Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive chemical stimulant which takes on the form of a white crystalline powdery substance.  It is made manufactured in small laboratories inside the U.S. and outside, mainly Mexico.  The base ingredient is a substance called pseudoephedrine, found in most over-the-counter cold medicines.  It can be administered in a variety of different ways, albeit the most common being injected or smoked.  These two systems provide the most immediate and powerful impact on the user going straight to the brain to begin its chemical processes that result in its intense high.  It has a similar chemical structure to its more milder counterpart amphetamine, which is the base ingredient in the popular ADHD medication commonly prescribed to children, Adderall.  

 

How is it Used?

Despite numerous ways of consuming the drug, methamphetamine is typically injected intravenously, or smoked in order to achieve the strongest and most efficient means of administration.  The impact is almost instant and results in a wave of euphoric pleasure.  This feeling dissipates quickly however, and the user is forced to constantly feed their addiction in order to avoid the sharp comedown and withdrawal periods.  The nature of this manner of binge using to avoid subsequent crashes lends itself to the prospect of a lethal overdose.  It is readily available in most metropolitan and high density populated regions of the country.  The following are a few slang terms used to refer to the drug on the streets:

  • Ice
  • Crystal Meth
  • Crystal
  • Chalk

 

Effects on the Brain

Methamphetamine stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the feelings of wellbeing and pleasure.  Aside from the feelings of pleasure induced by the dopamine, it also governs the areas of the brain associated with reward, motivation and motor function.  Because the drug floods the system with so much dopamine in such short duration the brain shuts down its own natural and healthy production of dopamine which then causes the user to engage in compulsive drug seeking habits that put them in dangerous and compromising situations.

 

Although methamphetamine can be prescribed medicinally in certain situations it is generally seen as having no real medicinal value.  It is currently designated a Schedule II banned substance under the U.S. government controlled substances laws, meaning that it has a high possibility for dependence and addiction.  In the rare case that it gets prescribed by a legitimate doctor is monitored closely and without refill.

 

Long-Term Effects on Users

Abuse of methamphetamine results in a whole slew of health-related problems.  Studies have shown that the brain is forever altered by the drug and undergoes changes at the chemical and molecular level.  This causes impaired learning and stunted emotional development in its users.  This can be seen in bouts of depression and places the subject at a higher than normal risk for suicide.  The following conditions are exhibited by long-term dependent meth users:

 

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood Instability
  • Violent Behavior
  • Psychosis

 

The short-term effects of the drug include the following:

 

  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Increased Physical Energy
  • Irregular and Rapid Heartbeat
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Elevated Body Temperature
  • Decreased Appetite  

 

Other Health Dangers of Meth

Methamphetamine in small amounts can be fatal and result in heart failure and heart attacks.  When abused for long periods of time users tend to degenerate physically losing massive amounts of weight.  Dental hygiene is quickly eroded as well giving users what has been termed, “meth mouth.”  Skin sores and lesions appear on the body from constant scratching.  Furthermore meth users have been found to be more at risk for contracting diseases like hepatitis B, and C as well as HIV.  In patients who have contracted these diseases the ones who still actively abuse meth experience much higher morbidity rates as compared to non-meth users.   

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