Methamphetamine is a dangerously addictive stimulant drug. Those who abuse it often experience a host of severe effects, including compulsive use. If you or someone you love has become addicted and needs help, find a treatment center in your state.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is both an addictive, illicit stimulant and a drug that is sometimes prescribed to treat ADHD. However, most individuals who abuse this substance do so in its illicit, crystal form, which looks like a shiny rock (National Library of Medicine). When used in this way, crystal meth is usually injected or smoked through a glass pipe.
People smoke or inject the drug in order to feel the euphoric high it can cause in large doses, but this behavior is extremely dangerous. Those who abuse meth often become addicted very quickly and experience other severe side effects of their abuse. Trying to quit meth without treatment is nearly impossible because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, cravings, psychological issues, and other problems associated with the drug.
Signs and Symptoms of Meth Abuse
Meth abusers are often easy to spot. This is because the drug can cause a number of side effects, even when a person doesn’t abuse it every day. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the common short-term effects of the drug include
- A surge of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased need for sleep
- Increased physical activity
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased body temperature
- Dry mouth
- Uncontrollable jaw clenching
- Increased unpredictable and risky behavior
- Sweating profusely
Individuals who abuse meth will become more talkative and excited, but once the positive emotions wear off, their moods can change very quickly, causing them to become angry, hostile, and even violent. Binge abuse is common, and users often crash after the drug wears off, sleeping for long periods of time and becoming incredibly depressed.
When a person binges on meth, they may not eat or sleep for days and become very irritable. This is called tweaking and is the reason why the drug is sometimes referred to as tweak (Vermont Department of Health). One can recognize a tweaker by paying special attention to their behaviors.
- Tweakers often look normal, but there are specific clues that give them away.
- A person who has been on the drug for several days and hasn’t slept will exhibit extremely fast eye movements that seem beyond their control.
- Their voice will also quiver because of the intensity of the drug and how long it has been since they have been able to relax.
- The individual’s movements will be jerky and strange.
If you think someone you know has been binging on crystal meth, it is important to be very cautious when approaching them. Do not try to get them to stop on your own, especially if they seem like they may become violent or hostile. Tweakers are extremely volatile because of the tension that goes along with maintaining a very long crystal meth high.
Dangers of Meth Abuse
Meth causes a number of dangerous side effects, many of which can come on quickly. For example, stimulant abusers in general are likely to participate in unpredictable and risky behavior, which can lead to accidents and even death. Other dangers of meth abuse include
- Brain damage
- The nerve terminals in the brain can become damaged over time as the result of long-term meth abuse. An individual who uses this drug consistently may even start to exhibit signs similar to those caused by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
- Dental problems
- Consistent abuse often leads to cracked and broken teeth as well as other dental issues. This is because of the uncontrollable jaw clenching that meth causes as well as the tendency of users to only ingest sugary foods and drink.
- Like many other stimulants, meth abuse can lead to a full-blown psychosis, causing hallucinations, delirium, and violent behavior. Individuals who exhibit these effects require treatment right away, and though they will subside, they can suddenly resurface years later.
- Acne, sores, and skin infections due to severe itching
- Malnutrition and severe weight loss
- Contracting HIV, hepatitis, etc.
- This is often caused by the risky sexual behavior users will engage in, but sharing needles can also cause this to occur.
- Anxiety disorders, depression, and other mood disorders
A meth overdose is also extremely dangerous, as it can occur at any time and cause seizure, stroke, heart and respiratory failure, and death. A person can die suddenly as a result of this type of substance abuse, either from an acute or chronic overdose, which occurs when the drug builds up over time in the individual’s system.
Who Abuses Meth?
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, “Crystal methamphetamine is used by individuals of all ages and is increasingly gaining in popularity as a club drug.” Most users are young, but unfortunately, there is no population that goes unaffected by this dangerous drug. Many people who start using it do so at parties or as a social experiment, but especially those with risk factors that make them more likely to become addicted should not take meth.
- Almost 5 percent of high school seniors in a study taken by the University of Michigan stated that they had used meth in their lifetime.
- 6.4 percent of individuals aged 26 or older in a more recent survey by the NIDA stated that they had abused meth at least once in their lifetime.
- The brand name for prescription methamphetamine is Desoxyn. Because of the drug’s similarities to crystal meth and high risks of being abused, there are many safeguards put into place to discourage this, including no refills for prescriptions and the requirement that consumers show identification (Drug Enforcement Administration).
Meth addicts can only think about obtaining more of the drug. The things that used to matter to them no longer do, and they often lose their jobs and relationships to their addictions. The drug itself is highly available because many people know how to make it and do so illegally. Addicts might refer to the drug by a number of names, including
Am I a Meth Addict?
If you have been abusing meth for a long period of time, it is highly likely that you have become addicted to the drug. Ask yourself the questions below to find out if you need help for a substance use disorder.
- Am I always thinking about using meth even when I’m not?
- Do I experience severe cravings for the drug?
- Have my loved ones expressed concern about my substance abuse?
- Am I experiencing physical and psychological issues because of my substance abuse?
- Have I gotten in legal trouble, reprimanded at work, or otherwise experienced severe professional or personal issues caused by my meth abuse?
- Do I make excuses for myself to use?
- Do I have trouble determining what is real and what is not?
- Despite the issues my meth abuse has caused me, do I still feel that I won’t be able to stop on my own?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time to seek help. Addiction is defined by one’s inability to control their substance abuse, and those who use meth are likely to experience this quickly and severely, which can only be treated with professional rehab.
Meth Addiction Treatment
According to the NIDA, the most effective treatment options for meth abusers are behavioral therapies. Medications may be used to treat one’s withdrawal symptoms from the drug, but currently, there are no pharmacological options for treating stimulant addiction. Behavioral therapies such as
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- The Matrix Model
- 12-step facilitation therapy
- Family therapy
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy
can all be helpful toward minimizing an addict’s chances of relapse and helping them relearn positive attitudes and behaviors. However, meth addiction treatment can take a very long time. Withdrawal symptoms can last for months or longer, and the damage caused to the brain can take years to reverse, if it can be reversed at all.
This is why it is so important to seek help for meth abuse and addiction immediately. The longer an individual goes on abusing this drug, the more severe the side effects will become and the longer treatment will likely take. The current treatment options for meth addiction are safe and effective, but choosing recovery over addiction is the first step.