Methamphetamine or meth is considered as one of the most addictive substances ever introduced in society today. Going by the names ice, crystal, poor man’s cocaine, crank, uppers and others, meth is available in crystalline powder that is white or yellowish in color, in crystal or pill form. It can be snorted or swallowed. Those who want to get immediate pleasure will smoke or inject the substance to feel the intense euphoria it brings.
Meth users take the substance in a pattern of bingeing and crashing. This is because while the euphoric feeling that it delivers is immediate, it is also short-lived. Methamphetamine works by flooding the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for such feelings as pleasure, motivation and reward and is also involved in motor function. When used again and again, this action of meth can lead one to become addicted to the drug.
The side effects of meth aren’t pleasant. Users become confused, anxious and experience mood disturbances. They also have difficulty breathing and may even become violent. They may also experience psychosis. Crank bugs are a common manifestation of severely addicted meth users. This is when the addict sees bugs and spiders crawling under his skin when in reality there aren’t any there. The addict then digs into his skin in an attempt to remove these bugs and as a result, the constant scratching causes scabbing on the skin.
An obvious side effect of long-term meth use is meth mouth. This is a condition characterized by cracked teeth, tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. Even if the tooth decay has so advanced that it can cause pain in others who aren’t addicted to drugs, meth users are numb to the pain. Moreover, use of meth also increases the probability that the user will contract HIV and other infectious diseases. This is primarily because the use of meth alters one’s judgment, causing people to engage in risky behavior that they would not otherwise do if they were not under the influence of the drug. These risky acts include sharing needles or having unprotected sex.
Continued use of meth alters the brain’s chemical and molecular composition. Based on imaging studies, meth users experience emotional and cognitive issues. For example, they report that their memory is impaired to the point that they have a difficult time remembering things that happen each day. They can also be obsessed about doing only one thing for long hours at a time. Their ability to learn is even affected that they are challenged to perform verbal tasks. They also experience having involuntary movements like twitching and writing because the part of the brain involved in motor function gets affected with continued meth use.
Pregnant women who use meth are placed at risk for delivering premature babies who have fetal growth retardation and abnormalities in the brain and heart.
It’s important for meth users to be brought to a drug rehabilitation facility as soon as possible before the addiction grows worse. Behavioral therapies like cognitive behavior therapy, 12- Step therapy and giving motivational incentives are the most common approaches used to treat meth addiction since there are currently no medications that are prescribed to treat it. The earlier the addict is given intervention, the better his chances of recovering from methamphetamine addiction.