Methamphetamine (Meth) is a stimulant drug that users snort, smoke or inject. Stimulants can increase alertness, concentration, and produce energy. Meth has a very high risk for addiction, and a regular user can experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms that continue for months after the initial withdrawal from the drug. Meth is commonly manufactured in makeshift labs making its composition and purity unknown to the user.
Due to its stimulant properties and the way it depletes chemicals from the brain, many meth users continue to binge on the drug for a periods of days. The drug induces insomnia and a lack of appetite in the user so their physical health can deteriorate during this time. When the brain has completely depleted its stores of chemicals and the high no longer satisfies the user the body shuts down and the user will crash (fall asleep, sometimes for days at a time). By the time the user crashes the body will be deprived of sleep, food, and essential vitamins and nutrients. This often leads to a depressed state and very often the user will want to get more meth and start the whole process over again.
The Hidden Dangers of Meth
The following are ‘hidden dangers’ of meth use:
1. Tooth decay or “Meth Mouth”
When a body is healthy and functioning properly saliva forms a barrier in the mouth between the teeth and bacteria. Meth use causes the saliva glands in the users mouth to dry out, and creates a situation where bacteria can attack and erode the teeth and gums. Symptoms of meth mouth include dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease, and cracked teeth. Many long-term meth users loose several of their teeth entirely.
2. Psychological effects
Methamphetamine affects the region of the brain that produces dopamine. Dopamine is essential in that it helps control movement, regulates emotional reactions to situations, and affects an individual’s feelings of pleasure and pain. Meth itself very closely resembles dopamine, and on initial use causes a great flood of natural dopamine, which produces the high the user experiences. Because it is so similar it also causes the brain to believe it has produced enough dopamine and the brain stops making it.
Once meth depletes the natural dopamine in a person’s brain the person will feel very depressed. Long-term use can actually destroy parts of the region of the brain that produces dopamine. This makes it impossible for the user to feel pleasure (known as anhedonia), and can lead to psychotic behavior including paranoia, anxiety, intense aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations and delusions.
3. Organ damage
In addition to affecting the brain studies have shown that meth use causes damage to the lungs and the liver. The liver is the organ responsible for detoxification and a decrease in liver function causes a chain reaction that contributes to toxicity throughout the body.
4. Heart problems
Irregular heartbeat, inflamed heart, increased heart rate, hyperthermia and stroke are all complications that can be brought on by meth use. Due to the highly addictive nature of the drug most long-term users do irreversible damage to their heart.
5. Affect on physical appearance
Meth addiction takes over a users life. In combination with lack of sleep and nutrition the meth addict will show many other outward signs of the drugs negative effect on their body. These include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Hair loss
- Acne and sores that heal slowly due to the bodies diminished condition
- Pale complexion
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Rotten, discolored, or missing teeth (see meth mouth)
- Dry and itchy skin
(See more effects of meth.)
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that causes serious harm to a user’s body. It is a drug that not only destroys people, but also families and entire communities. Lingering post-acute withdrawal symptoms that can persist for up to a year make meth addiction very hard to beat.