Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant made from pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in decongestant cold medications, and a number of toxic chemicals (e.g., lye and drain cleaner). Also referred to as meth, crystal meth, speed and ice, methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that is chemically similar to amphetamines and produces similar physical effects.

Medical vs. Illicit Meth Use

A prescription methamphetamine medication, called Desoxyn, is available for short-term weight loss and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it is rarely prescribed. Illicit methamphetamine is sold as a white crystal-like powder that can be snorted, smoked, injected, dissolved in water or alcohol, and is the most commonly abused form of the drug.

How Does It Work?

The pleasurable and rewarding effects of methamphetamine are due to the release of high levels of a brain chemical called dopamine. Similar to cocaine, methamphetamine blocks the reuptake of dopamine; at the same time, methamphetamine increases dopamine release, which can lead to toxic concentrations in the synapse. Researchers believe that methamphetamine’s action on dopamine release is how the drug damages the brain’s nerve terminals.

Short-term Effects

Immediately after methamphetamine enters the body, it causes an intense euphoric and pleasurable “rush,” but the “high” produced by the drug dissipates quickly (called a “crash”), lasting only a few minutes.

The effects of methamphetamine are long-lasting; only about half of the drug is removed from a person’s body in a period of 12 hours. Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive stimulant that has a number of negative short-term effects, reported the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

At high doses of methamphetamine, overdoses can occur, which can cause convulsions, seizures and other problems that can lead to death. Some of the short-term effects of methamphetamine use include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Talkativeness
  • Alertness
  • Increased respiration and blood pressure
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Euphoria
  • Severe itching
  • Hyperthermia (increased body temperature)
  • Increased motor activity
  • Erratic or bizarre behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Panic
  • Psychosis
  • Hyper-excitability
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Death

Long-term Effects

Long-term abuse of methamphetamine can have harmful consequences and neurotoxic effects, including changes to the brain’s structure and function. The abuse of methamphetamine can alter brain regions responsible for functions such as emotions, memory and pleasure.

Methamphetamine can damage the brain’s tissues and blood vessels, and can lead to brain damage and permanent cardiovascular problems. The effects of the drug on the brain are similar to patients who have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, strokes and epilepsy.

Other long-term effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Mood disturbances
  • Confusion
  • Psychotic symptoms (e.g., paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, repetitive motor activities), which can last for months or years and can recur in times of stress
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Skin sores
  • Malnutrition
  • Damage to liver, lung and kidney
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Permanent cardiovascular problems
  • Distractibility
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Mood disturbances
  • Physical dependence and addiction

Effects On Physical Appearance

Methamphetamine abuse takes a huge toll on a person’s physical appearance. People who abuse the drug may scratch and pick at their face or body because they feel bugs or insects crawling underneath their skin (called formication). They may also appear to be older than they really are due to loss of skin luster and elasticity.

Long-term suppression of appetite and poor diet can also lead to the deterioration of muscle in the face and body. Accompanied by poor hygiene, methamphetamine can contribute to serious dental problems, including severe tooth decay and tooth loss (referred to as “meth mouth”), and teeth grinding, which can lead to rotting and broken teeth.

Methamphetamine Addiction

Methamphetamine addiction can change a person’s brain chemistry, affecting the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, and contributing to damage of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is important for higher-level cognitive functions, such as executive functions (e.g., attention, memory, multi-tasking, planning, inhibition) and working memory.

These brain changes can make it difficult for a person to stop taking the drug, despite any social, economic or legal problems that occur. Meth abusers quickly develop tolerance and need to take more to experience the pleasurable effects of the drug.

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Methamphetamine Detox

Physical dependence and/or addiction to methamphetamine can make it difficult for people to stop taking the drug. Methamphetamine addiction can also lead to compulsive drug use and drug cravings, which contribute to the high risk of relapse associated with the drug.

Over time, chronic methamphetamine abuse can lead to difficulty experiencing pleasure except for what is experienced by using the drug. Methamphetamine detox can be a difficult process, as people can experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue

Detox for methamphetamine begins the treatment and recovery process for methamphetamine addiction and involves ridding the body completely of the drug. Detox for methamphetamine can be difficult, but it is possible to recover from methamphetamine abuse and addiction.

Meth Treatment Programs at Sovereign Health

Meth treatment programs offered to women at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility include comprehensive and individually tailored programs. Sovereign Health’s methamphetamine treatment centers provide women with a holistic array of evidence-based and complementary treatments, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Neurofeedback
  • Art and music therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Equine therapy
  • Specialized treatments for trauma, including eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

To learn more about Sovereign Health of Arizona’s comprehensive methamphetamine treatment programs offered at our Chandler facility, call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.

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