Methamphetamine (meth) is a highly addictive stimulant drug. This drug creates a sensation of being high while also creating intense bursts of energy and anxiety. It is similar to amphetamine, a drug prescribed to treat sleep disorders like narcolepsy and ADHD. Meth is dangerous for both its short- and long-term risks.
What is Meth?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It was developed in the early 1900s for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies meth as a Schedule II stimulant, meaning that it is legal only with a nonrefillable prescription. However, meth is rarely prescribed and prescriptions are in doses much lower than what people use when they take it illegally.
Meth usually comes as a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Meth can be distilled into crystal meth, which is a much more potent form of the drug. Crystal meth is made in homemade labs, and street names include ice, glass or speed.
How is Meth Used?
Meth can be taken orally, in pill form, or injected when dissolved into a liquid. It can also be snorted or smoked.
One of the biggest problems with meth is how much of it is required to maintain a high. From the start to the come down, a meth high lasts only a matter of minutes. As a result, many people binge-use it, using multiple doses in a short timeframe and then crashing after each dose. Other times, people “run,” which means they will continue to use the drug every few hours for several days at a time, often without sleeping or eating during most of that time.
What Happens When a Person Uses Meth?
Meth affects the function of the central nervous system. It increases the production of dopamine, a natural feel-good chemical. Dopamine helps with motivation and movement. It also helps to reinforce pleasurable experiences. By increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain quickly, meth reinforces this drug-seeking behavior. The brain wants to feel pleasure, and it thinks meth is the best source of that pleasure. This is what creates dependence and addiction.
In the short term, meth users may experience:
- A reduction in appetite (those on meth binges often skip meals for days at a time)
- Increased physical activity, energy, and focus
- Increased heartbeat, sometimes creating irregular heartbeats
- Increased respiration
- Higher blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
Initially, these symptoms wear off. However, meth also can create long-term negative consequences when used on a consistent basis. Long-term abuse of the drug can lead to addiction, which includes drug-seeking behavior and a functional change in the brain. This is why addiction to any substance is considered a brain disorder, because it changes brain chemistry in parts of the brain involved in self-control, stress, and reward.
Some long-term consequences of meth use include:
- Severe dental problems
- Extreme weight loss
- Violent behavior
- Memory loss
- Changes in the function and structure of the brain
Some of these consequences can lead to a psychotic break, putting a person at risk for aggressive and reckless behavior.
How Does Meth Change the Brain?
In addition to making the brain crave more meth, meth can lead to impaired verbal learning, cognitive function decline, and reduced coordination. The areas of the brain that deal with emotion and memory often suffer damage, which makes it hard for a person to feel pleasure any longer.
In addition to all of this, meth creates dependence. A person is dependent on the drug when they cannot stop using it on their own. They may feel intense withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. It can be nearly impossible to manage cravings, so even when a person desires to stop using, they cannot do so without professional help. In some situations, they may experience physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening. That’s why a professional detox center tends to be best for people using meth, especially when they’ve been using meth for a long time.
Can You Overdose on Meth?
Meth overdose is a real possibility every time a person uses the drug. Overdoses occur when a person uses so much of the drug that it slows down the function of the brain. The toxicity level in the body can lead to a heart attack, impaired breathing, and coma. Often, the symptoms of meth overdose are the same as those related to opioid overdose.
If an overdose occurs, it will be critical to restore blood flow through the body as an emergency method. That includes restoring the function of the heart and getting blood to the brain. Many times, meth overdose causes a stroke, heart attack, or other organ failure that may not be easily treated as it can be with opioids.
Is Meth Addiction Treatment Effective?
If a loved one is battling meth addiction, drug addiction treatment is critical to protecting their life. Without comprehensive support, meth addiction only gets worse. Treatment may include:
- Meth detox services
- Residential treatment
- Evidence-based therapies
- Holistic therapies
- Medical support
- Nutritional support
Many people need months of therapy to recover from meth addiction. View this condition as a life-threatening disease. Keep in mind that many people with meth addiction benefit from early intervention. If your son or daughter, spouse, or other family member is struggling with meth use, even if dependence has not formed, immediate treatment can be helpful. Often, a person using meth is not likely to ask for help themselves, especially if their condition has progressed. That’s why it’s crucial that you express your concern and offer to help them find the support they need.
At The Ranch at Dove Tree in Lubbock, TX, our team will work closely with you and your loved ones to ensure the best possible outcome. That includes providing a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both the physical and mental health needs you have. Reach out to our west Texas facility today to learn more about getting help immediately.