Taking the time to understand methamphetamine use and treatment options is the first step towards conquering addiction. Learning about any condition that you or a loved one struggles with can make the process towards getting help smoother and less confusing. Overall, remember that options are available to you for methamphetamine treatment!
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is an extremely potent central nervous system stimulant also referred to as meth, crystal meth, ice and glass. Methamphetamine is a derivative of amphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant, with long-lasting effects. Amphetamine is also known as speed or uppers.
Originally derived from amphetamine in 1919, methamphetamine began as a nasal decongestant in bronchial inhalers.
In the 60s and 70s, amphetamine was made popular with college students, truck drivers and athletes to stay awake and increase endurance. The drug was later outlawed in the U.S. as part of the Drug Abuse Regulation Control Act of 1970.
In the 1980s, amphetamine’s key chemical, Phenyl-2-propanone, was put under federal control to be regulated. This pushed users of amphetamine to search for a similar, comparable chemical replacement. As a result, the discovery was made that ephedrinean ingredient found in over-the-counter cold remediesproduces methamphetamine, a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder better known as crystal meth, and it is twice as potent.
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And, unlike other hard illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, crystal meth can be made from household products, like:
- Alcohol (isopropyl or rubbing)
- Anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer)
- Ephedrine (cold medications)
- Ether (engine starter)
- Hydrochloric acid (pool supply)
- Iodine (flakes or crystal)
- Kitty litter
- Lithium (batteries)
- Methanol (gasoline additive)
- MSM (nutritional supplement)
- Pseudoephedrine (cold medications)
- Red phosphorus (matches or road flares)
- Salt (table or rock)
- Sodium hydroxide (lye)
- Sodium metal
- Sulfuric acid (drain cleaner)
- Toluene (brake cleaner)
- Trichloroethane (gun cleaner)
The essential ingredient is ephedrine, or its cousin, pseudoephedrine, also found in many cold medicines.
Because of this ease in access to the principal chemical ingredient in crystal meth, and because the rest of production of meth needs ingredients from simple household items, meth labs are prevalent in each state in the country today.
Methamphetamine laboratories may be located virtually anywhere, sometimes in larger “superlabs,” across the U.S., particularly in California and Arizona. Laboratories have been found in secluded rural areas as well as in residential, commercial, and industrial districts. Law enforcement officers have seized laboratories at private residences, commercial properties, hotels and motels, and outdoor locations. Mobile laboratories have even been discovered in automobiles, boats, and luggage.
Today, methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug and is often labeled a “club drug.” Schedule II drugs are a classification of drug that indicates a high potential for misuse that can lead to severe physical or psychological dependence.
How Is Meth Consumed?
Methamphetamine is taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly to the brain, where it produces an immediate, intense euphoria. These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours.
It has many nicknames—meth, crank, chalk or speed being the most common.
Meth Abuse Signs And Symptoms Of Use
There are some signs and symptoms that may indicate someone is abusing methamphetamine. Due to the way meth interacts with the brain, there are both immediate effects and delayed effects which may be experienced by any person who misuses the drug.
Signs that someone is under the influence of meth can include:
- Euphoria and energy spike
- Increased physical activity
- Increased blood pressure and breathing rate
- Dangerously high body temperature
- Loss of appetite
- Unpredictable behavior
- Performing repetitive, meaningless tasks
- Dilated pupils
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Seizures and potentially death
Long Tem Effects of Abuse
Long-term effects of methamphetamine can appear during or after use. These effects may include:
- Brain damage similar to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Prolonged episodes of anxiety, paranoia and insomnia
- Psychotic behavior, violence, auditory hallucinations and delusions
- Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
- Weakened immune system
- Cracked teeth
- Sores, skin infections and acne
- Stroke, heart attack, lung disease, kidney damage and liver damage
- Increased chance of risky behaviors
If someone is behaving in an abnormal way, they may be suffering from a methamphetamine substance use disorder.
Chronic use of meth may also cause individuals to display poor personal hygiene, a pale, unhealthy complexion and sores on their bodies from picking at ‘crack bugs’—a common tactile hallucination which some people may experience if they have an extended reaction to the drug.
Another indicator is badly cracked teeth, which could be a result of tight jaw-clenching while under the influence of meth.
People who are misusing meth for the first time may not experience most or any of these symptoms. The high they experience will cause them to be very active, hyper alert and euphoric between six and 12 hours after use. The first high is often the most pleasurable, which can compel people to seek the same experience as their first high, and may quickly result in an addiction.
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Dangers Of Crystal Meth Misuse
In addition to being physically addictive, methamphetamine can also be highly psychologically addictive. While under the influence of meth, some people may experience bursts of energy, talkativeness and excitement.
The most dangerous effect of methamphetamine misuse may happen when someone has not been able to sleep for three to 15 days, and becomes irritable and paranoid. This behavior is referred to as “tweaking.”
In this excited state, people are able to go for hours, even days, without wanting sleep or food. People who are tweaking also crave more methamphetamine, but find it difficult to achieve the original high.
This can cause the individual to become irritated and act in unstable and unpredictable ways. Due to the unpredictability of their behavior, people who tweak have an increased risk of participating in domestic disputes, impulsive crimes and car accidents.
