Crystal Meth Addiction

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Meth is an all-too-accessible, highly addictive drug made from a variety of ingredients. As a central nervous system stimulant, it produces a rush, followed by a state of agitation. The relative ease of creating the drug, which is also known as methamphetamine, is the reason why it is one of the most popular illicit substances in the United States. In some areas of the country, meth addiction outpaces the rates for both heroin and cocaine addiction. Meth addiction is a debilitating disease, but there is hope for recovery. Many people successfully quit using the drug, and there is evidence that the brain can return to a normal state after a significant period of sobriety.

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant made from various forms of amphetamine — a common element in various over-the-counter medications. Methamphetamine is listed in the same drug class as cocaine, operating as both a stimulant and anorectic, which is an appetite suppressant. Originally prescribed as a decongestant, antidepressant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms. A large population abused these products for their stimulant effects.

After wide popularity as a pharmaceutical in the 1960s, meth became classified as a schedule II substance under the Controlled Substance Act in 1971 and addiction to the drug significantly decreased. Resurging in the 1980s, meth became popular again as a street drug. Methamphetamine remained popular in these same circumstances up to this day.

Currently, there is only one prescription methamphetamine drug on the market known as Desoxyn. It is used to treat obesity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The vast majority of methamphetamine distribution comes from illegal laboratories and imports.

The key ingredient in meth is typically the stimulant ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is found in some common medications. The product is “cooked” in a “laboratory” — commonly trailers or remotely located residential homes — and made into a consumable form. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the byproducts of the drug’s creation process (gas and spillage) are toxic and combustible. The two most common names for methamphetamine — meth and crystal meth — correspond respectively with its two popular forms: powder and rock.

Meth is a crystalline powder. It is most commonly white, though it can also be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odorless, bitter and can be dissolved in liquid. It’s most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting or injection. In some cases, it is compressed into a pill. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals. These crystals are commonly said to resemble ice. The rock form of methamphetamine is usually smoked.

Many drug dealers “cut” methamphetamine with other substances to sell less of the actual drug for the same price and fetch a greater profit margin. These additional substances are often common household substances such as salt, sugar and talcum powder. In some cases, methamphetamine is cut with prescription medications, ranging from antidepressants to laxatives. These additives can enhance or alter the effect of the drug in a user’s system. After the excessive use of meth enters the body on countless occasions, the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug and it becomes the new normal.

Meth is three times as powerful as cocaine and is among the most difficult drugs to permanently quit. It triggers dependency faster than a majority of other illicit substances. Methamphetamine forces the brain to release an unnatural amount of dopamine at a given time, as well as norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline. The result is a rush, followed by a high. This chemical combination deeply affects the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotion and memory.

Any consistent use of the drug begins to rewire the decision-making centers of the brain. The first few times a person gets high, the decision is a conscious choice made in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. After that, the decision moves to the hindbrain — the area responsible for non-voluntary action such as blinking and breathing. Methamphetamine use becomes something that the brain believes it must do to stay alive. It becomes a survival mechanism. It is possible for the brain to return to a normal state when methamphetamine use feels voluntary, but this often takes several years of sobriety to achieve.

While you may not become addicted to meth after one use, the drug does serve as an enormous temptation after just a single dose. The powerful euphoria of a methamphetamine high will often draw people back to the drug. After this, the brain’s wiring is likely to change and dosing becomes something that no longer feels voluntary. The human brain becomes dependent on meth in an extremely short amount of time.
People who use meth will often spiral into something called a binge, in which they become hyperactive and repeatedly dose with methamphetamine in hopes of maintaining the initial, euphoric high. This uncontrolled drug use will often decrease its potency, however, making achieving the high impossible.

Eventually, a user will stop experiencing a high and “tweaking” begins. While tweaking, a user feels emptiness and unease. Many people testify to feeling a loss of identity during this time. It is also common for users to experience hallucinations and extreme itchiness. Addicts at this stage are at high risk for self-harm.

Eventually, if a person continues to use methamphetamine, the dopamine receptors in their brain are destroyed. This makes it impossible for them to experience a high, or even to perceive regular levels of pleasure. If a person has used meth more than once and want to use it again, they may be well on their way to developing a meth addiction.

Meth addiction is a treatable condition. If you or someone you love is addicted to meth or crystal meth, your best shot at overcoming this disease is meth addiction rehabilitation.

