Meth addiction is one of the most widespread and dangerous of all drug addictions. With its intense and long-lasting high, meth (or crystal meth) has swept the nation, affecting all demographics. Meth is short for methamphetamine and it appears as a powder, or crystal shards of varying sizes. Meth is a powerful psychostimulant with an intense high that can last for up to 12 hours in users.
Methamphetamine is also a legal prescription medication under the name Desoxyn®. It is rarely used in small doses to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and severe obesity. In higher doses, and in the illicit form sold on the street, meth can have devastating effects on both the brain and body of users.
Some individuals have reported becoming hooked on meth from the very first hit, while others claim a gradual development of addiction. Between these two assertions, the one constant is that once an individual is addicted to meth, the life ahead is one of danger, disparity, and devastation until such time that sobriety can be accomplished and maintained.
Beginnings of Meth Addiction
Meth addiction causes a wide range of damaging effects, both physically and psychologically. Meth produces a massive rush of dopamine through the brain, stimulating the reward center. The way meth traps individuals in addiction begins with preventing the brain from recycling the massive excess of dopamine flooding the brain when the drug is used.
In normal brain function, when an individual is stimulated and feels a rush of pleasure, this is caused by dopamine stimulating the reward center of the brain. Once rewarded, the brain re-absorbs the unused dopamine for later use.
Meth is believed to block the brain’s ability to re-absorb the dopamine produced in massive amounts when a user takes it, thereby leaving a long-lasting and euphoric high. Some people may not see the harm in feeling good for a longer period of time, but this prolonged euphoria comes at a high cost. The result is that the brain drastically reduces its own natural production of dopamine to nearly nil. When this happens, and the effects of meth wear off after 6-12 hours, a user experiences something called a “crash.”
During a crash, meth users will likely feel:
- Extreme fatigue
- Severe cravings
- Hostility and violence
While the high produced by meth is intense and euphoric, the crash is equally low and joyless. Because the user’s brain is no longer producing sufficient levels of dopamine to sustain any sense of well-being and happiness, the only way to regain a feeling of normalcy is to use meth again, and again. Unlike some other drugs of addiction, the process of dependency on meth can happen very quickly with many users, and it has a powerful grip on those who do become addicted.
Signs of Meth Addiction
As is the case with most addiction, there are some signs of meth addiction. While some are physical, others are behavioral, resulting from the bizarre patterns of thought and askew judgment attributed to meth addicts. Some signs of meth addiction are:
- Chemical smell on clothing or breath
- Dilated pupils, especially in bright light
- Track marks on arms, hands, feet, legs, and/or neck (for intravenous users
- Obsessive behaviors
- Extreme and frequent mood swings
- Hyperactivity followed by excessive sleep
- Paranoid conversations and behaviors
- Discovery of paraphernalia such as needles, spoons, pipes, excessive amount of lighters, and baggies
- Increased sexual arousal
- Increased isolation
- Increase in hostility and violence
- Change in appearance and personal hygiene
- Increased financial problems that have no explanation
- Observation of things missing, or charges for theft and/or robbery
- At a minimum, some of these signs indicate a drug addiction, but many are very specific to meth addiction. Because addiction to this drug is so powerful there is seemingly no low to which an addict will not fall in order to maintain his or her meth addiction. While a horrible reality, this also makes a meth addict a little easier to recognize by his or her loved ones if they just take notice of his/her movements, behaviors, and lifestyle.
Effects of Meth Addiction
Meth not only produces an intense and euphoric high that lasts for up to 12 hours, but it has many other effects that can lead to dangerous behaviors and create long-term problems for addicts. Although most individuals who become addicted to meth may not initially show outward signs of their drug use, meth takes a devastating toll on addicts over time. The effects of meth are both physical and psychological, and all can lead to unsightly and dangerous results, as displayed in the table below:
Effect of Meth Addiction Physical Psychological Results of the Effect Paranoia NO YES Paranoia can lead to aggression and violence against innocent people and innocuous things Drastic Weight Loss YES NO Meth is a strong appetite suppressant, but also produces bone and muscle loss resulting in emaciation and malnutrition Delusions NO YES Most notable is the delusion of bugs crawling under the surface of the skin, which results in meth addicts scratching and picking at their skin, leaving unsightly sores and scratches Aggression and Violence NO YES Aggression and violence lead to personal and property damage, often to the extent of medical necessity and/or incarceration on assault charges Hyperactivity for Multiple Days at A Time NO YES The result of going on a “run” (using meth repeatedly for several days of wakefulness) can cause extreme fatigue, making the addict more susceptible to illness and disease Heightened Sexual Arousal NO YES Most severely devastated is the gay community where reckless and unprotected, meth-fueled sexual encounters are the leading cause of HIV/AIDS Tooth and Gum Decay YES NO Referred to as “meth mouth,” the teeth and gums suffer such severe decay that meth addicts are either left with permanent damage and tooth loss, or they must endure lengthy and costly dental work to wear dentures or receive implants Obsessive Behavior NO YES Commonly referred to as “tweaking,” meth addicts will obsess over one thing or activity, and be unable to control themselves to stop (i.e. taking apart machinery and/or appliances, cleaning, scratching, etc.)
The effects of meth are substantially more damaging to the body and mind than most any other drug of addiction, yet addicts continue to use because the hold meth has over them is more powerful than they are to stop it. In fact, the relapse rate among meth addicts is less than 10%, 6 months after completing drug rehab, said one trauma surgeon in a San Diego, CA hospital at the National Methamphetamine Drug Conference.
Overcoming Meth Addiction
Despite the bleak outlook for meth addicts, there is help for recovery from this horrific addiction. Aside from never trying meth in the first place, remaining sober from this drug is a difficult task for any individual who has been addicted to it. For this reason, it is imperative that every meth addict seeking addiction treatment receive the most personalized and specific rehab program possible. One program cannot be perfect for all addicts, and this is why there are dozens of methodologies, therapies, religious tracks, demographic specificities, and geographical options to choose from when searching for the right rehab.
Like all addictions, meth addiction is progressive and deadly if help is not promptly received. If you, or a loved one are struggling with meth addiction, please call us now and speak with a trained counselor who will talk with you about your situation and work with you to narrow down the best options based on individual needs, preferences, and belief system. Meth addiction does not wait to destroy lives, so please don’t wait to save yours. Call us now, we are here to help.