Methamphetamine is a prescription medication, synthesized from an amphetamine base and used primarily for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It also has been used for obesity, and sometimes for treatment of narcolepsy, a disease of sudden occurrence of sleeping. Meth is a stimulant drug, working to speed the central nervous system of the user, and is classified as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Its pharmaceutical use has declined due to its high likelihood for addiction and abuse.
Why Are People Taking Meth?
Meth has properties that make it appealing for use by groups of people who seek its benefits, including:
- Most often, teens become aware of methamphetamine in high school or college, when they take the drug to stay awake for hours on end to study. The drug induces high levels of energy, along with hyper-alert brain function.
- Some take the drug for its ability to suppress the appetite, so they can lose weight without really working at a diet or exercise.
- Another use for meth is to enhance sexual performance (mostly for men). Because it increases libido and delays climax, it is often used by those who participate in sexual escapades.
Meth has several delivery systems for use. The first is being inhaled through the nose, called “snorting.” It is also swallowed with liquid, smoked or injected.
Meth effects are varied. Initially, small doses increase alertness and concentration, and eliminate fatigue. Its effects are euphoric, causing a sense of well-being and confidence. Very shortly after using meth, the user experiences a very pleasurable “rush” sensation. This is a sudden jolt of energy that pulses through the entire body of the user.
Larger doses can produce symptoms that come quickly after the “rush.” These are agitation, jitteriness, shaking, rapid pulse and heartbeat and can lead to the user becoming irritable and even displays of angry outbursts. Other effects include insomnia, increased alertness, loss of appetite and can last for 6-8 hours, depending on the amount used, among other factors.
As doses increase due to its highly addictive properties, meth begins to have stronger side effects on the user. Due to the hyper-alertness produced by the drug, meth users may go several days without sleep. After a few days, they may begin to experience hallucinations and/or delusions. Most users become aggressive and agitated, even hostile. Combined with the hallucinations and delusions, they may have episodes of psychotic behavior while under the influence. The meth user may become paranoid and believe that they are being watched. There is also a sensation of “crawling skin.” If this happens, users may begin to tear their skin, believing that bugs are crawling under the surface of their skin. This is due to nerve damage caused by long-term use of large amounts of meth. “Speed Psychosis” is a common phenomenon with meth addiction and may be a permanent effect of use.
Physical effects are even more dangerous. Long-term use has been shown to produce brain damage in the user. Some never regain stability emotionally or mentally even after use has stopped. Heart damage is common, due to the increased heartbeat users experience. Increased likelihood for high blood pressure can result, along with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
How Addictive Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is considered highly addictive. Its impact on the brain of the user makes it strongly desired, as soon as after the very first use. The effects are so intense that a depressed state occurs when the drug begins to wear off. The user is likely to continue to use the drug to escape symptoms of withdrawal.
Meth overdose is dangerous and often fatal. Severe agitation and dangerous heart rates occur when too much of the drug is taken. Medical intervention is important to avoid stroke or heart attack for the user. Because the effects are long-lasting, overdose is most often treated with other drugs that counter the effects of the methamphetamine. Users may experience panic, panting, severe agitation (which may become aggression and/or delusion), paranoia, and increased pulse and heart rate. They may go into convulsions or seizures, which can lead to sudden stroke, heart attack and even coma. Kidney failure may rapidly follow an overdose.
Recognizing an overdose is important. Be sure to keep the user as calm as possible. Increased agitation may endanger them or others around them. If they become combative, get help to restrain them. Contact emergency medical and police assistance. The user will need medical attention to stop the drug from causing further physical damage.
Withdrawing from Meth
Stopping methamphetamine is not physically dangerous, but emotionally and mentally difficult, because the user does not find any pleasure possible for quite a long time after the drug is out of their system. While they may not test positive for the drug after 3-4 days, the effects on their bodies and minds may last up to a year or more, depending on the length of time they used meth and the amounts they were using.
Meth Addiction Treatment
Addiction specialists have programs specifically designed to treat methamphetamine addiction. While a hospital-based detox program might not be necessary, addiction recovery treatment is recommended to give the addict tools with which to learn new ways of finding pleasure without substances. Returning to use after early recovery from methamphetamine is frequent. Getting help with recovery from this addiction will ensure greater success in remaining drug free.