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Article Summary

A Guide To Meth Addiction

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) 1.2 million Americans reported using meth (methamphetamine). With such a high rate of use, it is no wonder that many people are in serious need of detoxification and rehabilitation.

As with other drugs of abuse - both prescription and illegal - seeking treatment from addiction and mental health specialists will improve your chances or recovering from methamphetamine addiction.

This drug is so powerful and has such an indelible grasp that it will become a habit from the moment you try it. Every subsequent hit will cause damage to the key receptors inside the brain, making it difficult for you to experience any pleasurable feeling without meth.

The blast of euphoria caused by meth will also remain in your system much longer than you might have anticipated. In the process, it will rewrite and scramble the pleasure and reward centers in the brain, and lead to painful addiction.

Read on to find out more:

Understanding Meth

Otherwise referred to as methamphetamine, meth is a white, bitter tasting crystalline powder that has no odor. It easily dissolves in alcohol and water, and can easily penetrate the brain much faster than similar stimulants. As a result, it is one of the most potent of drugs in existence. Further, it causes harmful effects of a long-lasting nature on the body's central nervous system.

The drug is known by a variety of street names, including chalk, meth, and speed. On the other hand, the crystal form (methamphetamine hydrochloride) is inhaled as smoke, and is sometimes called Tina, glass, crystal, or ice.

Meth ranks among the most vicious and devastating of drugs currently in circulation. According to Frontline, a PBS documentary, it works like other drugs in the sense that its effectiveness arises from the natural ability to force the brain to generate dopamine in large quantities. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that creates satisfaction and pleasure.

Different tasks and activities can cause the brain to release dopamine. However, drugs like meth hijack this system leading to the secretion of more dopamine than is healthy and normal. Further, this substance is instantly habit-forming, meaning that you will end up consuming it over the long haul from the moment you try it.

With time, meth will destroy the brain's dopamine receptors. As a direct result, you will have to use it to experience pleasure. At this point, methamphetamine will take center stage in your life, and you will spend your focus, energy, time, and resources looking for and acquiring it.

Meth Uses

As mentioned above, meth alters the brain by creating feelings of pleasure, elevating your mood, and increasing energy. On the drug, you will be able to stay awake for extended periods and remain active with little to no need for sleep. Like any other amphetamine, this substance will also suppress your appetite, which is why some people turn to it as a weight loss aid.

Most of the pleasure derived from meth use arises from the release of dopamine in the brain at high levels. The brain releases dopamine to improve motor function, create pleasure, and motivate you.

When you use meth, it will cause the brain to let out close to 12 times the amount of dopamine that is released by pleasurable activities such as sexual congress and food. This elevated release eventually contributes to the harmful effects of meth on the brain's nerve terminal.

Meth Effects

The effects of meth - both in recreational doses and in overdose - are so powerful that they often lead to physical and psychological addiction. As mentioned above, the drug affects the levels of the chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. Further, it activates the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system.

According to the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse, meth users will initially feel powerful, confident, and extremely powerful. The drug will also increase your productivity and enhance your sexual performance, but also decrease your appetite.

After these euphoric effects have worn off, your experience with meth will take a turn for the worst. Chronic abuse will eventually lead to immediate serious negative consequences.

Psychologically, meth will always increase your feelings of invincibility and grandiosity. When you combine these feelings with the need to continue using the drug to avoid coming down, you will eventually start getting into precarious situations.

A large percentage of methamphetamine users report that they would never cheat, lie, or steal to get their hands on drugs. However, the behaviors eventually happen especially as the need for meth becomes paramount to any other interest.

As such, meth can impact almost all spheres of life for the use. As a dangerous drug, it can change everything, leading to such adverse effects as:

  • Toxic psychosis
  • Tooth loss
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Malnutrition
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases
  • Incarceration
  • Impotence
  • Homelessness
  • Heart attack
  • Functional brain changes
  • Financial ruin
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Domestic abuse
  • Divorce
  • Destruction of blood vessels and the body's tissues
  • Decline in judgment, motor skills, and reasoning
  • Death
  • Compulsive and obsessive behaviors, such as tweaking
  • Coma
  • Child abuse
  • Brain damage
  • Behavioral changes
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure
  • Alterations in cognition and memory

After addiction, you will eventually neglect your job and family and keep away from relatives and friends. The drug will also force you to engage in criminal behavior, including selling drugs, writing bad checks, and committing fraud, among others.

Meth Side Effects

The main side effects arising from meth use, abuse, and addiction are cosmetic in nature. These effects are as profound as they are upsetting. It is due to these effects that anti-meth campaigns often feature before and after pictures of individuals before they started using the drug and during/after they became hooked to it.

To this end, some of the side effects of meth use include:

  • Meth mouth, as evidenced by missing, thin, and brittle teeth, as well as teeth taking the shape of the pipe from the chemicals
  • Collapsed jaw due to teeth grinding and tooth loss
  • Dry gums
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle, and/or missing hair
  • Body sores
  • Scarring caused by the constant picking typical of meth use
  • Sunken face

Meth Addictive Qualities

Meth is highly addictive because it provides a strong, long lasting high. The method of entrance into the body - snorting or smoking - will influence the impact that the drug has, as well as the likelihood of addiction. For instance, the intense rush that you will feel when you smoke methamphetamine might make you more likely to get hooked.

As the drug gets to the brain, it stimulates the release of dopamine while preventing this neurotransmitter from getting reabsorbed into the brain cells. This leads to a sustained high which cannot be replicated even by cocaine.

