The facts about meth addiction

| October 12, 2019

Methamphetamine (“Ice”) is an extremely addictive stimulant that causes a multitude of severe health problems. Meth has become increasingly popular because it is simple to produce and sells quickly.

Many addicts report being addicted to meth after only the first time using it. Manufacturers and distributors favor methamphetamine because of its highly addictive properties breed an influx of reoccurring customers.

Methamphetamine is highly addictive because they have psychological as well as physiological effects. When someone uses meth, they feel an immeasurable amount of confidence, extreme energy, and high levels of euphoria. Because of the euphoric properties, users experience a “dopamine crash” when the high wears off, compelling them to continue use indefinitely.

Usage and Effects of Meth

Meth can be ingested orally, smoked, snorted or injected. The effects can last from 6-24 hours depending on how much is used at one time and how the drug was ingested.

Smoking or injecting methamphetamine causes an intense rush that takes effect almost immediately. Snorting produces an effect after about 5 minutes while ingesting meth will produce an effect after 20 minutes.

When someone uses methamphetamine, an extremely high amount of dopamine is released in their brain. Dopamine is the chemical in charge of motivation, pleasure, and motor functions. Therefore, users become extremely addicted to the suddenly increased feelings of ambition and gratification.

Because this drug affects the reward system, users feel compelled to take another dose before the first dose wears off. When users go on a binge, they tend to neglect nutrition and sleeping habits.

A larger percentage of methamphetamine can remain unchanged in the body when compared to other stimulants. As a result, the drug can remain in the brain longer, extending the stimulant effects.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that out of those who had used methamphetamines in the past year, about 20% were daily users.

Long-term risks of Meth abuse

Chronic abusers of methamphetamine report experiencing psychotic behaviors such as; paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations, changes in mood, and delusional behavior. A common delusion among long-term meth users is the sense that there are bugs crawling on their skin, also known as “meth mites”. These imaginary mites lead them to scratch or pick at their skin in an obsessive and compulsive manner.

Long-term use of methamphetamine can cause irreversible medical conditions. Common medical issues associated with meth use include increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause stroke, cardiovascular collapse, or death; and liver, kidney, and lung damage.

Meth addicts may also suffer from brain damage. Memory loss, decreased comprehension abilities, and extreme mood disturbances are all common among long-term meth users. While these effects may subside after recovery from meth addiction, some users report gaps in memory and mood swings.

According to research, “If someone uses methamphetamine heavily, the brain adapts, and this can lead to changes in the balance of chemicals and the functioning of different brain systems. High doses of the drug can also damage nerve cells (neurons) in the brain”.

Physical side-effects include:

• Loss of appetite/malnutrition
• Dilation of pupils
• Increased heart rate, blood pressure, & body temperature
• Liver, kidney, & lung damage
• Severe tooth decay
• Tremors/muscle twitching
• Skin sores from intense itching
• Strokes, seizures, & epilepsy

Psychological side-effects:

• Aggressive behavior/violent outbursts
• Memory issues
• Movement, motor, & coordination issues
• Paranoia/insomnia
• Delusions/hallucinations
• Anxiety/depression
• Psychosis
• Mood disturbances

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Users will go through a withdrawal process upon giving up the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are mostly psychological in regards to meth abuse. Withdrawal symptoms may include depression and anxiety, drug cravings, restlessness, poor concentration, irritability, psychosis, fatigue, insomnia or night terrors, and increased appetite.

Withdrawal symptoms are best treated under the safety and watch of medical professionals. Detox centers are available to safely detox addicts off of methamphetamine. While in detox, patients are provided with around-the-clock care and support from addiction specialists. The goal of medical detox is to help mitigate the intense withdrawal symptoms that meth addicts frequently experience.

While there is no medication that treats drug dependence, there are different avenues of therapy used in order to recover from an addiction. When it comes to treating a user with dependence on methamphetamine, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is typically utilized.

In concurrence with CBT, patients and their families receive education on meth addiction in order to gain an understanding behind feelings, thoughts, and behaviors caused by dependence.

Although meth use can potentially cause serious physical and mental conditions, a large percentage of recovered addicts report that their symptoms subside. Meth dependence is a serious condition but through vigorous efforts, recovery is possible.

After utilizing medication-assisted treatment, varying forms of therapy, and living in complete abstinence from substances – patients can go on to live successful and fruitful lives.

More help and information can be found here.