Chronic, large doses of methamphetamine have also been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, paranoia and sometimes violent behavior. Withdrawing from high doses of meth generally ends in severe depression.
Psychosis similar to schizophrenia is another symptom of chronic meth use. It is displayed by symptoms like paranoia, picking at the skin, self-absorption, auditory and visual hallucinations and occasional episodes of violence.
It is also possible for someone to overdose on meth. An overdose happens when someone has absorbed too much methamphetamine for their body to process at one time, causing a toxic reaction that may result in serious, potentially lethal symptoms or death. Symptoms of methamphetamine overdose can include stroke, heart attack and damage to internal organs.
How Meth Affects The Brain
Methamphetamine is a strong psychomotor stimulant that mimics the actions of certain chemicals in the brain, which influence mood and movement. The drug causes a release of dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for the euphoric effects felt after abusing it.
After the initial rush wears off, the brain remains at a high level of alertness, keeping the individual’s body on edge. Once the drug has completely worn off, the brain becomes depleted of dopamine and serotonin, which commonly results in a depressed state.
Methamphetamine can be very addictive because the highs are very pleasing but the lows are barely tolerable. Once a tolerance to methamphetamine develops, larger and more frequent doses will be needed to achieve the same level of effects that a smaller dose once did. With repeated misuse, meth can be toxic to the brain and cause permanent damage to brain cells.
Since tolerance for methamphetamine happens within minutes–meaning that the enjoyable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls considerably–users try to preserve the high by bingeing on the drug. For this reason, methamphetamine typically is used in a “binge and crash” pattern.
Continued meth misuse causes changes to the brain’s reward structure. These changes are a result of the damage caused by the chemical reaction between meth and brain tissues. People who use meth for a prolonged period also have severe changes to the parts of the brain involved with emotion and memory.
This may explain some emotional and cognitive problems seen in those who used methamphetamine later on in life. Even though some changes to the brain may be reversed after stopping the drug for a year or more, in some cases, changes to the brain may never heal, even after a long period of no longer using.
How Methamphetamine Use Affects The Body
Meth use causes the destruction of tissues and blood vessels by hindering the body’s ability to repair itself. With chronic meth use, people can develop acne or sores that take a long time to heal, and their skin loses its luster and elasticity. This can make people who suffer from addiction to meth look years, even decades, older than they actually are.
Loss of appetite is another common side effect of meth use and can lead to poor diet and malnutrition. Grinding teeth and major tooth decay can also be a sign of meth use.
Co-Occurring Disorders And Meth Addiction
It is possible for individuals suffering from addiction to methamphetamines to experience co-occurring disorders. These typically come in the form of an undertreated or undiagnosed mental health disorder, which can include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorders
- Conduct disorders
- Antisocial personality disorder
It is important that all symptoms experienced are discussed with a medical health professional. If someone enters treatment with an undiagnosed mental health disorder, which remains undiagnosed, their chances of relapsing may increase because the root cause of their addictive behavior has not been appropriately addressed.
Getting Addiction Treatment At A Meth Rehab Center
There is hope for those addicted to meth. Experts say that a long term cognitive therapy approach is necessary–but a patient often needs to go to a rehab facility far from the habits, people and lifestyle that they have become accustomed to. Because the meth high is one of pure euphoria, a client coming away from that feeling is met with hard feelings of reality that are quite painful to manage. Therefore, meth addiction relapse can be common and is hard to resist if the client stays close to their dealers and drug addict companions.
Treatment for methamphetamine addiction is available and can help an individual build a better future. The treatment will vary depending on an individual’s needs and circumstances. Detox, often the first stage of recovery, may occur more smoothly in a medically-supervised setting, where experienced medical staff can help monitor an addicted individual’s symptoms. Withdrawing from meth can also be an extremely uncomfortable process.
Risk of relapse is higher during detox and withdrawal, and having the support offered with an inpatient treatment program could be the difference between a successful recovery and an unsuccessful one.
Therapy that takes place in the duration of an inpatient treatment program often follows detox. In therapy and inpatient treatment, a person will have access to a supportive environment and learn about maintaining a life free from addiction and substance use.
Vertava Health specializes in meth addiction treatment and provides the right campus environment wherein a client can reawaken to the world, learn how and why they have become addicted to crystal meth, and begin to rediscover how to live in a new and sober life.
It is important to note that long-term addiction to crystal meth can cause permanent damage to the addict, so if you or someone you love is struggling with meth addiction it is imperative that you seek help immediately. A life depends on it.
24/7 Meth Addiction Support Hotline: (615) 208-2941
Recovery Through Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment At Vertava Health
Vertava Health provides all levels of addiction recovery care in a comfortable and safe environment. Our campuses offer the perfect place to reflect, learn, change, and thrive. Our meth treatment programs are tailored to each client, and overseen by dedicated addiction recovery professionals–from our admissions specialists to licensed counselors and medical staff.
At Vertava Health, You Can Expect:
- An outstanding clinical program
- Comfortable and clean accommodations
- Recreational activities
- Exercise facilities
- Medical care and supervision
- Nutritious meals
- Plenty of fresh air and sunshine