What are methamphetamines?
Methamphetamine, or “meth” as it is more commonly known, is one of the most addictive substances and people have reported becoming addicted in as little as one use. It triggers a rush of dopamine that is far greater than natural levels produced by the brain and can create feelings of euphoria, alertness, and confidence. The dopamine receptors in the brain will be destroyed by meth and users will become incapable of experiencing any kind of pleasure without the drug.
After use, the brain’s reward system is rewired to crave meth and the behavior of drug abuse and binging is increased. This makes it incredibly hard to overcome the addiction and can take over a person’s life, making it their sole focus. A rehab program that addresses both the physical and psychological parts of this addiction is available here in Arizona at the Northern Arizona Center for Addiction. Treatment can restore a patient’s abilities but only if intervened as soon as possible.
Methamphetamine is produced both legally and illegally. The legal version is known as Desoxyn and is prescribed to patients with severe attention deficit disorder and obesity if other treatments did not work for them. The illegal form is a white, odorless powder than can be snorted, injected, or taken orally. The crystal meth form is a small, bluish-white crystal substance that can be smoked. Slang names include glass, ice, crystal, and crank.
Signs of addiction
The signs and symptoms of a meth addiction are both physical and psychological:
- Weight loss
- Sleep deprivation
- Elevated body temp
- Skin abscesses
- Decreased libido
- Severe paranoia
- Social isolation
- Aggressive behavior/mood swings
Meth is a stimulant and those addicted may also exhibit risky and impulsive behaviors. Addicts may also be able to go for extended periods of time without sleep or eating, adding to paranoia and psychosis.
An increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and dopamine are produced when meth is used and causes a “rush” where the strongest effects are felt and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush has passed, a steady high can last from four to 12 hours, depending on how the drug was used. An injection is stronger than smoking or snorting but the effects wear off faster. Other effects include elation, hyperactivity, talkativeness, empathy, and alertness. Because of these effects and the drug’s affordability, people can tend to binge on it during use. Many users will take it over a period of several days and stay high the entire time. However, the drug stops producing the same effects and the amount needed to get high is more and more.
Meth raises blood pressure and heart rate and because users need more and more to attain that first high feeling, taking large amounts can lead to overheating, seizures, loss of consciousness, or coma. If any of these occur and a person does not seek medical treatment, an overdose can be fatal.
Because meth produces such highs, the withdrawal symptoms are more severe and prolonged depression than even cocaine withdrawal. The depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Withdrawal can also cause cravings that are so strong that a user can become violent and irritable. Other withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased appetite
- Extreme drowsiness
- Inability to concentrate
Long-term use of methamphetamine can build up such a tolerance that the effects may no longer be felt at all. At this point, withdrawal becomes overwhelming and psychosis occurs. The body sill become convinced that other things are happening to it as opposed to recognizing the addiction. A common report of hallucinations or delusions from users are the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin or seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. Psychotic symptoms can still occur even after the worst of the withdrawal symptoms have passed. Other long-term effects can include:
- Being easily distracted
- Impairment to motor skills
- Loss of memory
- Severe tooth decay/other oral issues
- Mood changes
- Violent behavior
Meth is insidious in that once a person experiences the effects, the brain wants that high feeling over and over again. A person who has just begun using may be able to function normally for a time and will think they are benefitting from the increased energy and hyperactivity. Once the addiction sets in or if someone tries to stop without help, the withdrawals will cause a person to only pursue the next high at the expense of everything else in their life. They may also experience severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis.
Most people need help in their recovery process. A medical detox may be required if meth was used along with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates. Our inpatient recovery process at our rehab facility in Prescott, Arizona, focuses on a holistic approach to treat addiction. Patients may also require behavioral treatment and need to attend support groups. The underlying problems that may have contributed to addiction will be addressed and appropriate tools will be taught to deal with cravings. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help the patients figure out what triggers their behaviors that lead to use and addiction and how to better cope with them.