What Is Meth?
What's In This Article?
A stimulant that usually comes in pill form or as a white powder that tastes bitter, methamphetamine is highly addictive. Crystal meth is one form of the drug that is shiny, blue-white rocks that looks like fragments of glass. Chemically, meth is like amphetamine, which is used to treat a sleep disorder, narcolepsy, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are several other names that are used to refer to methamphetamines, such as speed, ice, crystal, crank, and meth. There are several ways that people use methamphetamine:
- Swallowing in pill form
- Smoking or inhaling
- Injecting dissolved powder
The high that results from using meth starts and fades quickly, so users often do what is called a binge and crash. This means they use the drug in a form called a “run,” where they give up sleep and food while continuing to take another dose of the drug every few hours. This pattern sometimes lasts several days.
How is the Brain Affected by Methamphetamine?
Dopamine, a natural chemical in the brain, is increased when methamphetamine is used. Dopamine affects body movement, reinforcement of rewarding behaviors, and motivation. The drug can release high dopamine levels quickly in the brain’s reward areas, which strongly reinforces the taking of drugs, then the user will want to repeat the experience and take more drugs. There are many effects from using meth. Even taking small amounts of meth can lead to the same health effects caused by many other stimulants, such as amphetamines or cocaine. Some short-term effects might include:
- Faster breathing
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Increased physical activity and wakefulness
- Decrease in appetite
- Increased body temperature and increased blood pressure
How is Meth Made?
Most meth available in the United States is made in labs throughout the country or in Mexico. Sometimes meth is made in small labs using cheap ingredients available over the counter, such as pseudoephedrine, which is found in cold medications. The law now requires stores to keep a record of pseudoephedrine sales to curb the production of meth. Any individual is limited to the number of products containing pseudoephedrine in a single day.
Health Effects of Meth Usage
There are serious long-term effects of methamphetamine use. People who inject meth face a higher risk of contracting an infectious disease, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. These diseases are transmitted through contact with bodily fluids or blood. Meth can also alter decision-making and judgment, leading to risky behavior, which might include unprotected sex, which increases the chance for being infected by HIV, hepatitis, or sexually transmitted diseases. The drug can also speed up and worsen the progression of HIV or AIDS. Using the drug can also lead to several other negative problems, such as:
- Intense itching
- Extreme weight loss
- Severe dental issues
- Difficulty sleeping
- Violent behavior
Continued use of meth causes changes in the dopamine system of the brain, which can cause impaired verbal learning and reduced coordination. In studies involving those who used meth long-term, there were severe changes that also affected the brain areas involved with memory and emotion. Those who have used meth can have ongoing emotional and cognitive difficulties. While there might be some brain changes reversed after having been off the drug for a year or longer, some changes don’t reverse even after having been off the drug for longer periods. Studies show that people who have used meth have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, which is a nerve disorder that affects movement.
People can overdose on methamphetamine. This occurs when too much of the drug is used and a toxic reaction results, causing harmful, serious symptoms that sometimes lead to death. Overdoses of meth can result in several health problems, including:
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
- Organ problems
If someone overdoses on meth, they need immediate medical treatment. First responders and physicians will try to treat the meth overdoes by treating the conditions that are caused by the drug, such as the heart attack, stroke, or other organ problems. These treatments are intended to:
- Restoring blood flow to the heart
- Treating the organ problems
- Restoring blood flow to the part of the brain that was affected
Meth is very addictive, so those who stop taking it will suffer from withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Severe depression
- Intense cravings for the drug
Treating Meth Addiction
Behavioral therapies are the most effective treatments for meth addiction. These therapies include”
- Motivational incentives
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy