Meth Addiction

Meth: The World's Strongest Amphetamine

What is meth?

Meth addiction has always caught the interest of the public due to the bizarre and sometimes frightening behavior of meth users. Shocking video titles like “Meth head pulls her own eyes out” and articles with striking meth before and after photos have made meth addicts out to be the stuff of nightmares. In this article, we are going to take a look at the facts about methamphetamines and meth addiction and we’ll leave the sensationalism for another day.

Meth vs crystal meth

Meth, sometimes called crystal meth, is short for methamphetamine – a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug. Meth belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines, which have similar effects. Many amphetamines have legitimate clinical uses, but methamphetamine is almost exclusively used as a recreational drug. This is because methamphetamine acts more quickly and is more potent than other amphetamines as a result of its greater ability to penetrate the blood brain barrier. Another quality that makes methamphetamine attractive to recreational drug users is that compared to other stimulants like cocaine and crack, it has a very long half-life which makes its effects long-lasting. Additionally, methamphetamine can be produced using easily accessible chemicals making it cheap virtually everywhere.

Adderall vs meth

Although both Adderall and meth both belong to the amphetamines class, there are a few major differences. Adderall is a combination of amphetamine salts, which often come in the form of an extended-release capsule. Adderall cannot be smoked like meth can, and when taken appropriately produces less intense effects than methamphetamine.

What does meth look like?

small crystals that look like ice
Meth looks like small translucent crystals. Meth smells like vinegar or ammonia when smoked. The smell may vary depending on the other chemicals present from the cooking process.

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Meth Effects

What does meth feel like?

Meth produces its effect by causing floods of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters stimulate the cardiovascular and central nervous system. The result is an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased alertness, feelings of euphoria, and suppression of appetite. People who use meth describe an intense rush similar to that produced by adrenaline, but stronger and longer lasting. Users report a feeling of invincibility.

How long does a meth high last?

When injected or smoked, methamphetamine produces a rush that lasts several minutes. After the rush, the less intense high that follows lasts 6 to 12 hours depending on how much of the drug and the route of administration.

Meth Side Effects

Meth mouth

The severe tooth decay and gum disease that often accompanies methamphetamine use is sometimes called meth mouth. While meth use has devastating health consequences on many other areas of the body, dental effects are often the easiest to recognize. Meth mouth is caused by a combination of factors and is not limited to users who smoke meth. One side effect of meth use is dry mouth, which contributes to the formation of cavities. Clenched jaw and tooth grinding that are a common side effect of stimulant use also contribute. Additionally, the behavioral changes that accompany addiction tend to negatively impact a persons dental hygiene.

Faces of meth

Meth before and after pictures show the pronounced effect that meth has on a person’s appearance. A common side effect of meth use is tactile hallucinations of something crawling under the skin. This phenomenon, known as meth mites, causes meth users to pick at their skin. This skin picking results in pock marks and scarring.

Meth Overdose

Because meth produces such significant physical effects, overdoses can result in damage to multiple organ systems and can even cause death. Many users who overdose on methamphetamines experience hyperthermia (high body temperature), heart attack and stroke symptoms, seizures, trouble breathing, and meth-induced psychosis. Meth psychosis is a serious psychological condition that can be characterized by hallucinations, severe paranoia, and uncharacteristic hyperaggressive behavior. If you believe someone has overdosed on meth, you should call an ambulance as timely treatment can prevent or reduce long-term damage.

What does meth do to your heart?

Methamphetamine effects the heart in a number of ways. Its use is associated with pulmonary hypertension, a very dangerous cardiovascular condition. Meth use can also cause myocardial infarction (heart attack) by causing coronary vasospasms and by causing the development of plaques in arteries that narrow the blood vessels.  Methamphetamines also cause the hearts main pumping chamber (left ventricle) to become enlarged and weakened, which can increase the likelihood of cardiac arrhythmia.

Can meth cause kidney failure?

Yes, methamphetamine is known to cause renal failure (kidney failure) as a byproduct of dehydration, severely elevated body temperature, decreased blood pressure in the kidneys, and other effects of multi-system toxicity.

Meth comedown

After the flood of neurotransmitters that produce the meth high dissipate, users experience a meth comedown. During this period, users feel drug cravings, feelings of depression, and lethargy. After long-term use of the drug, the neurons that produce dopamine in the brain may actually begin to change structurally resulting in more long-term psychiatric and behavioral changes.

methamphetamine use causes tooth decay - a condition called meth mouth
meth addiction destroys faces of meth addicts

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Meth Use

Smoking meth

One of the most common ways that users do meth is by smoking it. Smoking meth produces an immediate powerful rush similar to that produced by injecting meth, but without the additional risks of using a needle. Meth pipes used to smoke the drug are usually long glass tubes with a bulb at the end where the drugs are placed. The bulb is heated to vaporize the meth without it coming in contact with the flame directly. Meth smoke contains toxic chemicals that can seriously damage the lungs, throat, and teeth.

