Meth (methamphetamine) is a strong and highly addictive stimulant. Falling into a routine of meth misuse can lead to dependency and addiction. Meth use can lead to negative mental and physical consequences that can lower one’s quality of life. A meth addiction can be difficult to overcome alone. A professional comprehensive treatment program is usually needed to ensure a lasting recovery.
Signs and symptoms of meth addiction include severe weight loss, tooth decay, skin sores, and paranoia. Illicitly using meth increases the risk of overdose and adverse effects, but addiction can be overcome with proper support and treatment.
Get started on a meth addiction treatment program today to avoid more major health consequences and start living for a better future.
What Is Meth?
Meth is part of a classification of drugs known as stimulants. Stimulants are a variety of drugs that all speed up the body’s systems. Meth is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Stimulants are not only composed of illicit drugs; there are a variety of prescription stimulants that help treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and even obesity. In fact, a mild version of meth is legally prescribed in the United States for the aforementioned conditions under the brand name Desoxyn®. The prescription drug is called amphetamine. The two drugs share a highly similar chemical structure.
Despite the fact that a milder form of meth is regulated as a prescription drug, meth is more commonly known as an illicit drug that is highly addictive and regulated as a controlled substance. In light of the opioid epidemic, many people overlook methamphetamine as a major drug of illicit use in the U.S., but it remains prevalent in substance use cases across the nation.
Aside from the few prescription stimulants, the majority of stimulants are diverted from proper channels and then manufactured especially for the illicit drug market, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Meth, like many other illicit drugs, is referred to by a variety of street names. These names include:
- Redneck cocaine
A Brief History Of Meth
In the past, meth was less tightly regulated in the United States. Amphetamine was first created in Germany in 1887. Later, the very similar but more potent methamphetamine was created in Japan in 1919. The substance was most commonly seen as a powder, but because it could be dissolved in water, it was able to be injected into a vein.
During World War II, the drug came into widespread use. Both the Allied and Axis powers made use of the substance to promote alertness and keep troops awake. At the same time, methamphetamine misuse through injection was rising among citizens. In Japan, the demand for methamphetamine among the general public had grown immensely, prompting some military reserves of the drug to be made accessible to the public.
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As the 1950s came around, methamphetamine found a new purpose as a drug for more successful dieting and depression support. It was widely available at this time and few restrictions were made to the substance.
By the time the 1970s arrived, methamphetamine use had ramped up in the United States. Although it was still marketed as an aid for things like weight loss or depression, more of the population was increasingly turning to the drug for the feeling it gave, rather than any of the intended benefits. Using methamphetamine can result in feelings of euphoria and happiness. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)stepped in to officially declare the substance as a Schedule II drug, one that has a high potential for misuse, and meth became the controlled substance that it is known as today.
Symptoms Of Meth Misuse
In the short-term, meth makes a person feel euphoric—creating a sense of excitement and happiness. It may also make them hyperactive and talkative. Besides the side effects of feeling euphoric, meth can also create negative side effects with both short-term and long-term use.
Some negative short-term use effects can include appetite suppression, high body temperature, and increased heart rate.
Long-term symptoms of meth use are more severe. The longer an individual has depended on this substance, the longer the consequences of use have affected the person’s mental and physical health.
Long-term meth use consequences may include:
- Weight loss
- Tooth decay
- Dry, itchy skin
- Skin sores and infection
- Poor immune system
- High disease risk
- High risk of contracting an STD
How Is Meth Misused?
Depending on the manner in which a person misuses meth, they may experience additional negative effects. Desoxyn, or prescription meth, is a round white tablet that may be used orally. Prescription meth misuse can also qualify as substance misuse. Even if an individual is prescribed the medication, deviating from the prescribed amount and dosage can qualify as misusing the drug.
Taking the medication in a way other than the directions instruct is also a misuse of prescription meth. For example, crushing the tablets and snorting the powder would constitute a misuse of the drug.
