Methamphetamine is a very potent, very addictive stimulant drug substance that directly affects the central nervous system in the body. Also called meth, crystal, chalk, ice and more, methamphetamine can cause dependency problems after a single hit, and can quickly destroy every aspect of an individual’s health and life.
Meth often takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It is most often produced in high-tech labs in Mexico, or occasionally in the United States. However, meth can also be produced in small, home-based labs using easily obtained over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient found in most cold medicines. In fact, in an effort to reduce the production of meth, many pharmacies and other retail stores are required to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine an individual can purchase on a single day. Of course, this can easily be sidestepped by having multiple individuals purchase pseudoephedrine products from multiple pharmacies.
In addition to pseudoephedrine, methamphetamine normally contains a variety of other extremely toxic chemicals, such as battery acid, antifreeze and even lantern fuel. Not only does this make the production of meth highly dangerous, it makes the entire environment around a meth lab very toxic, even long after the lab has been shut down, which means it affects the health of many innocent people living and working in the general area.
How Meth is Used
Meth can be taken orally, smoked, snorted, or even dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. While smoking or injecting meth produces the fastest and most intense effects, any method of ingestion will cause meth to move rapidly into the brain and produce a euphoric feeling. This is called the rush. Meth will stimulate the individual’s heart beat, blood pressure and pulse. This rush can last for up to thirty minutes, and is caused by the stimulation of the production of the brain chemical dopamine, which is involved in the processes of reward and pleasure.
Following the initial euphoric rush of meth use, a meth user will experience a high. He often feels aggressively smarter and more argumentative, and may even become intensely focused on one thing for a long period of time – like cleaning one spot endlessly for hours. This high can last anywhere from four to sixteen hours.
As soon as the desired effects of meth begin to fade, the individual normally begins to binge on meth use. He will often not sleep or eat for many days at a time as he continues to ingest the drug over and over, experiencing smaller and smaller rushes until finally he experiences no rush and no high at all.
When meth no longer produces the desired effects in the individual, he experiences a phase of meth use called “tweaking”. The inability to achieve any relief through meth use leaves the individual feeling empty and with high cravings, and he may even lose some sense of his identity. He may begin to experience hallucinations that are so real to him that he can become hostile to himself and others. He may experience the tactile hallucination that bugs are burrowing under his skin, and he may scratch and pick at his skin constantly. He may not sleep for many days at a time, and can appear to be entirely psychotic.
Finally, the individual’s body can no longer cope and it simply shuts down, causing the meth user to “crash”. This can result in a very deep and often apparently lifeless sleep for several days as the body seeks to recuperate at least some of its strength.
When the individual finally awakens after a meth crash, he feels starved, dehydrated and completely exhausted. He can experience a very unpleasant meth hangover, and eventually some very uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal symptoms that drive him to return to meth use in order to relieve feelings of depression, low energy and non-existent pleasure.
Meth as a Prescription Medication
Meth has sometimes been prescribed by medical doctors in order to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other medical conditions. However, since it has a high potential for abuse, it is only available in very low doses and with non-refillable prescriptions.
The Effects of Meth Use
Meth use can rapidly and thoroughly destroy an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health in variety of ways, and is known to cause:
- Mood disturbances
- Violent behavior
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Increased physical activity
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased appetite
- Increased respiration
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Damage to heart and brain blood vessels
- Liver, kidney and lung damage
- Extreme weight loss
- Severe dental problems
- Skin sores and problems
- Heart attacks
Brain imaging studies have indicated that meth use produces a change of activity in the brain areas related to motor skills and verbal learning, and chronic meth users have exhibited severe structural and behavioral changes in the areas related to emotion and memory. Unfortunately, some of these damages can be permanent and persist even after the individual has stopped their meth use.
Helping Someone Put an End to Meth Addiction
Even in cases where a meth addict wishes to be free from meth use, they will need professional help and rehabilitation treatment in order to recover fully and permanently. Meth rehabilitation treatment will need to help the individual safely and fully withdraw and detox from this dangerous drug substance and learn the skills necessary to succeed in the future without meth. That said, many individuals may fight against enrolling in rehabilitation treatment programs for a variety of reasons, including their certainty that full recovery is impossible and therefore pointless to try for.
In order to help someone overcome a meth addiction, one should first learn about meth and how it affects the body. Then, one should consult with an addiction specialist and professional interventionist, and learn how to properly stage an effective intervention meeting to help the individual recognize that they have a problem and they need help.
It is important to be firm and persistent with a meth addict, but also to never lose hope that an individual who is suffering from meth addiction can, in fact, take back control of their life and fully recover.