While everyone has been focused on the current state of affairs when it relates to the opioid crisis, there has been another epidemic that lurks in the shadows ready to take a stranglehold on the United States and beyond.
Meth addiction is slowly becoming the topic of conversation throughout the country, and the website NPR.org released an article recently about meth use surging, and how first responders are struggling to help those in crisis.
Methamphetamine use is surging in parts of the United States, particularly in the West, and those in its way are struggling to respond to the increased drug use. Overdose death relating to meth quadrupled from 2011 to 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Table of Contents
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The drug was developed in the early 20th century and was initially used in nasal decongestants, as well as bronchial inhalers.
Methamphetamine is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II stimulant, which makes it available through a nonrefillable prescription. Medically, it can be used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term solution for weight-loss treatment.
What Is Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth, also known as crystal methamphetamine, is a highly potent drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS). Currently, there is no legal use for the substance. The drug comes in clear crystal chunks or shiny blue-white rocks. It is widespread in the party scene where users will smoke or snort the drug to stay awake for rave parties.
Users can get a powerful rush from the drug, which can see them getting addicted right from the start. The chemical, dopamine, floods parts of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure. It increases confidence as well as energy.
People who use crystal meth can become instantly hooked due to the increase in happiness and confidence they experience. Tolerance can be developed quickly, and the higher the dose, the higher the risk becomes when using crystal meth.
How Addictive is Meth?
Meth is addictive because the person using it can experience the highest of highs, but with that, they can also experience the lowest of lows. When a user is experiencing a low point, they are tempted to use again to reach that high peak.
Studies have shown that neurotransmitters will remain damaged after meth use, and meth has the potential to destroy brain cells that release dopamine and serotonin. It impairs the user’s ability to experience pleasure, which can also cause motor skill issues resembling Parkinson’s disease.
It will cause a user to develop a high tolerance for meth and require more of the substance to reach the desired effect. By doing so, it puts the brain at increased risk. High doses can lead to overdose. This has led to the hospitalization increase in the past few years.
Why Is Meth So Addictive?
Meth’s effects on brain chemistry are severe. Meth results in higher levels of dopamine being released than other drugs like cocaine. Methamphetamine also blocks the reuptake of dopamine as well, but it can also increase its release. It causes higher levels of dopamine to appear in the gap between neurons.
The higher concentrations of dopamine give a euphoria that most users say cannot be compared to other drugs, and for this reason, it can result in long-term effects, such as severe addiction.
Symptoms of Meth Addiction
Meth addiction comes with significant outward signs – the appearance of the person using meth can change to a point where they are not recognizable. Other signs and symptoms of meth addiction include:
- Repetitive motor activity
- Deficits in thinking and motor skills
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Memory loss
- Mood disturbance
- Increased distractibility
- Problem with the mouth (meth mouth)
- Extreme weight loss
- Skin sores (Scabs from picking at the skin)
Meth mouth is severe tooth decay and tooth loss. Acid erosion and other oral problems cause it and are indicative of long-term meth use. It results from a combination of meth side effects, such as grinding teeth, dry mouth, and poor oral hygiene.
Even mild use of meth can cause widespread issues due to the drug’s effects of dry skin and extreme itchiness. People who use meth often become paranoid that bugs are crawling under their skin, and it promotes excessive scratching, picking, and results in small sores and facial scarring. The pale skin color is the result of physical stress and persistent illness that is common of a meth user.
What Does A Meth User Look Like?
Determining what a meth user looks like is very simple. Meth use shows very clear signs. Some of these to look out for include:
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid eye movement
- Constant picking at skin or hair
- Reduction in appetite
- Severe insomnia
- Paranoid behavior
- Extreme mood swings
- Pale skin
- Broken teeth
Meth Rehab and Treatment
While meth withdrawal is not inherently dangerous, it can push someone using it to have suicidal thoughts due to the “crash” that is involved. Someone using meth must seek qualified treatment at an accredited recovery center.
The first phase of treatment will be detox. Since meth is so potent, it’s imperative to start in medical detox. Stopping meth alone can cause someone to follow through with suicidal ideation, or relapse and overdose. Addiction treatment in a rehab center can increase their odds of survival.
While each person’s treatment will vary, it’s crucial that they follow through in the continuum of care. Someone using meth can become heavily addicted, and care in a residential treatment center might be the best option.
The most effective treatment for addiction involves staying on-site and away from the presence of drugs. Residential treatment can last from 30 to 90 days. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches, and the treatment plan must be tailored to the client’s specific needs.
Meth Use Statistics
- More than 1.6 million people used meth in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- In 2011,103,000 people visited emergency rooms for meth overdose and complications.
- Between 2010 and 2014, meth overdose deaths increased more than double.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). How is methamphetamine different from other stimulants, such as cocaine? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-different-other-stimulants-such-cocaine
Gould, T. J. (2010, December). Addiction and cognition. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3120118/
WebMD. Crystal Meth: Physical & Mental Effects, Signs of Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/crystal-meth-what-you-should_know#1
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Scheduling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What is methamphetamine? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
Dembosky, A. (2019, May 01). As Meth Use Surges, First Responders Struggle To Help Those In Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/01/716404677/as-meth-use-surges-first-responders-struggle-to-help-those-in-crisis
National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states