Apart from prescription Desoxyn, meth is most commonly illicitly purchased as a potent powder (meth) or crystal substance (crystal meth). Meth is a white powder, though some variants may also appear brown, pink, or yellow. Crystal meth is a particular form of the drug that may appear similar to glass, chunks of rocks, or minerals. Pieces of crystal meth can look white or blue.
Powder meth is usually snorted, smoked, or injected. Occasionally, there may be instances in which powder meth can be converted into a pill, not unlike its prescription form, and taken orally. Crystal meth is usually smoked.
Although the physical appearance of meth and crystal meth appear very different, they are exactly the same on a chemical level.
Mixing Meth And Other Drugs
Illicitly purchasing meth from the street can be highly dangerous. Dealers often cut other drugs into the mix with meth. This helps to cut costs on the dealer’s side, while keeping profits high. Selling less meth but charging the price for a pure mix allows the dealer to retain a solid profit margin. This results in an increased likelihood for overdose on the part of the user. The interactions between other kinds of drugs in the mix is difficult to know or gauge when a user isn’t sure what substances are cut with the meth. At the same time, knowing how much of a dose will be too much becomes tricky when extra substances are added to the mix.
Besides the cocktail mix of meth that can be illicitly bought, it may also be intentionally mixed with other drugs by the user in order to achieve a more powerful high. Meth is commonly mixed with either alcohol, morphine, or Xanax®. Mixing substances is extremely dangerous and puts the user at a high risk of overdose, health complications, and even death.
When mixed with alcohol, meth can hide the effects of alcohol that make people feel tired. Because it is a stimulant, the drug ramps up the body’s systems and induces a burst of energy. This counteracts the feelings of drowsiness that often accompany consuming alcohol. In consequence, someone may end up drinking far more than they intend.
When mixed with an opioid like morphine, the result is a drug combination that is sometimes referred to as a “speedball.” This combination of drugs induces an extreme high that can result in some mobility issues and increase the likelihood of accidentally hurting oneself or others.
Meth and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, can result in heart failure or other heart-related complications. Meth as a stimulant speeds up the user’s heart rate. Xanax, as an anti-anxiety medication, aims to slow down the heart. When these two drugs are used together, the potential result is heart arrhythmias, a condition characterized by improper or irregular heartbeats.
Meth’s ability to be dissolved in water makes it a substance that can be taken through injection. Some users will dissolve the powder in water and then proceed to inject the solution into the skin, or a muscle or vein.
Using meth through injection can cause bruising, lesions, collapsed veins, and skin infections.
Paraphernalia used for injecting methamphetamine includes spoons, lighters, syringes, and surgical tubing (to use as a tourniquet).
Powdered meth is also a candidate for snorting, although the crystal form can be crushed and snorted as well. The process of snorting a substance is also called “insufflation” and is harmful to the nose’s delicate tissues and blood vessels. Snorting meth can cause tissue erosion as well as damage to the throat and lungs.
Razors, mirrors, rolled paper and hollow tubes are common paraphernalia for insufflation.
Crystal meth is ideal for smoking because its solid form allows it to burn slowly. Smoking it can damage the lungs and may increase the chance of “meth mouth.” (decaying tissue due primarily to dehydration).
Methamphetamine may be smoked off of foil, but is typically smoked out of a glass pipe or bong. A pipe can be made from a hollowed light bulb and surgical tubing as well.
How Meth Affects The Brain
As a stimulant, meth increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical, or neurotransmitter, that is part of the brain’s reward system. When something positive happens, like falling in love or exercising, dopamine is released. This produces a pleasant feeling that encourages a repeat of the triggering behavior.
Meth’s ability to increase dopamine makes it an easy route to feeling good that is reinforced every time someone uses it. This is what can make meth—or any other substance or activity—so addictive.
Addictive behaviors are not just limited to meth or illicit substances. Other behaviors can also become addictions such as shopping, sex, or gambling. People continue these behaviors, even when they are self-destructive or disadvantageous, because they become addicted to the feeling they get when engaging in these behaviors. For some people, the feeling that they have gotten addicted to just happens to be the one meth provides.
