Meth Facts: Effects, Symptoms and Withdrawal
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked or ingested orally.
Methamphetamine is illicitly synthesized and then sold in a crystalline form resembling small shards of odorless, bitter-tasting crystals, hence the nickname “crystal meth.”
Street names for crystal meth
- Hillbilly Heroin
Meth users feel an intense “rush” when the drug is initially administered. This is due to the fact that meth causes the brain to release massive amounts of the chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter known as the “pleasure chemical.” As a result, psychological effects include euphoria, increased libido, alertness, concentration, energy, self-esteem, self-confidence, sociability, grandiosity and excessive feelings of power and invincibility. The high lasts longer than most other drugs — up to 12 hours — after which the appealing effects of meth are replaced by highly unappealing feelings of irritability, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, psychomotor agitation, hallucinations, repetitive and obsessive behaviors and paranoia.
Because of the toxic nature of the chemicals used to make crystal meth and the fact that the drug dries out the salivary glands, an addict’s teeth can turn brown, crumble and fall out. This is what is known as “meth mouth.” Making matters worse, brushing one’s teeth is often the last thing on the mind of a meth addict.
As is the case with many substances of abuse, tolerance to meth’s effects develops when it is taken repeatedly. Users need more and more of the drug to get the high they achieved initially. Over time, methamphetamine users can lose their ability to feel any pleasure other than that provided by the drug, fueling further abuse.
Long-term effects of meth use have a strong association with depression and suicide as well as heart disease, amphetamine psychosis, anxiety and violent behaviors. Methamphetamine use can also cause neurotoxicity, which is believed to be responsible for causing persisting cognitive deficits, such as memory problems, impaired attention and executive function. Over 20% of people addicted to methamphetamine develop a long-lasting psychosis resembling schizophrenia that persists for longer than six months after stopping methamphetamine and is often treatment-resistant.
Outward Signs of Meth Use:
Meth use destroys tissues and blood vessels, which makes it more difficult for the body to repair itself. Sores take longer to heal and acne appears. Other signs of meth use:
- Tooth decay and loss
- Marked weight loss
- Dilated pupils
- Increased activity
- Increased breathing rate
- Heavy sweating
- Bad breath
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Use of methamphetamine has many negative consequences for an addict’s life. They typically withdraw from family and friends, have problems at school or work and suffer great financial harm.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Long-term methamphetamine use can cause addiction, anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behavior. Additionally, psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations and delusions (such as the sensation of bugs crawling under the user’s skin) can occur. The psychotic symptoms can last for months or years after methamphetamine use has ceased. Following a period of heavy use, also known as “binging,” which typically lasts days or even weeks, a severe withdrawal syndrome lasting up to 10 days can occur, primarily consisting of depression, fatigue, excessive sleeping and increased appetite. Chronic methamphetamine use may result in prolonged psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment, as well as an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. As a result of methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity to dopaminergic neurons, chronic abuse may also lead to symptoms that last beyond the withdrawal period for months, and even up to a year.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Symptoms of meth use are often treated with medications to ease the discomfort of withdrawal. Next, behavioral approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on how our thoughts affect our feelings and actions, and contingency-management interventions, which involve giving patients monetary vouchers or prizes to reinforce clean drug tests, have been shown to be effective in helping meth addicts achieve sustained recovery.