Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug. A mild version of it is legally prescribed in the United States for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity under the brand name Desoxyn.
More commonly, it is known as an illicit drug that is highly addictive and regulated as a controlled substance. In light of the opioid epidemic, many people overlook methamphetamine as a major drug of abuse in the U.S., but it remains prevalent across the nation.
Symptoms Of Methamphetamine Abuse
In the short-term, methamphetamine makes a person feel euphoria—a sense of excitement and happiness. It may also make them hyperactive and talkative. Less positive short-term effects can include appetite suppression, high body temperature and increased heart rate.
Long-term symptoms of methamphetamine abuse can be severe, and may include:
- weight loss
- tooth decay
- dry, itchy skin
- skin sores
- poor immune system
- high disease risk
How Is Methamphetamine Abused?
Depending on how a person abuses methamphetamine, they may experience additional negative effects. Desoxyn, or prescription methamphetamine, is a round white tablet that may be abused orally. More commonly, the drug is obtained illicitly as a potent powder or crystal substance.
Illicit methamphetamine can be injected, snorted or smoked.
Some people take methamphetamine by dissolving it in water and injecting it under their skin or into a muscle or vein. This can cause bruising, lesions, collapsed veins and skin infections.
Paraphernalia used for injecting methamphetamine include spoons, lighters, syringes and surgical tubing (to use as a tourniquet).
Powdered methamphetamine is often the choice for snorting, though the crystal form can be crushed and inhaled into the nose as well. This is also called “insufflation,” and is harmful to the nose’s delicate tissues and blood vessels. Snorting methamphetamine can cause tissue erosion as well as damage to the throat and lungs.
Razors, mirrors, rolled paper and hollow tubes are common paraphernalia for insufflation.
Crystal methamphetamine is ideal for smoking because its solid form allows it to burn more slowly. Smoking the drug can damage the lungs and may increase the chance of “meth mouth” (decaying tissue due primarily to dehydration).
Methamphetamine may be smoked off of foil, but is typically smoked out of a glass pipe or bong. A pipe can be made from a hollowed light bulb and surgical tubing as well.
Methamphetamine And The Brain
As a stimulant, methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical, or neurotransmitter, that is part of the brain’s reward system. When something positive happens, like falling in love or exercising, dopamine is released. This produces a pleasant feeling that encourages a repeat of the triggering behavior.
Methamphetamine’s ability to increase dopamine makes it an easy route to feeling good that is reinforced every time someone uses it, which is what makes it so addictive.
Signs Of Methamphetamine Addiction
When someone abuses methamphetamine for a while, their brain gets used to the increased dopamine and begins to rely on the drug to regulate dopamine levels. It may also develop a tolerance, meaning that someone feels the effects of methamphetamine less. Tolerance leads many people to take more of the drug and to abuse it more frequently.
This often leads to addiction. If the brain is dependent on methamphetamine, it will experience cravings for the drug and withdrawals symptoms—such as depression, anxiety and fatigue—without it.
If a person has become addicted to methamphetamine, they may show signs of addiction, such as:
- secretive behavior
- financial struggles
- excessive time obtaining or using the drug
- poor school or work performance
- strained relationships
- loss of interest in hobbies
- inability to stop or reduce drug use
The high from methamphetamine is relatively long-lasting. When it wears off, an individual may feel depressed and lethargic. To avoid this, some people take more of the drug before it has worn off to keep them euphoric and energized.
This can lead to “tweaking,” or repeatedly taking methamphetamine and staying awake for days on end. The crash at the end of such a long binge happens when the person is exhausted, and they may sleep for days.
Can You Overdose On Methamphetamine?
It is possible for someone to overdose on methamphetamine by taking too much at once or allowing it to build up in their system. Tweaking significantly increases overdose risk by putting more of the drug into the body before the last dose is processed.
Mixing methamphetamine with other drugs also makes overdose more likely. Other stimulants increase the effects of methamphetamine and may raise body temperature, breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels.
Depressants counteract the effects of stimulants like methamphetamine, but this does not make them safer. It makes it more difficult for someone to tell how impaired they are and how much of each substance they can take without overdosing.
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Injecting and snorting methamphetamine can increase overdose risk as well. These methods take the drug directly into the bloodstream, which can be a shock to the body.
Methamphetamine overdose is classified as acute or chronic. An acute overdose occurs when too much of the drug is consumed at once, and a chronic overdose indicates adverse health effects that result from repeated, long-term abuse.
Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment
Many people who struggle with methamphetamine addiction find it challenging to overcome in their usual environment. At The Bluffs, we provide a supportive community where individuals can work together toward healing.
Our inpatient rehab program focuses on the root of addiction. We blend evidence-based practices into personalized treatment plans that ensure the most appropriate care. This may include dual diagnosis treatment if the individual suffers from co-occurring disorders, which often contribute to methamphetamine abuse.
Other treatment methods such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), art, music and recreation help people learn positive thought patterns and healthier behaviors that lead to lifelong recovery.