Effects and Side Effects of Meth Abuse
- Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Meth Use
- Long-Term Effects
- How Addiction Changes Your Life
- Meth Addiction and Mental Health
About Meth Abuse
Meth (methamphetamine) is an illegal amphetamine commonly known as chalk, speed, crystal, ice, glass or crank.
It is a powerful, highly concentrated drug that works by stimulating the release of large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria, wellbeing and energy.
Meth is manufactured in labs using common cold medications containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. It may also include various toxic chemicals such as fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia or drain cleaner.
Meth users frequently pay a very high price that may include:
- Irreversible brain damage.
- Heart disease.
- Memory problems.
- Impaired thinking.
Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Meth Use
- "Meth mouth": Severe dental problems, including stained, rotting and broken teeth, are common effects of long-term meth use. This condition, known as "Meth mouth," is caused by decreased saliva, poor hygiene, improper diet and compulsive tooth clenching and grinding.
- "Crank bugs": Meth users also experience a sensation of bugs crawling under the skin. The resultant itching and picking at the skin caused by "crank bugs" creates inflamed, open sores.
- Severe weight loss: Loss of appetite results in severe weight loss, sometimes to the point of anorexia or malnutrition that causes users to look sick, old and haggard. Addicts tend to become isolated, staying at home so friends and family won't see the drastic changes in their appearance.
Because meth is so powerful, use of the drug triggers chemical changes, and as a result, the brain needs more of the drug to feel normal. The result is a powerful and uncontrollable craving. Even thinking about the pleasant feelings and emotions associated with meth use can release dopamine and trigger powerful cravings.
Many people experience cravings for months after the drug is stopped.
Dependence can be physical and psychological, and the only thing that relieves the unpleasant feelings is more meth.
The American Psychiatric Association defines dependence as "a pattern of substance abuse that leads to significant impairment or distress." Dependence can be physical and psychological, and the only thing that relieves the unpleasant feelings is more meth.
The time that it takes to develop dependency to meth varies, although frequent meth users and IV users become dependent much sooner. Most users display symptoms of dependence with 4 to 6 weeks, and some say they developed a powerful dependence after a single use.
According to DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria, tolerance is defined by a need for more of the drug to achieve the desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect that results from continued use of the same amount.
The National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that some chronic meth users may lose the capacity to feel pleasure without the benefit of meth, which leads to increased use of the drug and higher tolerance.
As tolerance increases and the body requires more meth, users experience severe withdrawal when they stop taking the drug. The earliest symptoms typically include powerful cravings and feelings of hopelessness, apathy, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Withdrawal symptoms also include:
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Mood swings
- Aches and pains
- Sleeping problems
- Increased appetite
- Diminished sex drive
- Lack of energy
- Distorted thinking and paranoia
How Addiction Changes Your Life
Meth addiction is associated with myriad legal issues for the user. The problems stem from not only obtaining and using the drug, but result from the paranoia, violence and rage that often stem from meth use.
Meth users may end up in trouble for theft, sales and distribution, assault and battery, resisting arrest, manufacture of meth and allowing a child to be present where meth is made. Most are considered felonies punishable by jail time and/or steep fines.
Legal problems are only one cause of life-changing financial problems for meth users. Although meth is a relatively inexpensive, frequent use of the drug causes users to spend a great deal of money to sustain the habit. Many will eventually lose their jobs and if arrested, and convicted of a crime, they are unlikely to find gainful employment.
Family members and partners are often exhausted by a loved one's meth use, and this puts strain on familial and social ties. Children are adversely and irreparably affected from a parent's meth use. Friendships are broken when meth users ignore old friends in favor of new, meth-using connections.
Meth use by pregnant women is a widespread problem that results in hypertension, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, fetal death and infant death.
Meth Addiction and Mental Health
Drug addiction and mental health disorders often go hand-in-hand. This challenging situation is known as dual diagnosis.
Research indicates that meth users have a higher incidence of brain damage and a decrease in brain function. The brain damage associated with meth use has also been linked to schizophrenia. Studies also suggest that a fairly high percentage of meth users meet the criteria for psychotic, mood and anxiety disorders.
Addiction experts and researchers have differing opinions about how dual diagnosis occurs. Some think the mental illness was present first and people use meth to feel better by self-medicating unpleasant feelings associated with disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD).