Meth, or methamphetamine, is usually one of the top 10 most abused drugs annually. This substance was popular in the 1990s through the 2000s. Then, it took a back seat to opioids, painkillers and fentanyl. Today, fentanyl remains a steadily abused synthetic opioid. The important note to make about fentanyl is that it is combined with other drugs, meth included, to increase its potency. From 2016 to 2018, data collected by the Centers for Disease Control showed a spike in meth use.
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 1.6 million people, or 0.6% of the U.S. population, had used methamphetamine in the past year. Approximately 774,000 had used meth in the past month. The average age of users was 23 years old.
The survey also found that 964,000 people aged 12 years and older had a methamphetamine use disorder. This was an increase from 2016 when the number was at 684,000, a clinically significant impairment. Meth use disorder is defined as having health problems and disability. A person is also unable to meet responsibilities at work, school or home due to their meth use. Here is some information about meth use and the signs of addiction to the drug.
What Is Meth?
Meth is a stimulant. It is available in pill form and powder. As a prescription, it is known as Desoxyn and is used to treat ADHD in addition to weight management. Since it speeds up body systems, for some patients, it helps them burn more calories faster.
Crystal meth is an illegally altered version of the prescription drug. It resembles glass fragments that are cooked with over-the-counter drugs in meth labs. Meth is cheaper than cocaine, so cocaine at its height was the substance of choice for those with disposable income. The cheaper cocaine version was crack, which turned out to be extremely dangerous and addictive. On top of that, there was no way to test its purity. Various hazardous chemicals were mixed in to boost profits, which led to overdoses and deaths. Meth thus became an alternative because it was cheaper. The substance enjoyed decades of popularity because it delivered a high at a lower price.
Meth has always been a substance meant to cause a person to be more awake. A man-made drug, its first appearance dates back to the 1880s. It was used during World War II in order to keep soldiers more alert. The substance started off in Germany. It found its way to Japan and, eventually, the United States. Meth was widely used in 1960s, so the U.S. government stepped into the situation in the 1970s and made it illegal for recreational use. Demand for meth, however, did not subside. The demand led to cartels seeing meth production as an opportunity, so they began to fill the void, which is why meth saw a comeback in the 1990s.
Methamphetamine and amphetamine are closely related, but substances like meth and coke do have significant differences. Cocaine burns off quickly while meth lasts in the brain longer.
Meth Addiction Signs and Symptoms
To understand the meth addiction signs and symptoms, it is important to understand how the substance impacts the user. As a highly addictive stimulant, it has an immediate impact on the central nervous system. Most drugs re-wire the chemistry of the brain. Since they deliver a rush of dopamine, this excites the reward mechanism. Everyone can produce a bit of extra dopamine through exercise or other related activities. The dopamine rush created by a chemical substance such as meth is euphoric for most people, so the goal of the user becomes chasing that feeling.
Signs of repeated use of meth include:
- Noticeable and sudden weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Burns, particularly on the lips or fingers
- Outbursts or mood swings
A person who notices that their teeth are rotting is most likely experiencing “meth mouth.” Teeth begin to rot, and disease of the gums becomes evident too. This leads to teeth falling out.
Twitching, facial tics and jerky movements as well as rapid eye movements are known as “tweaking.” Tweaking can last anywhere from 3 to 15 days after using meth. It includes bouts of insomnia and anxiety.
A meth high does not last very long. The user, therefore, will binge on the substance in order to extend the sense of euphoria. A hit is taken every time the high begins to fade away. Usually, the binge lasts several days. The goal is to achieve the euphoric feeling that was experienced the first time they took the drug. Since this cannot be achieved, a user increases the dosage and the number of hits in a short period of time. Instead of reaching the desired feeling of euphoria, the user builds up a tolerance, which turns into a vicious cycle.
As the doses are increased, the user is damaging their central nervous system further. Once a person starts tweaking, things can go wrong very quickly. Tweaking can cause psychological side effects like paranoia, irritability and confusion. Some users experience hallucinations and become prone to violent behavior.
Another dangerous side effect is the crash. The binge phase causes a person to become exhausted either because the dopamine rushes catch up to them or they are tired from trying harder every time. Eventually, the user is going to stop trying to achieve their desired euphoric feeling. At that point, the dopamine rush is cut off. This allows the body to realize that it is tired. A crash can last from one to three days. During that time, the user may sleep through most of the crash phase. The only thing that may wake them up from their near coma is the craving for more meth. Since the body is worn out, symptoms of depression may also set in.
There are users who approach the binge and crash process of meth on purpose. They set aside several days for this, and food consumption is eliminated while the focus is placed on getting as high as possible for as long as possible. The binge and crash method is dangerous. It has led to death for some users, and others become incapacitated by a stroke or heart attack.
Why Meth Is Dangerous
Meth is one of the most lethal substances that claims lives on an annual basis even though it is not as widely used as alcohol or marijuana. Meth can be smoked, snorted or injected. During the haze of high, users do not tend to act responsibly. If they are injecting the substance with others, sharing needles is very common. In the middle of a high, research shows that users do not reach for new needles or clean the ones they are using. This causes the risk to contract HIV or Hepatitis C to increase exponentially.
Effects of Meth Use
Meth is known to have a negative impact on the nerve terminals of the brain. Plus, it destroys the brain cell synapses that release dopamine. The result is mood disturbances and dependence on the drug. Once the substance begins to re-wire the brain, the reward system becomes dependent on meth. This is when the cravings begin, the tolerance to the substance starts, and the possibility for a quick rehabilitation begins to drop. Chronic meth users sometimes cause irreparable damage to their body. The blood vessels stop flowing normally to and from the brain. In the worst-case scenario, it leads to a stroke, overdose or death.
The short-term negative effects of meth use are:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle twitching
- Raised body temperature
The worst-short term negative effect is an overdose that leads to death.
The long-term negative effects of meth use are:
- Poor decision-making
- Heat stroke
A meth addiction should not be taken lightly. Once the user notices that they are exhibiting signs and symptoms of addiction, they are encouraged to seek help. A rehabilitation center such as Green Mountain Treatment Center in New Hampshire specializes in treating clients who have become addicted to drugs like meth.
The process begins with a medical detox. At Green Mountain Treatment Center, our staff has experience helping patients who have a high-to-manageable withdrawal risk. It is a good idea to go through detox in an environment that provides support around the clock. There are no medications that are widely used for those recovering from a meth addiction. However, medical staff can monitor and treat the distressing symptoms of withdrawal.
Once the detox phase is completed, an individualized program is started. Therapy is a common treatment for meth addiction as professionals help patients re-wire their brains to a healthier and sober state. Cognitive behavioral therapy and contingency management are the two therapy strategies most often utilized.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps a patient understand their addiction. Then, they are given lessons on how to cope with cravings and other negative emotions once they exit the facility, especially if a patient is going to return to the environment where the addiction was enabled. After the therapy sessions are completed, patients should be able to resist temptation, cope with stress without using drugs and resist the triggers.
During therapy, the goal is to unearth how the patient fell into addiction in the first place. In a rehab facility, a patient has the freedom to be vulnerable and honest. The center is purposefully located in a secluded area that offers panoramic views of nature, so patients can feel relaxed and focused. Rehab centers are equipped with amenities that make patients comfortable. This way, there are no distractions from home life, and the focus can be placed solely on detox and recovery.
Whether you’ve recognized the symptoms of meth addiction in a loved one or in yourself, reach out today for help.