Meth is short for methamphetamine, which itself is short for N-methyl-alpha-methylphenethylamine, the technical name of the drug. The substance is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, which is why meth addiction is characterized by overstimulation. In the 1950s, the drug was used to treat obesity and is now infrequently used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Meth addiction is the primary reason doctors avoid the drug, but it does have some efficacy in ADHD. The drug is sold under the brand name Desoxyn, but can be easily synthesized from ephedrine, which can be purchased over the counter at any pharmacy. The vast majority of meth addiction arises from illegally synthesized methods
The substance usually comes in a crystalline powder that is not all that different in appearance to salt. Though usually white, the drug can be brown, yellow, grey, orange, pink, and even blue. On the street, the drug can be referred to as meth, crystal meth, crystal, Mexican crack, Pervitin, chalk, crank, brown, crink, fast, wash, tweak, glass, hot ice, ice, quartz, cristy, blade, speed, and redneck cocaine. The substance may also give the appearance of broken shards of glass.
How Is It Used?
The substance can be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed. In most cases the drug is snorted or smoked, particularly in early use. As use progresses and tolerance to the drug increases, injection becomes more common.
How Addictive Is It?
According to the U.S. government, more than 13 million people over the age of 12 have used methamphetamine in the last year and 529,000 of those individuals are regular users. Given these numbers, it would seem that methamphetamine is relatively non-addictive compared to other drugs. Regardless of its addictive potential, meth abuse does occur and can lead to long-term damage to an individuals health, finances, and personal life.
What Are the Signs of Use and Health Effects of Use?
Common signs of meth use include decreased need for sleep, loss of appetite, loss of weight, increased activity, and increased nervousness and anxiety. In many cases, white to light brown powder or glass-like shards are found lying around. Individuals will be sweaty, hyper, and have dilated (enlarged) pupils while actively on the substance. The drug is also known to increase sexual arousal.
The health effects of meth occur on two levels. On the first level are direct effects that result from elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, these effects can lead to heart damage, stroke, and even death. In overdoses, these effects are magnified and lead to fever, tachycardia, and even arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats).
The second level of health effects includes the indirect effects, which result from behavioral changes as a result of doing the drug. Individuals put themselves at risk of infectious diseases (e.g. HIV, hepatitis) by injecting the drug. The increased sexual activity associated with uses places individuals at risk of STDs, including HIV. The dental damage associated with meth abuse is thought to arise from lack of oral hygiene and not as a result of the drug itself.
How Easily Abused Is It?
Meth, because it is easy to make, is easy to abuse. It creates feelings of euphoria, alertness, enhanced sexual prowess, and more. These effects make the drug highly pleasurable to use and increase the potential for abuse.
What Is Meth Detox?
Meth detox is the process by which the drug is cleared from the body. It happens naturally, generally over a few hours. During this process, withdrawal symptoms will occur, but generally are not dangerous. The biggest risk with meth detox is self-harm secondary to depression.
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Common meth withdrawal symptoms include irritability, intense drug cravings, depression, increased sleep, anxiety, and inability to concentrate. In many cases, hallucinations occur and people generally feel achy. Over the longer term, people experience depression, sleep problems, cravings, and memory loss.
Like all addiction, meth addiction is treated in two phases. In the first phase, stopping use and coping with withdrawal are the main objectives. This phase may occur at home, in the hospital, or at a detox facility. In the second phase, strategies for avoiding use are developing and the underlying causes of use are explored. The second phase may include counseling, group therapy, and 12-step programs. The support of family and friends is critical to achieving abstinence as well as preventing relapse.