Methamphetamine abuse is a widespread problem in the United States. There are estimated to be more than 13 million Americans age 12 and older who have used it. Of these, more than half a million are chronic users. Methamphetamine may be smoked, insufflated (snorted), taken as a pill or injected intravenously. Most people choose to snort or smoke meth, but extreme users will often inject it to get the greatest effect for their money.
Most meth called “crystal meth”, is produced via chemical reactions in small, crude laboratories using hazardous substances. The drug is also available as a pharmaceutical medication but is difficult to acquire. In the 1950s, it was a popular weight loss drug. These days, prescription methamphetamine is marketed under the brand name Desoxyn (Methamphetamine hydrochloride) for treating severe ADHD.
Both methamphetamine usage and production are most commonly seen in rural areas. These locations don’t just make it easier for meth production to go undetected. Because the source stems from rural localities, the drug is inexpensive and widely available in the surrounding area, making it an appealing option for drug seekers.
Unfortunately, methamphetamine is one of the most devastating of the popular illicit drugs. Deaths caused by meth are relatively low, around 500 annually, compared to drugs like heroin, painkillers, and alcohol. However, there are a variety of other potential negative impacts that make the drug such a problem.
Behavior and Relationships
Methamphetamine abuse often leads to extreme changes in mood and personality. A person who is normally reasonable and calm may exhibit impulsiveness, severe irritability, and aggression when under the influence or during withdrawal. This increase in problematic behavior can strain interpersonal relationships to their breaking point, and may even result in physical violence toward loved ones.
The class of drugs methamphetamine belongs to falls under the DEA’s Schedule I classification. This means that, because meth and other amphetamines have such a high abuse potential, they’re tightly controlled. Possession of a Schedule I substance without a prescription is a felony punishable by substantial fines and imprisonment. First-time offenders, depending on the amount possessed and where the arrest occurred, may receive only several years’ probation with court-ordered rehab and drug testing.
Meth use symptoms suppress appetite, reduce the need for sleep and dramatically increase energy expenditure. Many meth addicts eat infrequently and tend to eat nutrient-poor foods when they do. They may also go for days at a time without sleep, all the while burning energy that they aren’t replacing.
These combined factors can take a toll on the body very quickly. This is why meth use is classically associated with a gaunt, haggard appearance. Chronic meth use overburdens the body, causing it to age prematurely. In addition, because meth causes sensations like bugs crawling under the skin, many abusers pick themselves to the point of leaving wounds.
As with any drug, it’s also possible to overdose on methamphetamine, although it’s uncommon. If you ever suspect that someone is suffering from a methamphetamine overdose, every minute counts. It’s important to call an ambulance right away.
Signs of an overdose typically include:
- Racing heartbeat and fast labored breathing
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Cold sweat and clammy, pale skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Coma or death
Why People Use Meth
People use meth for different reasons. Some do it because they’re bored and looking for a cheap thrill. Some use meth because they enjoy the feelings of euphoria and invincibility it gives them. Other people may initially begin using the drug as a study aid in school due to its ability to dramatically improve concentration, focus, and efficiency. However, some people also become addicted to methamphetamine to deal with deeper issues, as is the case for many instances of substance abuse.
The euphoria and invincibility about meth offers make a convenient band-aid for feelings of helplessness, depression, sadness, loneliness, guilt and anxiety. While the drug is active, these people feel unaffected by their negative emotions, allowing them to ignore the emotional pain for a time. Unfortunately, the action of methamphetamine is short-lived. Once it wears off, users experience a “come-down”, or withdrawal, that can last for hours or days. The effects of this can be severe, especially if there are underlying emotional issues involved. These includes:
- Intense anxiety and panic attacks
- Severe fatigue and sleeping for unusually long periods
- Feeling ravenous
- Low energy
- Low mood and inability to derive pleasure from other activities
- Magnification of negative feelings like guilt, sadness or loneliness, resulting in extreme emotional duress
During this come-down, meth addicts often use a sedative drug, like marijuana, alcohol or painkillers to blunt the severity of the effects. In some cases, this can present a risk of life-threatening adverse drug interactions.
Signs of Meth Addiction
Once you know the signs, it’s often easy to tell if someone is using or addicted to methamphetamine. Keep an eye out for:
- Restlessness and fidgeting
- Unusual amounts of energy
- Disinterest in food
- Hurried speech and disorganized thought patterns
- Cleaning excessively or being overly particular about object placements
- Wide eyes with contracted pupils
- Uncharacteristic aggression or argumentativeness
- Rapid movement
- Drug-seeking behavior
- Finding meth or paraphernalia hidden among personal belongings
- Symptoms of meth withdrawal
What To Do
If you or someone you know is struggling with methamphetamine addiction, getting help soon is the key to overcoming it. Choosing an inpatient meth addiction treatment center over traditional options allows patients a greater chance at recovery. During their stay, patients don’t have to deal with work, school, home life or other stresses that could cause a relapse. Furthermore, services are also available to help patients address any deeper emotional or psychological issues that were driving their methamphetamine use.
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