What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system. The drug is made easily in clandestine laboratories with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients. These factors combine to make methamphetamine a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.
Methamphetamine is commonly known as “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” In its smoked form, it is often referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “crank,” and “glass.” It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.
Methamphetamine’s chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system. Like amphetamine, it causes increased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense of well-being. The effects of methamphetamine can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial “rush,” there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior.
Methamphetamine comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested. The preferred method of methamphetamine abuse varies by geographical region and has changed over time. Smoking methamphetamine, which leads to very fast uptake of the drug in the brain, has become more common in recent years, amplifying methamphetamine’s addiction potential and adverse health consequences.
How does Methamphetamine affect a person?
Meth initially sends a message to the pleasure center in your brain. When you first use Meth, you might feel alert, full of energy and self-confident. Your brain is releasing dopamine – a brain chemical that carries messages between brain cells. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure, usually after food or sex.
Hours after taking Meth, your brain cells release an enzyme that stops the dopamine flow. If you keep taking Meth, you will potentially lose your ability to experience pleasure.
Signs of Abuse:
Rapid eye movement
Increased body temperature (can rise as high as 108 degrees and cause death)
Sweating not related to physical activity
Euphoric “high” state (excessively happy)
Increased physical activity
Anxiety, shaking hands, nervousness
Strong body odor
Shadows under the eyes
Dry or itchy skin
Irritable and moody (mood swings)
Picking at skin or hair
Aggressive or violent behavior
Depression (withdrawal/tolerance effect)
Severe nail biting
Nose bleeds, nasal perforations
Dermatitis around the mouth
Lack of personal hygiene
Because of the drug’s extremely addictive qualities, it is dangerous even to use once. The user can quickly become addicted to the drug and, because of the fast rise of a tolerance, the user will soon be using large quantities of methamphetamines. Overdose can rapidly be achieved, with marked impairment of judgment, greatly increased suspiciousness, aggressive behavior and serious interruption of normal patterns of eating and sleeping. Long-term effects can include memory loss, psychotic behavior, respiratory problems, extreme anorexia, brain damage, stroke, heart damage and death. Over time, methamphetamine users can develop symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder. Because the body requires calcium to detoxify amphetamines, many users develop trouble with teeth, gums, fingernails, and dry lifeless hair.
The effects of meth psychosis may resemble those of Alzheimer’s, with loss of memory, loss of time perception, and dementia-like confusion. One may also experience uncontrollable violence, extreme anxiety, and even worse health. Auditory hallucinations and rapid mood disturbances often cause the user to isolate. Meth use negatively affects one’s mouth, possible leading to tooth decay. Even after having quite meth, the user may still notice effects for a long time after use. Psychosis may be irreparable. Meth abuse has been shown to increase the risk of Parkinson’s significantly. Memory loss, short attention span, and decreased motor function are also affects of meth use that follow the user for the whole life.
Withdrawal from Methamphetamine
Symptoms of meth withdrawal can start as soon as a few hours after the last dose for heavy users to as long as several days after stopping the drug. The severity of withdrawal depends on how long someone has used the drug, how regularly, and the size of their usual dose. Some of the symptoms of meth withdrawal are:
Anheonia (inability to feel pleasure)
Increase in appetite
Rapid weight gain
Strong drug cravings
It has been shown that the changes meth makes in the brain can take up to a year to resolve, and that the psychological addiction will remain for many years. Those in withdrawal should be aware that the depression and inability to enjoy life is a temporary condition that will pass with time.