Over time, those who are addicted are likely to experience a variety of side effects. The following is a list of some of the short-term dangers of meth addiction:

  •   Brief surge of energy (euphoria)
  •   Increased blood pressure and respiration rate
  •   Insomnia
  •   Paranoia
  •   Seizures
  •   Irritability

Some of the long-term dangers of meth addiction include:

  •   Psychosis
  •   Prolonged anxiety
  •   Weakened immune system
  •   Brain damage
  •   Skin infections
  •   Heart infections

Another danger of addiction and perhaps the most well-known side effect is “meth mouth.” Meth mouth involves severe tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth fracture, acid erosion and a number of other problems of the teeth and gums. Meth addiction can certainly take a toll on the body and mind. The best way to treat it is to prevent it from developing, and the best way to prevent it from developing is to simply never start using the drug.

Is meth addictive? It is, but the good news is, hundreds of rehab centers all over the country offer programs to treat addictions.

Meth is quite popular in rural areas. Some people believe that this is because many of its ingredients can be found in agricultural products such as fertilizer. In general, research shows rural areas are more prone to drug abuse and addiction overall. For example, these areas typically have the highest rates of binge drinking and driving under the influence. Some experts suggest that these areas are predisposed to substance abuse. Methamphetamine is also quite popular in suburban areas.
crystal meth
Methamphetamines are often cut with other powerful substances, and some users will deliberately mix in additional drugs in order to elicit a particular physiological reaction. Methamphetamine interactions can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal. It’s common for meth to be mixed with:

  • Alcohol – The stimulant effects of methamphetamines can mask the sedative effects of alcohol and lead to someone drinking more than they would typically drink. Concurrent consumption can also lead to high blood pressure, increased psychosis and hallucinations, chronic liver damage, cancer and sudden death.
  • Opiates – People often mix meth and opiates for the polydrug combination known as “speedball.” Morphine is one of the most common opiates used for this combination. The combination produces a high far greater than either drug can generate on their own. Speedball will often cause the user to have difficulty walking, as well as suppressed avoidance responses. This makes them more likely to injure or cause harm to both themselves and others. This combination of drugs also increases the likelihood that an individual will overdose on opiates as the methamphetamine speeds up their circulatory system.
  • Xanax – Anxiety is a common negative side effect of methamphetamine use. Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, can be used to combat these negative feelings. The result is an enormously addicting combination that can often lead to heart issues. As the meth speeds up the heart, the Xanax slows it down. This can make the heart beat in an irregular pattern, which can sometimes lead to heart failure.
  • Suboxone – As a powerful prescription narcotic designed to help ease the transition away from opiates, Suboxone is a dangerous drug to combine with methamphetamine. The drug contains a low dose of opiates and will dull many of the effects of meth. The combination produces a mild form of speedball and, like its more potent cousin, can make a user think that their body can handle more of either drug even when it cannot, leading to overdose.
  • Klonopin – Formulated to treat seizures, panic disorders and anxiety, meth misusers often believe that Klonopin can help them come down from a high. Masking the effects of the meth, it can lead users to overdose. In some cases, Klonopin can also mask the cardiac effects of meth and eventually lead to heart failure.
  • Ecstasy – Chemically similar to both a stimulant and a hallucinogenic, ecstasy, also known as MDMA or “molly,” gives its user energy, pleasure and a distorted sense of place and time. When combined with meth, it can increase the likelihood of a user overheating. At a certain temperature, the body begins to shut down, which can be fatal.
  • Viagra – Both Viagra and methamphetamines are associated with risky sexual behavior. This combination of drugs is particularly popular in the gay community. Given that increased transmission of STIs is common among users of either drug, this particular illicit concoction is highly associated with the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
An addiction to meth can cause various side effects that depend on each person’s chemical makeup and the severity of the addiction. Users may experience different physical and psychological symptoms such as:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rotting teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Irregular breathing patterns
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Fidgeting
  • Depression
Meth is a highly dangerous and addictive substance.The federal government tracked methamphetamine consumption since the 1970s. In 1986 the drug was further regulated as DEA officials, reacting to a large uptick in consumption, created legislation to track its ingredients. They began to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to track their import of amphetamines, carefully measuring each shipment in order to make sure that none went missing.

Given its enormous danger, meth addiction is not as common as cocaine, marijuana, heroin, or other popular drugs. Meth is reported as the fourth most common illicit drug issue to enter hospital emergency departments. The use of the drug varies widely by region, with Western and Midwestern states having much higher percentages of use. Tropical areas such as Hawaii and San Diego see particularly high rates of consumption, with methamphetamine abuse as the most common drug-related hospital admittance cause in these regions.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a meth addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Calls are free and confidential, so pick up the telephone and start your road to recovery today.

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