What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, also called meth, crystal meth, crystal, tina, or crank, is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system. In doing so, meth produces increased energy and euphoria within the user. It is usually a white powder that has no odor and a bitter taste. Meth can be found as a clear crystalline substance or as pills created from powdered compressed material.
Where Does Meth Come From?
Amphetamine was first created at the University of Berlin in 1887. Methamphetamine, a drug more potent than amphetamine with a similar chemical compound, was then manufactured in Japan in 1919. In the 1920s, the United States re-synthesized methamphetamine in the U.S. to treat colds, allergies, and asthma as a decongestant. Due to its efficacy in suppressing appetite and reducing fatigue, soldiers began to use amphetamine-like stimulants (ATS) during World War II. In the 1960s, methamphetamine became popular as a recreational drug and acquired its many street names.
Doctors can prescribe methamphetamine as a legal substance to treat ADHD or obesity; however, illegal street varieties of this stimulant are far more popular. Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected. It can harm your health right away. If you continue to use it, you will be more prone to long-term problems.
What are the Risks of Using Meth?
Using methamphetamine can damage the cardiovascular, nervous, gastrointestinal, and renal systems, either short-term or long-term. The following symptoms may result from short-term methamphetamine usage:
- reduced appetite
- weight loss
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
People who abuse methamphetamine can develop the delusion that they have bugs or parasites under their skin, which leads to skin picking. This can result in drug-resistant bacteria infections, which can be lethal. Methamphetamine use can also result in tooth decay over time. Additional long-term effects of methamphetamine include:
- liver damage
- kidney damage
- psychological problems such as anxiety and depression or even paranoia/ hallucinations
Long-term drug use leads to disorganization and problems with daily living. Methamphetamine can cause convulsions when the stimulant effect wears off. Despair and suicidal thoughts may also result as the drug wears off, as well as brain and body temperature elevation. Brain blood vessels damaged by methamphetamine may cause strokes.
Death may result from high fevers or circulatory system collapse. In addition, methamphetamine has been associated with an increase in HIV and hepatitis C amongst users in which needle sharing has been implicated as a potential cause.
How Addictive is Meth?
Meth is three times as potent as cocaine and produces chemical dependency faster than other drugs. It releases dopamine and adrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) in the brain’s reward center, producing a rush of pleasure. The chemical rewiring of the brain that occurs as a result of using meth is involuntary and begins almost immediately after the first use. After that, the desire to use meth shifts to the brain’s hindbrain, which controls involuntary activities like breathing and blinking.
Someone who has tried methamphetamine for the first time may become so enthralled with the high that they return to the drug, even though they are not technically “addicted” yet. The brain becomes dependent on the drug very quickly.
Am I Addicted to Meth?
The meth epidemic is often overlooked until individuals are hooked on the drug. There are many accounts of addiction to this meth, in which many end in financial ruin. Meth is a destructive substance in a number of ways. A person cannot recover from methamphetamine addiction until they acknowledge if they are hooked on the substance to begin with.
You must take the first crucial step in overcoming meth addiction by overcoming denial. You can only move forward in your recovery if you are aware of your addiction. Although you may have utilized meth only recreationally without any intention to become addicted to it, if you are hooked on it, quitting is the only option. If you’re not hooked on meth, the most necessary step is to avoid using meth again before addiction and dependence set in.
Signs a Loved One is Addicted to Meth
The following symptoms are common reactions to meth from chronic users:
- “Tweaking”– A meth user experiencing a comedown may become irritable and paranoid or experience jerky or twitchy body movements. Violent behavior and hallucinations are common symptoms of a comedown. Confusion may also occur during “tweaking”.
- Physical symptoms– weight loss, decaying teeth and gums due to meth mouth, and skin sores from scratching or picking.
- The presence of drug paraphernalia– such as plastic straws, glass pipes, aluminum foil, tourniquets, syringes, and small spoons.
- Loss of interest– When a person is hooked on meth, they may place their habit above anything else. As a result, they may neglect hobbies, relationships, interests, and work or school that was important to them before so that they can pursue their next high.
When is Detox from Meth Necessary?
If someone dependent on meth suddenly stops or reduces their meth usage, they may develop methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms. While meth withdrawal symptoms may be extremely unpleasant, they are usually not fatal. You or someone you care about who uses meth may wish to quit. Withdrawal from meth, while challenging, may be safely and comfortably handled with medical detoxification.
Symptoms of Meth Withdrawal
The severity and length of meth withdrawal symptoms can vary based on a variety of factors, such as the type and amount of the drug, the amount of intoxication, the length of time someone used meth, their history of meth consumption, and other factors. As a result of these factors, the withdrawal symptoms experienced by different individuals vary in severity and duration.
During meth withdrawal, you may experience a variety of acute and post-acute symptoms. While withdrawal symptoms are typically unpleasant and uncomfortable, they are not normally life-threatening. When you or a loved one wishes to quit using meth, you should learn more about meth withdrawal. Withdrawal can be challenging, but detoxification can be a safe and comfortable process.
Some acute meth withdrawal symptoms include:
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain
- Insomnia followed by hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
Some post- acute meth withdrawal symptoms include:
- Dysphoria (low mood)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
- Increased appetite
What is Meth Detoxification?
Detoxing from meth can take as long as 50 hours. A study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicates that withdrawal symptoms can persist for as long as two weeks or even months for habitual users.
Drugs that target withdrawal symptoms have not been shown to be effective in removing meth from the body, but they may help with detox and long-term sobriety.
Every detox experience is unique and distinct, so don’t assume that yours will be the same as someone else’s. While one person might have a lot of physical symptoms, another might struggle with more mental ones.
Physical symptoms of meth detox include:
- itchy eyes
- dry red eyes,
- low energy level
- food cravings
Withdrawal symptoms can also be psychologically devastating, especially when they undermine your determination to stop using drugs. Depression and anxiety can wear down your once strong desire to quit using over time. People become helpless to their cravings and are more likely to return to using as time passes.
You may also notice that your brain structure changes after the very first hit of meth. Our brains are trained to desire more meth by meth. The reason for this is that the dopamine levels are abnormal.
Where You Detox Matters
Detox clinics usually have a higher success rate than detoxing at home because they can provide around-the-clock care.
When deciding whether to detox at home or go to an alcohol detox center, here are some things to consider:
1) Detox clinics are staffed full time by experienced medical personnel who can monitor your health for any potential adverse reactions or complications.
2) In a medical detox setting, mental health professionals can assist you with any symptoms of anxiety or depression, as well as any other mental health issues that may arise before, during, and/or after the detox process.
3) Doctors and nurses in a detox clinic can administer fluids through an IV to help deal with withdrawal symptoms.
What Happens After Detox?
There are numerous options for rehabilitative programs that provide continuing support to people who have completed a medical detox. These programs can help prevent relapse and maintain sobriety.
The most popular types of rehab programs for alcohol addiction are
- Partial Hospitalization Programs (or PHPs) and
- Intensive Outpatient Program (or IOPs).
After detoxing from methamphetamine, Asheville Detox Center specializes in assisting clients with therapy and aftercare planning services, ensuring all individuals that come to us become healthy and prepared to transition into a more intensive addiction program.
HCANA provides both PHP and IOP options for clients after detoxing at our facilities: Asheville Recovery Center, Oasis Recovery Center, and Knoxville Recovery Center.
Medically Reviewed by Jody Mabry – NP