Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that people can become dependent on within a short period of time. Those individuals who use it long term can suffer brain damage that they may never recover from. The physical health problems associated with this type of addiction are also serious and potentially life threatening.
The drug was first produced back in 1893, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that people started to abuse it. It was originally hoped that the dug could help cure depression or even alcohol addiction. It is still used in the treatment of attention deficit disorder and morbid obesity.
One of the main concerns with methamphetamine is that it is so easy to make. Instructions for how to cook it are to be found on the web. The ingredients needed are relatively easy to buy and there is huge profit to be made for those who set up their own lab. Breaking Bad is a hit American TV show that follows a physics teacher who turns to making meth for a living. This black comedy is not too far removed from the reality of how this drug is manufactured. There are believed to be many meth labs hidden in middle class neighborhoods.
The way that methamphetamine works is by increasing the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the body. It manages to do this by two mechanisms. It causes neurons to increase production of dopamine and also interferes with the normal re-uptake of this neurotransmitter. This means that the levels of the neurotransmitter are raised in the brain. Dopamine is associated with reward and act as a stimulant in the body, which works in a similar way to adrenalin.
Dopamine is a stimulant drug and this means that it energizes the body. It also elevates mood and an increase in dopamine levels is felt as pleasurable by the individual. People who begin abusing the drug usually do so because they enjoy how it seems to increase mental and physical function. As time passes they will need to take more and more of the drug to create the same effect. The rebound effect of methamphetamine means that people will feel really low after the drug has worn off. This drives them to take more in order to regain the previous high. It is this desire to avoid the low and keep the high that makes this such an addictive substance. Those who take the drug to perform better at work get caught in a vicious cycle of having to keep on taking it in order to function.
This drug is called by different names including:
* Crystal meth
* Yaba is a type of methamphetamine popular in Thailand (sometimes called Nazi speed)
* Shabú is similar to yaba but found in the Philippines
This drug can be taken by a number of different routes. Some choose to eat it by mixing with food. It is also possible to snort, inject it, or inhale after burning on aluminum foil.
Methamphetamine addiction can lead to serious consequences for the individual such as:
* Inflammation of the heart
* Liver damage
* Kidney damage
* Cardiovascular problems
* Chronic insomnia
* Depression and suicide
* Brain damage
* Respiratory problems
* Paranoia, hallucinations, and violent outbursts
* Compromised immune system
* Development of blood clots
* Meth mouth is where the individual damages their teeth due to dry mouth combined with poor dental hygiene
Abuse of this drug can lead to dramatic changes in how an individual acts and looks. The most common symptoms of methamphetamine abuse include:
* Deterioration in physical appearance and personal hygiene
* Weight loss
* Deterioration in dental health
* Problems at work or in home life
* Inability to sleep
* Facial disfigurement
* Increase in talkativeness
* Repetitive behavior
* Picking at skin
* Pulling own hair
* Overconfidence and arrogance
* Involvement in risky behavior such as sexual promiscuity
It is estimated that 10 million people in the US have tried methamphetamine. This statistic is worrying but overall use of this drug appears to be declining slightly in recent years. The number of young people who say they have used it fell from 0.3% to 0.1% between 2002 and 2008. There is some concern that the number of abusers may be beginning to rise again in the last couple of years.
Long-term abusers of this drug can be difficult to treat because of the impact abuse has on their mental functioning and behavior. In some instances there may be mental problems that it will never be possible to fully recover from. With the right treatment though, most individuals should be able to enjoy a full and satisfying life in recovery. Those who have only taken the drug short-term can find adjustment to recovery a lot easier.
The acute stage of methamphetamine withdrawal only lasts a few days, but there are more long term symptoms that can continue on for months after achieving abstinence from the drug. Prolonged feelings of poor functioning mean that relapse is a real danger. The brain recovers slowly and so thinking may remain fuzzy during the first year of recovery. The acute withdrawal symptoms may include:
* High levels of anxiety
* Suicidal thoughts
* Feelings of impending doom
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