Methamphetamine use in the United States seems to increase every year. Methamphetamine was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine. Oddly, it was originally intended for medical use in bronchial inhalers and nasal decongestants. Today, methamphetamine takes the form of a white, crystalline powder that users can easily dissolve in water or alcohol. It delivers a potent high resulting in increased activity and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria.
Unfortunately, as a stimulant, methamphetamine is highly addictive. Furthermore, its long-lasting effect on the central nervous system makes it a drug with a high potential for widespread abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine or another illicit stimulant drug, contact the substance abuse experts at Behavioral Rehabilitation Services to discuss your possible treatment options.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, also known by street names like chalk, crystal, crank, ice, speed, and meth, is a powerful, highly addictive, synthetic stimulant drug. Users inhale, snort, swallow or inject it for a high that can last anywhere from six to 24 hours. Methamphetamine highs start and diminish quickly. Therefore, users sometimes participate in what is called a “binge and crash” pattern. Some people use methamphetamine in the form of bingeing called a “run.” They give up sleep and food and continue taking the drug every few hours for up to several days.
How Meth Works
Methamphetamine works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, a natural chemical that affects motivation, pleasure, body movement, and reward, or pleasure. By releasing high levels of dopamine rapidly in reward areas of the brain – essentially flooding the brain with the chemical – meth produces a “rush,” or a feeling of euphoria that users will often try to replicate. Smoking or injecting methamphetamine puts the drug very quickly into the bloodstream and brain, causing an intense rush that lasts only a few minutes. Snorting or orally ingesting meth produces a pleasurable high, but not an intense rush, within three to five minutes, and 15 to 20 minutes, respectively. The pleasurable effects of meth typically fade before the levels of the drug in the bloodstream even fall significantly. As a result of this, meth users often try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug.
Side Effects of Methamphetamine Use
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can cause many of the same health effects as those associated with the use of cocaine and other illicit stimulant drugs. Some short-term effects include faster breathing, rapid heartbeat, increased alertness, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature. The adverse long-term health effects of methamphetamine use include:
- Severe dental problems
- Extreme weight loss
- Intense itching
- Sleeping problems
- Violent behavior
In addition, prolonged methamphetamine use damages the brain, causing lasting changes in the dopamine system that can lead to impaired verbal learning, reduced coordination and problems with emotion and cognition. Furthermore, a methamphetamine overdose can occur if a person uses too much of the drug. An overdose can lead to potentially life-threatening health consequences, like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and death.
Despite the initial purpose of meth, people now use it predominantly as a recreational drug of abuse. Even more alarming, the nationwide spread of methamphetamine abuse over the past several decades up until today is now a national epidemic. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.2 million Americans (0.4% of the population) admit using methamphetamine in the previous year, and 440,000 (0.2%) report using the drug in the past month.
All in all, meth’s illicit use as a stimulant greatly surpasses the consumption for which it was originally intended. Despite the serious health risks associated with meth, its use remains prevalent in the United States. Given these points, if you know someone who is abusing meth, don’t hesitate to get them the help they need. Call Behavioral Rehabilitation Services today to speak with a certified drug abuse counselor.