Approximately 1.2 million people in the US reported using methamphetamines in 2012, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the average user is roughly 19.7 years of age (Read more drug & alcohol abuse statistics). Although use among America’s youth has declined over the past twenty years, teen methamphetamine statistics show that:
- More than 20 percent believe that meth will make them happy and help them to lose weight
- 20 percent believe there is little or no risk in using meth
- More than 40 percent have not tried to stop friends from using meth
Often referred to as crystal meth, the drug is highly addictive, cheap, and easy to manufacture. There are effective treatment options available and plenty of education on how to stop, but it takes commitment on the part of the addict to make them work.
Side Effects of Taking Methamphetamines
Meth is a crystal-like powdered substance that can be taken orally, injected, snorted, or smoked. Smoking is usually the preferred method, but this can vary depending on the region where the addict lives. Meth is a powerful stimulant, and it can cause immediate side effects, even when it is taken in small doses because it causes a release of high levels of dopamine in the brain.
Meth can also increase heart rate—as well as making it irregular—and increase blood pressure. Other short-term side effects include hyperactivity, decreased appetite, and an elevated body temperature. The drug metabolizes in the system very slowly, so it can take up to two days for it to be eliminated from the system, but it only takes two to three hours for it to reach its peak effectiveness.
Methamphetamine Addiction Symptoms
A person who takes meth over a long period of time may need continually larger doses in order to experience the same euphoric effect, which will eventually lead to dependency. In addition, a meth addict will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms immediately after the last dose has been used. The symptoms of methamphetamine abuse include:
- Severe meth cravings
- Trouble sleeping
- Mental confusion
- Drastic drop in energy levels
A person suffering from an addiction is usually no longer interested in hobbies and activities that once brought pleasure. The individual may have trouble with schoolwork or employment tasks, and aggressive and violent behavior is common. Several hours after the last dose is used, the addict may want to sleep for long periods and, upon awakening, may experience extreme depression that can last for days. Attempts at suicide are often a concern when someone comes off the drug quickly, which is why detox is often best done in a medical facility. If you or a loved on are experience any of these symptoms it could be a sign that it’s time for rehab.
Effects on the Body
One of the most common side effects that meth has is drastic weight loss. This is because meth users generally experience a decrease in appetite. As their sole goal is to obtain more of the drug, they think little of eating and proper nutrition. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see a large amount of weight loss in a very short time when someone has a meth addiction.
Meth addicts may also display a variety of tics, including eye twitching, and, on closer examination, dilated pupils are also obvious. Many meth addicts wear sunglasses to hide their eyes from other people. Methamphetamine addiction can cause a rise in body temperature, which often results in increased sweating and harsh body odor.
Someone who consistently uses meth may also suffer from extreme tooth decay and other mouth conditions that can cause the teeth to fall out and even to turn black. The gums may be very sore and red, and the person may find it difficult to eat or drink.
Effects on the Brain
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic meth use causes chemical and molecular changes in the brain. These changes can cause a decrease in motor skills and may impair verbal learning. Studies have shown that repeated meth use can also cause severe structural and functional changes in the part of the brain that is in charge of emotions and memory. This would explain the emotional and cognitive problems meth users display. Some of these brain alterations can persist long after the last dose of the drug is taken. Some people already suffering from a mental disorder can be pushed over the edge after longterm meth use, in which case they might be most suited to one of the best dual-diagnosis treatment centers in the US.
Long-Term Effects of Meth Use
- Kidney failure
- Lung disorders
- Brain damage
- Psychological problems
- Decreased social life
- Poor coping abilities
- Liver damage
- Violent and aggressive behavior
- Decreased resistance to illness
There are two different classifications of meth overdoses—acute and chronic. An acute overdose occurs when large amounts of the drug are used and life-threatening side effects are experienced. This can occur when someone takes the drug for the first time or if the drug has been taken over a long period.
A chronic overdose may happen when someone who uses the drug on a regular basis and continues to take too much in spite of the serious symptoms. Whether the overdose is acute or chronic, the side effects can be potentially dangerous. Overdose symptoms include:
- Extreme agitation
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- Severe stomach pain
If you believe a friend or loved one is suffering from overdose symptoms, you should dial 911 or the National Capital Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. If the individual is having a seizure, gently cradle the head in your arms to prevent injury. Do not try to hold the person’s arms and legs because you could cause that person’s muscles and tendons to snap, and do not insert anything in that person’s mouth.
Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment
Meth addiction is often difficult to treat, but it is not impossible when you seek treatment at one of the best rehab centers in the US. If left untreated, the former addict’s brain will produce abnormally low levels of dopamine and this will often cause a relapse within six months.
The typical length of rehab from a meth addiction can vary from four to six months, depending on the severity of the addiction and the type of treatment center you choose. You will receive individual and group therapy for a minimum of three times a week. You may also go through family therapy, frequent urine testing, and twelve-step activities.
Read about the 7 Best Malibu Rehab Centers for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Recovery from a methamphetamine addiction is a lifelong process. It is extremely important to attend all follow-up doctor visits and group meetings once you leave the treatment facility. Your counselor can also help you locate narcotics meetings in your area, which can provide you with additional support. Read more about drug and alcohol rehab.