taking the drug for a prolonged period of a time a person will require higher and higher doses to feel the same effects as before. The stimulant effects, along with the drug’s affordability, can lead people to quickly become addicted. It may then become difficult to feel happy when attempting to stop taking meth, and withdrawal symptoms such as anxietyinsomnia, fatigue, and depression can occur when it wears off. The debilitation of withdrawal reinforces the behavior of abuse and likelihood of binging. After the reward system is dependent on the drug, the fear of withdrawal and cravings for meth often take over a person’s life.

Understanding Meth

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant made from amphetamine and other derivative chemicals. Originally prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms throughout the U.S. However, a large population abused these products for the stimulant effects, effectively prompting the FDA to restrict and regulate the drug as a schedule II controlled substance in 1970. There is currently only one prescription methamphetamine drug still on the market, Desoxyn, which is used to treat obesity and severe attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The majority of people that are addicted to methamphetamine use the drug in its illicit forms: meth and crystal meth. Meth is a crystalline powder that is most commonly white, though it can be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odorless, bitter, and can be dissolved in liquid. It’s most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting or injection. In some cases, it’s compressed into a pill and can be taken orally. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals that are typically smoked. Many drug dealers will also “cut” meth with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin. In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications, ranging from antidepressants to opioids. These additives can be extremely dangerous due to the drug interactions and increases the risk of overdose.

While the structural makeup of the two variations differ, both meth and crystal meth are chemically the same thing. Street names for methamphetamine include:

  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Crank
  • Tweak
  • Redneck cocaine
  • Chalk

The vast majority of meth that is distributed today comes from illegal laboratories and imports. The product is typically cooked in “home labs” or “stove tops” in which a few people will produce small amounts of the substance. Meth is also produced incartel “super labs” that include professional-grade equipment to produce the drug at higher quantities and quality. The key ingredient in meth is typically the stimulant ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is found in some common over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the gas and chemicals that are released during the drug’s creation process are toxic and combustible.

Meth Effects and Abuse

Any illicit use of methamphetamines qualifies as abuse. Similar to crack cocaine, meth produces a “rush” when smoked or injected; this is caused by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain. When meth is snorted, it creates a euphoric sensation, but not a rush. The rush from injection produces the strongest effects and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush, people using the drug experience a steady high that can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the mode of consumption. Injecting meth produces a stronger high than smoking or snorting, but the effects wear off more quickly. Meth users are known to stay up for multiple days in a row due to binge use and the stimulating effects.

Some of the most common effects of meth include:

  • Elation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Talkativeness
  • Alertness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss

Skin sores and infections from picking, tooth decay and “meth mouth,” and increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease are other common side effects of habitual meth use. People who regularly inject the drug may also suffer from collapsed veins and are at a higher risk of contracting blood-borne pathogen diseases such as HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis due to shared needles.

Additionally, snorting meth can damage sinus cavities and nasal passages, which can lead to chronic nosebleeds. The effects that meth has on the heart and central nervous system can overwhelm the body and also lead to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and potentially-life threatening overdose. When meth is mixed with other drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, the likelihood of an adverse reaction and possible overdose is greatly increased. Long-term meth use can also cause significant damage to the brain and the cells that make dopamine, as well as to the nerve cells containing serotonin.