An illegal synthetic amphetamine, methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system similarly to the way adrenaline does.
Methamphetamine comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested or injected. The drug alters moods in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Methamphetamine is commonly known as “speed”, “meth” and “chalk”. In its smoked form, it is often referred to as “ice”, “crystal meth“, “crank” and “glass”. It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.
Methamphetamine’s chemical structure is similar to that of amphetamine, but it has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system. Like amphetamine, it causes increased activity, decreased appetite and a general sense of well being. The effects of methamphetamine can last 6 to 8 hours. After the initial “rush”, there is typically a state of high agitation that, in some individuals, can lead to violent behavior. There are also drug craving and withdrawal symptoms typical of drug abuse of methamphetamine.
Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, the user experiences an intense rush or “flash” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria – a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within 3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes. As with similar stimulants, methamphetamine most often is used in a “binge and crash” pattern. Because tolerance for methamphetamine occurs within minutes – meaning that the pleasurable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls significantly – users try to maintain the high by binging on the drug. Addiction to methamphetamines is common to those who use the drug.
In the 1980′s, “ice”, a smokable form of methamphetamine, came into use. Ice is a large, usually clear crystal of high purity that is smoked in a glass pipe like crack cocaine. The smoke is odorless, leaves a residue that can be re-smoked and produces effects that may continue for 12 hours or more.
Meth Side Effects (read more here)
What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine abuse?
As a powerful stimulant, methamphetamine, even in small doses, can increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite. A brief, intense sensation, or rush, is reported by those who smoke or inject methamphetamine. Oral ingestion or snorting produces a long-lasting high instead of a rush, which reportedly can continue for as long as half a day. Both the rush and the high are believed to result from the release of very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine into areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure.
Methamphetamine has toxic effects. In animals, a single high dose of the drug has been shown to damage nerve terminals in the dopamine-containing regions of the brain. The large release of dopamine produced by methamphetamine is thought to contribute to the drug’s toxic effects on nerve terminals in the brain. High doses can elevate body temperature to dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels, as well as cause convulsions.
What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine abuse?
Long-term methamphetamine abuse results in many damaging effects, including addiction. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and drug use which is accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain. In addition to being addicted to methamphetamine, chronic methamphetamine abusers exhibit symptoms that can include violent behavior, anxiety, confusion and insomnia. They also can display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping on the skin, which is called “formication”). The paranoia can result in homicidal, as well as suicidal thoughts.
With chronic use, tolerance for methamphetamine can develop. In an effort to intensify the desired effects, users may take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently or change their method of drug intake. In some cases, abusers fore-go food and sleep while indulging in a form of binging known as a “run”, injecting as much as a gram of the drug every 2 to 3 hours over several days until the user runs out of the drug or is too disorganized to continue. Chronic drug abuse can lead to psychotic behavior, characterized by intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and out-of-control rages that can be coupled with extremely violent behavior.
Although there are no physical manifestations of a withdrawal syndrome when methamphetamine use is stopped, there are several symptoms that occur when a chronic user stops taking the drug. These include depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression and an intense craving for the drug. Withdrawal is recommended with an addiction treatment program.
In scientific studies examining the consequences of long-term methamphetamine exposure in animals, concern has arisen over its toxic effects on the brain. Researchers have reported that as much as 50 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after prolonged exposure to relatively low levels of methamphetamine. Researchers also have found that serotonin-containing nerve cells may be damaged even more extensively. Whether this toxicity is related to the psychosis seen in some long-term methamphetamine abusers is still an open question.
Withdrawal and Addiction
Methamphetamine use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms include extreme depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggressive behavior and hunger. A methamphetamine high can be very exhilarating and can kick in very quickly. When it wears off, however, users experience a profound crash, and they usually crave more of the drug to avoid depression and withdrawal symptoms.