Can meth be snorted?

Yes, meth is often crushed down to a finer powder and snorted. When snorted, the effects do not come on as quickly and powerfully as they do when smoked or injected. Some users may believe that snorting meth is “safer” than shooting or smoking meth, but snorting meth comes with its own risks and certainly does not protect against addiction. Snorting meth can cause damage to nasal tissue and sinuses, and like any other route of administration carries the risk of overdose and addiction.

Shooting meth (IV)

Shooting meth involves dissolving the drug and administering it with a needle intravenously. As discussed above, injecting methamphetamines produces a powerful euphoric rush followed by a less intense high that lasts several hours. Injecting methamphetamine increases the risk of overdose, but it also carries the risk of other complications. Users who share needles are at risk of developing infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. But even users who don’t share needles can suffer from serious health consequences like endocarditis, abscesses and cutaneous infections, and blood clots which can lead to strokes. Shooting meth can also increase the likelihood of developing a methamphetamine addiction.

smoking methamphetamine

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Signs of Meth Use

As discussed above, there are a lot of obvious signs of meth addiction when the addiction is in its later stages. But perhaps you are worried that a loved one has just started using meth. There are some more subtle signs that you can look for to determine if someone is using meth. The surest way to tell if someone is using meth, though, is to give them a drug test. Keep in mind though, that urine drug tests will only show a positive result for methamphetamine if the drug was used within the last 2-3 days.

urine sample at drug rehab addiction

How long does meth stay in your system?

Methamphetamine is metabolized to amphetamine, but both substances can be detected in a urine test. The amount of time any drug is present in a person’s urine is dependent on a lot of factors including their activity level, body fat content, the speed of their metabolism, duration of drug use, and amount of the drug consumed. Generally though, meth and amphetamines are detectable in urine for 3 days after they are consumed.

Physical signs of meth use

  • Unusual chemical body odor
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden disregard for hygiene
  • Having paraphernalia like pipes, burnt aluminum foil, cut-up straws, or burnt spoons

Behavioral signs of meth use

  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in personality, especially increased agitation

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Meth Addiction

Meth addiction symptoms

If you are a meth user and you start to experience certain symptoms, it is likely that you have become addicted to meth. One symptom is obsessive thoughts about the drug. If your thought life has become consumed by thoughts about getting high, how to get the money to get high, or how to avoid getting caught for getting high, this is a sign of a problem. Another symptom of addiction to meth is losing control: you get high even when you said you weren’t going to or didn’t want to. If you have begun to encounter consequences because of your use (strained relationships, legal trouble, financial problems, health concerns, etc.) and continue to use anyway, this is also an indication of a possible addiction.

How long does it take to get addicted to meth?

There is no absolute timeline when it comes to developing an addiction to methamphetamine. Risk factors like co-occurring mental health conditions, family history of addiction, and environmental influences all play a part in how quickly someone will become truly addicted to meth. While it is unlikely that someone would become addicted to meth after a single use, there is no “safe” amount when it comes to using methamphetamine.

Is meth physically addictive?

Meth, unlike drugs like benzodiazepines or opiates, does not cause physical withdrawal symptoms like vomiting or seizures. However, when a person becomes addicted to meth they experience intense cravings and a host of psychological symptoms that make meth extremely difficult to stop using. Regardless of the properties of its withdrawal symptoms, meth is a highly addictive drug.

addiction treatment
"Meth controlled my every thought. At first, I couldn't imagine my life without it. Then I couldn't imagine my life with it. But I couldn't stop. 1 Solution Detox changed that. They saved my life."

Meth Addiction Treatment

Meth addiction has an extremely powerful psychological component that can only be adequately addressed through intensive therapeutic efforts at an inpatient level of care. Inpatient treatment for meth addiction provides a safe space where the patient is physically removed from the drug as well as the triggers that initiate cravings. Being removed from not just the places and people who they got high with, but also the normal stresses of everyday life allow the patient the time and focus they need to begin healing the psychological damage that their addiction to meth has caused.

The goal of the therapy in treatment is to rewire the reward pathway of the brain, which has been highjacked by the drug. This healing takes time, which is why outpatient treatment for meth addiction is not recommended until after a patient has completed inpatient treatment. At an accredited meth treatment center like 1 Solution Detox, a patient can receive the tools that they need so that they are ready to succeed when they begin to make their way back to a productive and healthy life of sobriety.

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