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What Is Meth and How Does It Work?
Meth accelerates the body by causing a surge of energy and a powerful flow of exhilaration, whilst some substances slow down the body. 2 Additionally, it improves focus, curbs hunger, spurs activity and talkativeness, and provides a general feeling of contentment and wellbeing.
Methamphetamine is occasionally prescribed—in low doses—to treat mental health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a temporary aid in weight loss for obese people who are unable to shed their excess pounds. In actuality, the drug was created by humans and was first used as a nasal decongestant in inhalers to treat respiratory conditions in the early 20th century.
Meth is a highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system; it impairs brain function and alters a person’s thoughts and actions. As a result, recreational use of meth is prohibited.
Following are some ways that people use meth:
- smoking crystal meth, which provides a powerful but brief high. Crystal meth, sometimes referred to as ice, is a kind of meth that resembles bluish-white glass shards. This is the most typical way to consume meth, with over 60% of users preferring it, according to a 2022 study.
- Meth pills should be swallowed because they provide a more gradual high and aid in tolerance development.
- powdered meth, which has a bitter taste and is white in color, through the nose. Additionally, snorting meth provides a less intense and more gradual high.
- intravenously by dissolving the powder in liquid such as alcohol or water. This method is becoming more and more popular because it also provides an instant high similar to smoking the drug.
Causes of Meth Addiction
“Meth use causes the brain to release a lot of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which leads to sensations of great pleasure and euphoria. 7 People continuously seek the substance to get this high because it is so addictive.”
People frequently take repeated doses in what is known as a binge and crash pattern because the effects of the drug start and fade quickly. In fact, some individuals engage in “runs,” in which they binge on the substance repeatedly for several days at a time without eating or sleeping.
However, regular meth use damages the dopamine-producing brain cells, making it harder for the user to experience the same high over time. In order to achieve the same effect, the person must therefore take the drug more frequently, in ever-higher doses, or by constantly altering their method of administration.
Effects of Meth Addiction
“Meth use results in a transient high. On the other hand, it may have negative long-term effects. Similar to other stimulant drugs like cocaine, it has similar effects.”
The following is a list of both the immediate and long-term effects of using meth.
Short-Term Effects of Using Meth
Recent meth users may experience the following side effects:
- Feelings of exhilaration
- Excessive confidence
- Increased alertness
- High energy levels
- Rapid or rambling speech
- Increased physical activity and movement
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Raised body temperature
- Lack of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feelings of depression as the high wears off
- Irritability or mood swings
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Unpredictable, aggressive or violent behavior
- Risky or unsafe behaviors
Long-Term Risks of Meth Addiction
“The health effects of meth use can last a long time and frequently continue even after a person stops using the drug.”
Some of the long-term health risks of using meth include the following:
- Alterations to the brain’s structure and function that may result in long-term brain damage.
- Damage to the heart or high blood pressure that can cause a heart attack, stroke, or death.
- Damage to the liver, kidney, or other crucial organs.
- Severe itching that can lead to skin blisters from scratching.
- A serious dental condition known as “meth mouth”.
- Early onset of osteoporosis.
- Extreme loss of weight.
- Reduced cognitive function, which may cause disorientation, difficulty making decisions, learning challenges, or memory issues.
- Anxiety, depression, or issues regulating emotions.
- Mood swings, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or violent behaviour are examples of psychotic symptoms.
- Increased risk of diseases like HIV and hepatitis that are spread through bodily fluids because of habits like sharing needles.
Risk of Meth Overdose
“Drug overdoses, which occur when a person consumes too much of a specific drug and experiences a toxic reaction that results in severe symptoms or death, are another risk associated with using meth.”
In the United States, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, a number that is rising sharply each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meth that has been mixed with other drugs, such as synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a less expensive drug that is frequently added to meth without the user’s knowledge, increases the risk of overdosing.
Meth Addiction Treatment
“It’s critical to seek treatment right away if you or a loved one suffers from a meth addiction. You can live a drug-free life with the aid of treatments that are supported by evidence.”
The most successful therapies for meth addiction so far include behavioural therapies, such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to recognise drug use triggers and create coping mechanisms to deal with them.
- Motivational incentives that offer small cash rewards or gift cards as rewards for abstaining from drugs
The person may experience withdrawal symptoms as exhaustion, severe depression, anxiety, psychosis, and strong cravings for the drug during the detox process since the treatment entails refraining from the drug.
Although there are currently no FDA-approved treatments for stimulant use disorder, a recent study indicated that treating adults with moderate to severe methamphetamine use disorder with injectable naltrexone and oral bupropion was safe and effective.
A Word From Verywell
Addiction to meth can be fatal or extremely harmful to one’s health. Recognizing this addiction and getting help for it as soon as you can are crucial. Behavioral therapies have been shown to be successful in treating meth addiction and can assist you in leading a drug-free life.