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Why Is Methamphetamine So Addictive?

Methamphetamine is available in many forms. It can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested or injected. The drug changes a person’s mood in various ways depending on how it is taken. Users typically take large amounts and experience a strong euphoric high followed by a drastic “crash.” Since tolerance for methamphetamine happens within minutes — meaning that the enjoyable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls considerably — users try to preserve the high by binging on the drug.

Even in small doses, methamphetamine can intensify wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite. Those who smoke or inject methamphetamine describe a short-lived, intense sensation, or rush. Oral ingestion or snorting produces a more prolonged high instead of a rush, which can continue for as long as half a day. The high from meth abuse results from the discharge of very high levels of the chemical dopamine into areas of the brain that control feelings of pleasure. As tolerance develops through continued use, those who abuse the drug need more and more of it to obtain the same high and stave off physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as speed, meth, or chalk. The smoked form is often called ice, crystal meth, crank or glass. It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Methamphetamine is created from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was initially used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Like amphetamine, it causes increased activity, decreased appetite and a general sense of well-being. The effects of methamphetamine can continue for six to eight hours. Following the initial “rush,” there is usually a state of high agitation that, in some individuals, can lead to aggressive behavior.

In the 1980s, ice, a smokable form of methamphetamine, came into wide use. Ice is a large, usually clear crystal of high purity that is smoked in a glass pipe like crack cocaine. The smoke is odorless, leaves a residue that can be re-smoked, and produces effects that may continue for 12 hours or more.

Meth Addiction Treatment

Effective crystal meth addiction treatment includes approaches that help modify the addicted individual’s thought patterns and behaviors while they develop healthy coping skills. Co-occurring mental health disorders should also be properly addressed in meth rehab with clinically appropriate medications and behavioral therapy. Depressive symptoms occur frequently in methamphetamine users who recently have become abstinent, and so proper psychiatric oversight is necessary to help manage these symptoms.

Effects and Dangers of Methamphetamine Use

Long-term methamphetamine use has many destructive consequences, including addiction. Chronic meth users may experience the following symptoms:

  • Violent behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Psychotic features, including paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping on the skin, which is called formication)
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts as a result of paranoia
  • Cardiovascular problems including rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and irreversible, stroke-producing injury to small blood vessels in the brain
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
  • Convulsions
  • Inflammation of the heart lining, and among users who inject the drug, damaged blood vessels and skin abscesses
  • Progressive social and occupational deterioration
  • Congenital deformities in babies when used during pregnancy by the mother