Crystal Meth Addiction and Abuse
Methamphetamine is also known as meth, speed, crank, or crystal. It is a white powder with a bitter taste that can be easily dissolved in alcohol or water. This drug may be smoked, snorted, or injected. The feeling of euphoria it creates may last for several hours.
What is Meth Addiction?
Meth addiction is a problem affecting people living in all parts of the United States, but it is especially popular in the Midwest. This stimulant is highly-addictive, and it is possible to get hooked on it from the first use onward. More on who uses meth here.
Signs of Meth Dependence
Meth addicts may display three different patterns of use:
- Low-Intensity Users are able to use meth on a casual basis. They aren't psychologically addicted to the drug (yet) and use swallowing or snorting as their ingestion method.
- Binge Users consume larger quantities of meth during a relatively short time. In between binges, they may not use meth at all.
- High Intensity meth abuse involves regular consumption of the drug. Binge users and high-intensity users are psychologically addicted to meth, and either smoke or inject the drug to get a more intense high.
Causes of Dependency
Meth works on the brain's pleasure centers, creating an almost immediate sensation of well-being. When someone uses it, the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rates increase. The sense of instant gratification means that other sources of reward in one's life pale by comparison. Unfortunately, the first "high" that someone experiences is the most intense, and it can't be duplicated by continuing to use the drug.
Effects of Use
Ingesting meth causes the brain to increase production of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters. If a small amount of the drug is taken, it has these effects:
- Decreased fatigue
- Increased alertness
- Reduced appetite
Other symptoms of meth use include feelings of euphoria and exhilaration. Large doses of meth produce symptoms that include:
- Bizarre behavior
- Short-term memory loss
Complications and Long Term Effects of Meth Abuse
As meth addicts continue to use the drug over a longer time, they experience psychological symptoms, including anxiety and pronounced mood swings. Over time, these symptoms may also include:
- High blood pressure
- Itching (some users "feel" that bugs are crawling on their skin)
- Paranoid delusions
- Self-destructive behavior
- Sleeping for 24-48 hours at a time
- Weight loss
Long term meth abuse can also lead to tooth decay. Known as "meth mouth," this condition is linked to dry mouth, a lack of dental hygiene, and a high consumption of soft drinks containing sugar. An overview of the many negative effects on the body meth causes can be found here at PBS.org and here you can see photos of meth addicts; the results are devastating.
Help and Treatment for Meth Addiction
Cognitive behavior therapy is a successful method of meth addiction treatment. This treatment approach is used to teach the meth addict how to monitor their thoughts and ultimately to change their behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be used in an individual or a group setting. Self-help groups for addicts may also use this strategy to help people who are addicted to meth. And once addiction treatment is concluded, undergoing sober living house programs could help them adjust to a drug-free life.
Beyond Quitting: Meth Recovery and Rehabilitation
Changing one's thought patterns and continuing to replace them with more positive ones is an ongoing process. Meth addiction treatment programs, as well as 12-step programs like Crystal Meth Anonymous address this fact and are designed to give the addict tools to understand why they turn to the drug to feel good and how to change that thinking. This drug is psychologically addictive, and someone who wants to stop using it needs to understand the hold it had on them. People who are learning how to quit using meth need to understand that they are never going to recreate their first experience with it.
Need help? Find local detox centers, drug rehab centers, and finally sober living homes near you.