Sometimes referred to as the cocaine of the poor, meth isn't as well known as other illegal drugs. However, the growing production and sale of the drug shows that it is a serious case for study.

Use the criteria below to tell whether you are addicted to methamphetamine:

  • Tolerance for the drug
  • Dependence on meth
  • Innate need to use this substance to feel better and get on with the day
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as excess fatigue, insomnia, shaking, anxiety, and nausea
  • Consistent use to counteract withdrawal symptoms
  • Inability to control your use of the drug
  • Priorities shift towards the drug
  • Continued use even with the knowledge that meth is hurting your body, mind, and life

Meth Overdose

Understanding the common signs and symptoms of an overdose is not only essential, but it might also prove to be the difference between life and death. Remember, the sooner a person who has overdosed received medical assistance, the higher their chances for survival.

In most cases, the overdose might either be chronic or acute. Acute overdose will happen when you use a relatively large amount of methamphetamine at a go, and suffer adverse reactions. In some cases, acute overdoses might prove to be fatal.

Chronic overdose, on the other hand, refers to the accumulation of negative effects arising from ongoing meth use, abuse, dependence, and addiction.

Chronic and acute overdoses are equally disastrous.

a) Acute Overdose

The symptoms of an acute overdose include:

  • Agitation
  • Altered mental state
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Irregular, slowed, or rapid heart rate
  • Kidney failure
  • Paranoia
  • Stomach pain
  • Stroke

During the overdose, the altered mental state will cause you to get suicidal thoughts, feel irritable, and suffer psychosis. In some cases, you might also experience seizures or go into a coma.

b) Chronic overdose includes the accumulated negative health effects arising from long term abuse. It leads to:
  • Anxiety
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Violent outbursts

You might also display psychotic symptoms, including tactile hallucinations and severe paranoia, which cause you to feel like there are bugs crawling on your skin. Long term use sometimes leads to skin problems (abscesses and sores), dental complications, and significant weight loss.

If you experience altered mental status, kidney failure, heart problems, a stroke, or prolonged seizures during the overdose, you might eventually suffer permanent physical and psychological damage.

Meth Withdrawal

Withdrawing from meth, as with other drugs, is never pleasant. However, you can easily get a medical professional to detox you from the grasp of this substance. As long as the detox takes place in a registered rehabilitation and recovery center and under the carefully trained and experienced guidance of medical professionals, you should soon recover.

Below are some of the common withdrawal symptoms that will arise if you try to quit meth:

  • Anhedonia
  • Anxiety
  • Craving methamphetamines
  • Depression
  • Emotional labiality
  • Increased sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Low energy levels
  • Night sweats
  • Resumption of eating, which will cause weight gain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Teeth grinding

Meth Dangers

Apart from the risk of committing suicide after withdrawing from methamphetamine use, the drug also creates a variety of other problems. According to neuro-imaging studies, meth alters and destroys the dopamine system associated, leading to impaired verbal learning and reduced motor speeds.

Further studies on chronic meth users also reveled severe functional and structural changes in those segments of the brain commonly associated with memory and emotion. These studies account for the numerous cognitive and emotional issues observed in chronic meth users.

Apart from getting hooked to the drug, you might suffer psychotic symptoms that will last for months, or even years, after you stop abusing it. In fact, stress precipitates the occurrence of meth psychosis among former abusers.

Signs And Symptoms Of Meth Abuse

The common signs and symptoms of meth use, abuse, and addiction vary from one individual to the next. In part, this variability arises from the differences in genetic makeup among people, as well as the total duration of methamphetamine abuse. The other factors affecting variability include the frequency of use, as well as the amount used.

Here are some of the symptoms of abuse and addiction:

a) Mood Symptoms
  • A general sense of wellbeing
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Euphoria
b) Behavioral Symptoms
  • A binge-crash pattern of abuse
  • Aggression
  • Appetite depression
  • Concealing your use of the drug from others
  • Dangerous, increasingly risky behaviors
  • Impulsiveness
  • Incarceration
  • Mounting legal problems
  • Preoccupation with getting, using, and recovering from meth use
  • Problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Tweaking, or intently-focused attention
  • Unexplained financial difficulties
  • Violent behavior
c) Physical Symptoms
  • Addiction
  • Decreased flow of blood through the body's vessels and tissues
  • Hair loss
  • High rises in the body's core temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Liver damage
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Meth mouth
  • Nausea
  • Open sores
  • Shaking
  • Tachycardia
  • Tolerance
  • Trembling
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Vomiting
d) Psychological Symptoms
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Meth bugs, as the user feels like there are bugs crawling right underneath the skin
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Repetitive behaviors

Treatment For Meth Addiction

Although meth use, abuse, and addiction causes havoc to the user's emotional, social, physical, and mental well being, you still have the option of seeking treatment to kick the habit and cure your body.

In most cases, treatment takes the form of medication, therapy, or the right combination of the two. The most commonly used therapeutic and counseling options include the following:

  • 12-step support programs
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Family education

Overall, the treatment of methamphetamine addiction calls for comprehensive detoxification before full rehabilitation can be achieved. The treatment will purge meth from the body while ensuring the former user starts acclimatizing to a life without the drug. The medical team in charge of treatment will also address the psychological effects of the drug by rehabilitating the mind and teaching recovering users how to grow and function in daily life without having to resort to meth.

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