Methamphetamine, more commonly known simply as “Meth”, is a very potent and highly addictive stimulant drug that primarily affects the central nervous system. Also known as chalk, ice, and crystal, among many other terms, it often looks like a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth was originally developed in the beginning of the 20th century from its ancestor, amphetamine, and was used in nasal decongestants medications and bronchial inhalers.
Just like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity, talkativeness, loss of appetite, and a sense of happiness or euphoria. However, methamphetamine are not comparable when it comes to dosage. A dose of methamphetamine is much more potent. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system of the body. These attributes make it a drug with a very high potential for widespread abuse.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II stimulant. Because of this status, it is legally available only through a nonrefillable prescription. When prescribed, it may be for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and in conjunction with other medications as a short-term treatment of weight-loss. These prescriptions are very rare and limited. The doses prescribed by medical professionals are far lower than those doses that are typically abused.
How is Methamphetamine Abused?
Methamphetamine comes in several forms and can be smoked, inhaled (snorted), injected, or orally ingested. It usually depends on the geographical location as to which method of ingestion is most common. Smoking methamphetamine is currently the most common way of ingesting it, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
When an individual smokes or injects methamphetamine, it releases the drug very quickly into the bloodstream and brain. This causes an immediate and intense “rush” and increases the drug’s potential for addiction and adverse health consequences. The rush lasts only a few minutes and is described by individuals who have experienced it as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces a similar feeling of euphoria, a high, but it is not as intense as the rush that comes from smoking or injecting it. Snorting often produces the effects of methamphetamine within 3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects usually within 15 to 20 minutes.
Effects of Methamphetamine Abuse
The abuse of methamphetamine can have a combination of both short-term and long-term effects that have proven to be very dangerous, and in some cases, fatal to the individuals abusing it. Because it is a powerful stimulant, methamphetamine can increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite even in small doses. Methamphetamine can also cause a variety of cardiovascular problems that include rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. Hyperthermia and convulsions may also take place with methamphetamine overdoses. If not treated immediately this can result in death.
Studies show that the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine are the result of the release of very high levels of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is involved in motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. It is a common instigator for many other stimulant drugs. The increased release of dopamine produced by the ingestion of methamphetamine is also thought to contribute to the drug’s hazardous effects on nerve terminals in the brain.
Other short-term effects of the drug include:
- Increased attention and decreased fatigue
- Increased activity and wakefulness
- Decreased appetite
- Euphoria and rush
- Increased respiration
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
Long term effects can also take hold of an individual who has been repeatedly abusing methamphetamine. Methamphetamine abuse has many negative long-term consequences, including addiction. In addition to being addicted to methamphetamine, individuals who abuse it may show symptoms that can include significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. They also may display a number of psychotic characteristics, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit abusing methamphetamine. According to research, stress has been shown to trigger spontaneous recurrences of methamphetamine psychosis in individuals who experienced psychotic characteristics while abusing methamphetamine.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, although some medications have proven to be effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are not currently any medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prolong abstinence from it and reduce its abuse by an individual addicted to the drug. The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction at this point are behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral and contingency-management interventions. These treatments help individuals to cope with triggers and stresses of daily life to stay clean. They provide incentives to resist returning to abuse.