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Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine Addiction

Names used: Meth, speed, crank, crystal, ice, glass, uppers, tweak, black beauties.

Most widely referred to as “speed,” methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine and it, too, is a stimulant that activates various systems within the brain. It is much more powerful than amphetamine and consequently works quicker and more dramatically on the central nervous system. Both drugs are used in the treatment of obesity but their addictive qualities have cut therapeutic applications in recent years.
Meth circulated “on the street” is most commonly called “speed or crank. ” A more highly sophisticated product is methamphetamine hydrochloride. It is a clear, chunky form of crystals resembling ice and is sometimes referred to in that term. It may also be called “crystal or glass” by users. The drug releases high levels of stimulant dopamine that works on brain cells to activate body movement and elevate moods.

When used regularly it has a neurotoxic effect and can damage dopamine and serotonin cells of the brain. Long term effects can lead to a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease with very severe movement disorders.

Even small amounts of the drug will cause wakefulness, decreased appetite, hyperthermia and a euphoric state. The user is often irritable, anxious and paranoid. Tremors and convulsions can be brought on with small dosages. Severe hyperthermia

Most widely referred to as "speed," methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine and it, too, is a stimulant that activates various systems within the brain. It is much more powerful than amphetamine and consequently works quicker and more dramatically on the central nervous system. Both drugs are used in the treatment of obesity but their addictive qualities have cut therapeutic applications in recent years.

Most widely referred to as “speed,” methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine and it, too, is a stimulant that activates various systems within the brain. It is much more powerful than amphetamine and consequently works quicker and more dramatically on the central nervous system. Both drugs are used in the treatment of obesity but their addictive qualities have cut therapeutic applications in recent years.

can result in loss of consciousness and death.

Methamphetamine is highly addictive. It may be taken orally, may be smoked, or taken intravenously. When inhaled or injected “speed” users experience intense sensations called a “rush or flash. ” This reaction is limited in time but felt very pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use brings euphoria but no rush. In any form meth addiction can be brought on quickly with an ever increasing need for higher dosages.

In the long term, these drugs can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain and generate strokes. Other effects include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat and cardiovascular complications. Methamphetamine can strongly contribute to any form of eating disorder and particularly, anorexia nervosa.

How Is Methamphetamine Abused?

Methamphetamine is taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria. Because the pleasure also fades quickly, users often take repeated doses, in a “binge and crash” pattern.

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to high levels of that chemical in the brain. Dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. Methamphetamine’s ability to release dopamine rapidly in reward regions of the brain produces the euphoric “rush” or “flash” that many users experience. Repeated methamphetamine use can easily lead to addiction—a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use.

Is Meth a Prescription Drug?

Methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions, although it is rarely used medically, and only at doses much lower than those typically abused. It is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled.

People who use methamphetamine long-term may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances and display violent behavior. They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).

Chronic methamphetamine use is accompanied by chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Imaging studies have shown changes in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning. In studies of chronic methamphetamine users, severe structural and functional changes have been found in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals.

Some of these brain changes persist long after methamphetamine use is stopped, although some may reverse after being off the drug for a sustained period (e.g., more than 1 year).

How is Meth Made?

Most of the methamphetamine abused in the United States is manufactured in “superlabs” here or, more often, in Mexico. But the drug is also easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicines. To curb production of methamphetamine, pharmacies and other retail stores are required by law to keep logs of purchases of products containing pseudoephedrine; individuals may only purchase a limited amount of those products on a single day.

Methamphetamine production also involves a number of other, very hazardous chemicals. Toxicity from these chemicals can remain in the environment around a methamphetamine production lab long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area.

What Are the Other Health Effects of Methamphetamine?

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same physical effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and increased body temperature.

Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and skin sores caused by scratching.

Methamphetamine use also raises the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C. These can be contracted both by sharing contaminated drug injection equipment and through unsafe sex. Regardless of how it is taken, methamphetamine alters judgment and inhibition and can lead people to engage in these and other types of risky behavior.

Methamphetamine use may also worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to neurons and greater cognitive impairment in individuals who are HIV-positive and use methamphetamine than it does in HIV-positive people who do not use the drug.

Learn More

For additional information on methamphetamine, please refer to the following sources on NIDA’s Web site:

Some additional facts about Methamphetamine:

  • The drug is illegal when used without a prescription and deaths often results from overdose. Over 90% of fatalities reported included use with substances such as alcohol and cocaine.
  • Meth affects body, brain and self-control. Delusional thinking can push the body further and faster than it’s meant to go. An overdose can result in heart failure. Hospital E/R visits due to meth abuse have increased every year since 1995.
  • Severe depression, or “crashes,” are frequent. Although easy to obtain “speed”is both dangerous and addictive. Often manufactured by dealers, concoctions include ingredients such as drain cleaners, battery acid and antifreeze. The expression: “speed kills” is a very valid one!
  • Despite street dealer assurances “meth” can be just as harmful with “first timers” as “crack,” cocaine or heroin. It is not a simple “diet pill” but a highly addictive drug when used improperly.

If you or someone you know is abusing methamphetamine consider the possibilities of addiction. And, also understand abusers are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B or C. These are very likely consequences of meth usage particularly with those that inject the drug and often share injection kits. These infections spread among drug users faster than with any other segment of the population.

The most effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction is behavioral intervention or “changes in life style. ” These approaches are designed to adjust thinking and behavior – to increase skills in coping with the challenges faced in various life stresses.

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