Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is said to be the most addictive stimulant. A single time of use is enough to cause an addiction to the substance.
Meth has many effects on the person taking them, and meth addiction can lead to serious health problems and even death.
Methamphetamine is a synthetic psychoactive stimulant that works on the central nervous system to increase the speed that the brain functions temporarily. It’s called many other names, including crystal, ice, tweak, speed, crank, uppers, and more. It can be taken as pills, injected into the vein, smoked, or snorted. Typically, it looks like shards of glass or a powder with colors ranging from clear to pink to off-white or brown, depending on how it is made.
Crystal meth has a long history and was originally developed in Japan in 1919, derived from the amphetamine ephedrine isolated from the ephedra shrub. Meth is much stronger and more addictive and toxic than other types of amphetamines, but it was still some time before people began to ask, is meth addictive?
Meth tablets played a role in both World War II and the Vietnam War to increase stamina and alertness in soldiers so they could fight better for longer. Another form of amphetamine, marketed as Benzedrine, was used in the 1950s to treat asthma, hay fever, and colds. Recreational use also increased during this time.
When the risks became known, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency restricted access to all amphetamines, classifying them as Schedule II controlled substances. However, it is easily made from household products for illegal sale and use. Furthermore, the chemicals used are often toxic and highly caustic, leading to a toxic environment and creating a high risk for fires and explosions.
How Do People Use Meth?
Physicians use some forms of methamphetamines to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but pure methamphetamine has very few medical uses. Meth found on the street is typically d-methamphetamine HCl.
Crystal meth is a crystalline form of the compound and is crushed and smoked, injected, snorted, or consumed orally. This is often done to achieve a high, but in some settings, it’s used to increase energy and focus.
The Effects of Meth on the Brain and Body
The effects of meth on the brain are driven by the rapid increase in levels of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for pleasure, reward, and motivation and is involved in memory and learning. This impact on the brain’s reward center is common among many addictive substances.
Because meth floods the brain with dopamine, it often depletes the brain’s stores of dopamine and interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate dopamine levels properly. This can create memory problems, difficulty or inability to learn new tasks and motor skills, and impair visual memory. In addition, when the high from the meth is over, there is often a period of depression or low mood resulting from the depleted dopamine supply.
One of the most notable effects of meth is known as “tweaking”. This occurs when the body and mind stop responding the same way to meth, which creates a state of psychosis. “Tweaking” is characterized by erratic behavior, insomnia lasting anywhere from 3 days to more than a week, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, intense itching and scratching at the skin, and irritability. Those that enter this state are prone to violent behavior and may have fast, jumbled speech and a jerky gait.
Meth users also experience a crash several days after taking large amounts of meth. In addition to experiencing depression, they will also often sleep for days at a time after long periods of wakefulness.
In addition to psychological effects, there are many physical effects of meth as well. For example, it can increase heart rate and blood pressure, potentially leading to a heart attack. Those addicted to meth also often have thin bodies, droopy facial skin, facial acne or sores, and rotted teeth, called “meth mouth”. They also have lowered immunity to fight off infection, dramatically increased body temperature, and evidence of their intense scratching.
How Addictive Is Meth?
Meth is a highly addictive drug. It can trigger an addiction the first time it’s used and is incredibly hard to stop, especially without help. A physical dependency is established quickly, making a person feel like they have to use more and more meth to get by.
The more a person uses, the more likely they are to overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of fatal overdoses involving meth and other stimulants (PDF | 471 KB) has increased significantly. According to SAMHSA, about 2 million people aged 12 years or older use meth in any given year. An estimated 500 people each day try meth for the first time.
How Is Meth Addiction Treated?
There is no cure for meth addiction, but there are treatment options. The most effective treatment plans incorporate medical detox and comprehensive cognitive behavioral therapy. Part of these treatment plans includes evaluation for a co-occurring disorder that may have contributed to the development of addiction.
Published studies show that around 40 percent of people seeking treatment for methamphetamine abuse also reported struggling with anxiety. According to the American Journal on Addictions, mood and anxiety disorders and drug abuse occur at rates as high as 50 percent.
Medical detox treatment plans are designed to manage withdrawal symptoms. While withdrawal is rarely fatal, there can be complications like severe anxiety, intense meth cravings, dehydration, and psychosis. Because of this, detoxing from meth is best done at dedicated detox facilities like Agape Detox Center. We can provide support from medical professionals to help you through your treatment and recovery process.
Many detox centers also offer comprehensive therapies to continue your treatment after detox, including dual diagnosis treatment for any co-occurring mental health conditions. If you or a loved one is suffering from meth addiction, the team at Agape Detox Center is here to answer your questions and provide the information you need to start your recovery journey.