Methamphetamine is a highly potent, highly addictive, synthetic, central nervous system stimulant drug substance that creates the greatest psychological dependence problems of any drug substance currently in use. Also known as meth, speed, chalk, ice, crystal and a handful of other names, methamphetamine usually appears as a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. Depending on how it is manufactured and what is added, meth powder can also appear brown, yellowish-gray, orange and sometimes even pink. Meth users snort, smoke or inject this drug substance in order to achieve the desired euphoric effects.
The History of Meth
Amphetamine, meth’s parent drug, was first developed in Germany in 1887. Meth was first developed in Japan in 1919 for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers, and it soon proved to be more potent and easier to make than amphetamine. It also dissolved quickly in water, which made it easy to inject. Meth use skyrocketed during World War II because its stimulating effects helped to keep soldiers awake for long periods of time. Japanese Kamikaze pilots also often took high doses of meth before their suicide missions in order to stay on task.
Meth began to be used as a diet aid and in the treatment of depression in the 1950s. Because it was so easily obtained, individuals who desired a way to remain stimulated and awake for long periods of time – like college students, truck drivers, athletes and more – began to abuse meth more widely.
In 1970, the United States government made meth use illegal except in limited medical situations. Unfortunately, individuals continued to illegally manufacture and sell this drug substance, and it remained in high demand as it was less expensive and more potent than cocaine. By the 1990s, Mexican drug trafficking organizations began to set up super-labs in California to produce high volumes of meth. Additionally, many smaller labs sprung up in kitchens, apartments and basements around the country.
The Effects of Meth Use
Meth is currently classified in the United States as a Schedule II stimulant drug substance. This means that it can still sometimes be used for approved medical conditions, although in extremely limited doses and with nonrefillable prescriptions. Some approved medical conditions for which meth is prescribed include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some weight loss treatments. Regardless of the fact that its use is heavily restricted, individuals who are prescribed meth for medical conditions are still at risk for dangerous side effects, abuse, dependence and addiction problems.
Meth, like amphetamine, can stimulate an individual’s activity levels and talkativeness, while simultaneously decreasing their appetite. When an individual takes meth they experience a euphoric rush that is so pleasurable the individual is driven to continue taking meth again and again until they no longer have control over their drug use habits. Meth works harder than amphetamine to enter the user’s brain and stimulate body systems and functions, which is why is more addictive than amphetamine. It also has more extensive physical, mental and emotional effects that amphetamine, some of which can become permanent.
When an individual smokes or injects meth, it moves rapidly into the bloodstream and to the brain, causing a very intense and dramatic euphoric rush usually within five minutes. However, as intense as this high is, it is usually of short duration. When an individual snorts meth or ingests it orally, it moves more slowly into the bloodstream and to the brain, causing a less intense euphoria usually within twenty minutes. The euphoria associated with snorting or ingesting meth orally often lasts longer than the euphoria associated with smoking or injecting meth.
Since meth use creates intense psychological dependence problems, users often follow a distinct pattern to try and get the most out of their meth use. Unfortunately, this means that when they come down off meth use, they come down very hard and it is very dangerous not only for the individual himself, but for others around him. The normal pattern of meth use includes:
- The rush – this is the period wherein the individual experiences the stimulating effects of meth use through a surge in their heartbeat, metabolism, blood pressure and pulse.
- The high – this is the period that follows the intense rush and usually lasts anywhere from four to sixteen hours in length. The meth user experiencing the high usually feels aggressively smarter, leading them to display more argumentative behavior. Many meth users experiencing this high will also focus on a single action, like wiping a window, and become obsessed with performing that action over and over for hours.
- Binging – this occurs when the meth user takes another hit of meth every time they feel the desired effects begin to wear off. Each time the individual takes another hit, the desired rush and high will become smaller and smaller until eventually they disappear altogether and the individual no longer has a reason to use meth.
- Tweaking – this is the point when the individual feels empty and without identity, still intensely craving a drug substance that no longer provides him with any sort of relief. He can experience visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations, including the sensation that bugs are burrowing beneath his skin. A meth user who is tweaking will often be unable to sleep for many days at a time, and can become hostile toward self and others.
- The crash – this occurs when the user’s body can no longer function and finally shuts down, plunging the individual into a deep, lifeless sleep. The crash can last from one to three days, and the individual can be unresponsive during that time.
- The hangover – this is the period during which the individual has just enough energy to return to a wakeful state and experience starvation, dehydration and total exhaustion. Many individuals who awaken to the hangover phase of meth use simply choose to return to meth use in order to get some relief.
- Withdrawals – this is the point at which an individual experiences uncomfortable symptoms like depression, lack of energy, intense meth cravings and an inability to experience pleasure. Without professional rehabilitation treatment and support, many individuals who experience meth withdrawal simply return to meth use.
At any point in this process and while using meth, the individual may also experience side effects like:
- Increased wakefulness
- Increased physical activity
- Decreased appetite
- Cardiovascular problems
- Rapid heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Repetitive motor activity
- Changes in brain structure and function
- Problems with thinking
- Impaired motor skills
- Memory loss
- Aggressive and violent behavior
- Mood disturbances
- Severe tooth decay
- Skin problems, including sores that fail to heal and gray, droopy skin
- Weight loss
- Overdose complications
Solving Meth Addiction
Considering the fact that meth is such a highly potent and addictive drug substance, it should not be surprising to learn that recovering from meth addiction can be a long, difficult process. However, the truth is that many individuals have successfully recovered from meth addiction problems and gone on to lead healthy, happy lives, thanks to professional rehabilitation treatment services. That said, the individual himself must recognize that he made the initial choice to turn to meth use, and he will have to make the choice to end his meth use and discipline himself through treatment in order to meet with success.