Meth or methamphetamine, also known as blue, crystal, ice, meth, and speed, is a highly addictive stimulant. Often in the form of blue or clear tinted crystals, meth is commonly smoked, snorted, or injected. It is similar to, but much stronger, than amphetamine – a prescription drug used to treat ADHD or narcolepsy.
Meth is made or “cooked” in an illegal lab – typically just in a basement or room in a house. This can make the drug more dangerous because it can be easy to contaminate or mess up the final product.
Meth causes a very intense, but somewhat short high. It starts with the initial rush. This is a very intense period where the effects of the drug rush in with strong feelings of euphoria. This typically only lasts for up to thirty minutes. Next comes the high, which is slightly less intense than the rush. This stage can last four to sixteen hours.
Often, the person using meth will binge, or use meth uncontrollably for a period of time – from three to fifteen days. They will often go without sleep or food during that period. The highs from each dose will get progressively shorter and less intense until no high is felt at all.
Short Term Effects of Meth Use
Because meth is a powerful upper, most of the short-term effects of meth use will be stimulating. This can include decreased fatigue and inability to fall asleep, increased activity, and decreased appetite. Many will talk fast or obsessively work on a project, like cleaning the whole house. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure may also increase, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.
One of the main symptoms of meth use is a strong feeling of euphoria. With meth, dopamine, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a huge part of the reward system in the brain, is released into the brain. Exactly how this works is still being researched. Many describe this feeling as “feeling like a god”. Feelings of invincibility are also common.
How Meth Impacts the Brain
Meth works by flooding the brain with dopamine, which can rewire the pleasure pathways of the brain. It can dull your ability to feel pleasure from other activities and teach your brain to crave the drug. This can cause you take the drug in ever increasing amounts and frequencies to feel the same high. Often time, meth use to this extent can lead to taking the drug, not to feel the high, but to avoid the pain of not taking meth.
When meth is taken for long periods of time or in large doses, it can cause brain damage, cognitive issues, and mental health issues. While research shows that some of these issues can be reversed and the brain healed when meth use is stopped, sometime the issues can be lifelong.
Meth Psychosis and Other Mental Health Issues
Meth psychosis can happen to up to 40% of all users. Marked by periods of agitation, violence, and delusion, it can be hard to tell the difference between meth psychosis and other mental health issues like schizophrenia.
Often times visual or auditory hallucination can be extremely distressing. The person might think that someone like the cops is after them – feelings of being followed or hunted are common. Sometimes general feelings of anxiety are common, without the other symptoms of psychosis.
These symptoms can last for months or years after the person last uses meth. Stress or being in a situation that reminds the person of the drug use can trigger episodes of psychosis. There is no control over when these episodes and they can often get in the way of the person’s life.
Extended use of meth can deplete your body’s levels of dopamine, the hormone that makes you feel pleasure. This can reduce your ability to feel pleasure and can often develop into depression.
Studies done in the early 2000s shows that meth use can cause brain damage that looks similar to brain damage from dementia or a stroke – with symptoms that are likewise similar. Memory loss and difficultly hearing or processing information are common long-term effects from the brain damage. Other studies show that there is double the risk of Parkinson’s disease in meth users versus non-users.
Research done on primates, shows that meth can alter the brain structure, particularly the area responsible for decision making. This can make meth addiction extremely complicated to treat, as these changes to the brain makes it harder for the user to suppress and alter habitual behaviors.
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How Meth Impacts the Body
Meth has a profound effect on the body and the way you look – so much so that before and after pictures are often used in anti-meth campaigns. There is almost no system in the body that isn’t negatively impacted by meth use.
Impacts to the Mouth and Teeth
Meth can have a devastating effect on the mouth and teeth. This is so common; it has been given the name “meth mouth”. Meth mouth can include severe tooth decay and loss, and gum disease. The user often has extreme and chronic bad breath.
This is largely due to nutritional deficiencies and poor dental hygiene – often seen in many types of drug addiction. Meth use can also cause teeth clenching and grinding, which all contribute significantly to dental issues. Stimulants can cause dry mouth, which encourages the growth of bacteria.
This is often one of the most noticeable long-term effects from meth. The pictures that show the amount of aging a person will experience with just a few months or years of meth use are astonishing.
Some of this premature aging is due to the weight loss that can happen from a lack of nutrition that makes the face look very gaunt and thin. The dental issues can also contribute to this premature aging.
Heavy meth use can also cause diseases more commonly associated with aging, like fatty liver disease, scar tissue in the lungs, and hardening of arteries.
Skin Issues from Meth Use
Sores and open wounds are also incredibly common with meth use. This is often from what is known as “meth mites” or “crank bugs” – known in the medical community as formication. The meth user may feel like there are bugs scrawling under their skin due to tactile hallucinations.
This can make the meth user pick and itch at their skin, causing sores to form all over. These can take an abnormally long time to heal, as meth use weakens the immune system and reduces the blood flow through the body.
Meth use can also cause chronic acne and pale skin. This is often due to the poor nutrition and hygiene that are hallmarks of a drug addiction.
Overdosing on meth is extremely serious and can be fatal. This can be an acute or chronic overdose. Chronic meth overdose is just another term for the slow poisoning of the body from long term use.
Acute overdoses are sudden overdoses from taking too much at once. There is no way to tell how much is too much. Overdosing can happen to first time users and chronic, long-term users. The symptoms of an acute overdoses can include:
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- High or low blood pressure
According to the University of Arizona, the most common cause of death associated with a meth overdose is multiple organ failure that resembles organ failure due to heatstroke. Toxicity in the blood can also lead to stroke and internal bleeding. Rarely, meth overdose can lead to heavy metal toxicity, mainly lead, from meth contaminated during illicit manufacturing. It can also cause liver failure, but that is rare as well.
Meth use is very serious and can quickly and easily spiral out of control. Because detoxing and recovering from a meth addiction can be difficult, painful, and even deadly, its vital to get help from a treatment center. They can help guide you through the detox and develop a plan for moving through your addiction.