Methamphetamine (or "meth") is a seriously addictive drug. This stimulant drug causes an enjoyable high followed by a sudden crash. Meth addiction is prevalent because, in order to avoid the crash after the high, the user increases his or her use of the drug, resulting in addiction.
There are over 24.7 million methamphetamine users in the world. It is widely used by teens. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that while the overall use of crystal meth is at epidemic proportions, the use among 12 to 17-year-olds has recently dropped. Recent statistics report that 1 in 33 teens in the U.S. admit to trying crystal meth.
How Meth Is Made
Methamphetamine is commonly called ice, crystal, crystal meth, Tina, crank or meth on the streets. It is a homemade drug or is created in illegal drug labs throughout the world.
The drug is made using common household ingredients like lye, brake cleaner, battery acid, ammonia, drain cleaner and/or rubbing alcohol. All of these chemicals are toxic to the body and not intended to be ingested. Other ingredients of meth include over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
Crystal meth is most commonly smoked, but it can also be swallowed, dissolved and injected or snorted. The fastest "rush" or "high" comes when it is smoked or injected.
Effects of Meth Addiction
The initial effects of meth include raised blood pressure, pulse rate, respirations and body temperature. Methamphetamine also increases the user's dopamine levels, a neurochemical that is in the brain and body, which initially creates a "high" and unlimited energy. The cycle of addiction begins when the user repeatedly uses the drug to maintain the "high."
Some of the serious and long-term side effects of meth include:
- Itching skin followed by constant scratching and picking at the skin
- Skin sores and abscesses, especially on the face and arms
- Severe dental decay or meth mouth
- Hyperthermia or increased body temperature
- Insomnia for 24 to 120 hours
- Eye twitching
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite and extreme weight loss
- Repetitive behavior
- Psychosis (including delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and irritability)
- Short-term memory loss
- Changes in movement
- Impaired decision-making
Some addicts often stay awake for several days at a time and then experience a crash during which they sleep for long periods. Others experience a manic phase and become compulsive and obsessive about cleaning or other activities.
When a patient crashes after using meth, they usually sleep for 24 to 48 hours. When detoxification or detox starts, it produces intense withdrawal symptoms, including extreme fatigue and excessive sleeping or a disruption of the sleep cycle. Other symptoms of meth withdrawal include:
- Increased appetite
- Anxiety, agitation, restlessness
- Vivid or lucid dreams (nightmares)
- Suicidal thoughts
There is no medication or drug to actually counteract methamphetamine addiction. Some healthcare professionals suggest using alternate medications to abate some of the effects of meth. These drugs include:
- Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant that can be used to equalize the effects of methamphetamine by reducing the pleasurable effects and sudden cravings for the drug
- Modafinil, used to treat narcolepsy, can help repair nerve damage in the brain caused by meth
Meth has the highest rate of relapse than any other illicit drug. A meth addict will likely benefits most from a stay in a drug rehabilitation center and a strong support system as a follow-up to the rehab. Behavioral therapy is commonly used to treat the meth addiction on a long-term basis.