Signs Of A Meth Addiction
When someone uses meth for a while, their brain gets used to the increased dopamine and begins to rely on the drug to regulate those levels. It may also develop a tolerance, meaning that someone feels the effects of the meth high less. Tolerance leads many people to take more of the drug and to use it more frequently in order to achieve the same feeling they experienced before they developed a tolerance.
This path often leads to addiction. If the brain is dependent on meth, it will experience cravings for the drug and withdrawal symptoms—such as depression, anxiety and fatigue—without it.
If a person has become addicted to methamphetamine, they may show signs of meth use, such as:
- Secretive behavior
- Financial struggles
- Spending excessive time obtaining or using the drug
- Poor school or work performance
- Strained relationships
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Inability to stop or reduce drug use
- Reducing social activities to spend more time using
- Keeping a reserve of the drug
The high from meth is relatively long-lasting. When it wears off, an individual may feel depressed and lethargic because meth, as a stimulant, increases an individual’s energy. To avoid experiencing this energy crash, some people take more of the drug before it has worn off to keep them euphoric and energized.
This can lead to what is known as “tweaking,” or repeatedly taking meth and staying awake for days on end. The crash at the end of such a long binge happens when the person is exhausted, and they may sleep for days.
Can You Overdose On Meth?
It is possible for someone to overdose on meth by taking too much at once or allowing it to build up in their system. Tweaking significantly increases overdose risk by putting more of the drug into the body before the last dose is processed.
Mixing meth with other drugs also makes overdose more likely. Other stimulants increase the effects of meth and may raise body temperature, breathing, and heart rate to dangerous levels.
Depressants like alcohol, for example, counteract the effects of stimulants like meth, but this does not make them safer. It makes it more difficult for someone to tell how impaired they are and how much of each substance they can take without overdosing.
The manner in which the drug is ingested can also alter overdose risk. Injecting and snorting meth can increase overdose risk. These methods of use take the drug directly into the bloodstream, which can be a shock to the body.
Meth overdose is classified as either acute or chronic. An acute overdose occurs when too much of the drug is consumed at once, and a chronic overdose indicates adverse health effects that result from repeated, long-term use.
Meth Addiction Treatment
Many people who struggle with meth addiction find it challenging to overcome in their usual environment. Environments can influence behavior, including addictive or self-destructive behaviors. Those looking to break free from addiction can find it difficult to work alone through a pattern that has been ingrained in their lives. At Vertava Health Ohio, we provide a supportive community where individuals can work together toward healing.
Our inpatient rehab program focuses on the root of addiction. We blend evidence-based practices into personalized treatment plans that ensure the most appropriate care. This may include dual diagnosis treatment if the individual suffers from co-occurring disorders, which often contribute to methamphetamine misuse. It’s very common for individuals who struggle with addiction to also struggle with a mental illness. The treatment program at Vertava Health Ohio is aimed at targeting all the needs of an individual.
Our evidence-based practices include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that is often used in treating mental illnesses. This kind of therapy allows a patient and therapist to engage and discuss the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that the patient experiences. During therapy sessions, the therapist can identify unhelpful thought patterns or behaviors and teach the patient ways to challenge that view.
The idea behind this therapy is that certain patterns in the brain are learned, and so they can be relearned in a healthier way.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Other treatment methods such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), art, music, and recreation help people learn positive thought patterns and healthier behaviors that lead to lifelong recovery. DBT is particularly helpful in dealing with repeated patterns of behavior, including substance use. DBT emphasizes skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the treatment for meth addiction?
Meth addiction follows a pattern for treatment that looks something like: detoxification, inpatient rehab, and outpatient rehab.
Detoxification involves the process of ensuring that all substances have passed through the body’s system.
Inpatient rehab bears the brunt of the work for meth addiction treatment. In inpatient rehab, patients live at the treatment facility and spend most of the day engaging in group and individual therapy where they learn sober living skills. Recreational activities as a form of therapy may also take place.
Outpatient rehab is a level of care that usually takes place once a week or several times a week. By this stage of care, patients maintain independent lives where they apply the skills they learned during inpatient care in order to continue the work towards a sober future.