Meth addiction may lead to health consequences like severe dental decay and intensifying the aging process. Long-term meth abuse can have harsh psychological and behavioral effects on a person, and a series of behavioral therapies are likely the best course of treatment.
What Is Meth?
Meth is the short name for the drug methamphetamine, which is a highly addictive stimulant. Stimulants are a class of drugs that increase energy and alertness, boost mood, and intensify feelings of well-being.
Meth is a man-made substance, usually a white powder or pill, and is bitter tasting. It can also be made into shiny, glass-like rocks, called crystal.
Crystal meth is smoked, while powder or pill meth can be snorted, ingested, or dissolved in alcohol or water and injected.
As an illicit substance, meth is generally manufactured in large-scale illegal labs in Mexico and the United States. These “super-labs” produce large quantities of meth to be sold illegally on the streets.
Common street names for meth include:
Meth can also be manufactured in smaller labs and can be made with over the counter products like cold medicine. There are also other chemical ingredients, some toxic, that are used to make meth and crystal meth.
The high from meth is short-lived, causing many people to take the drug over and over again. People may even neglect food and sleep to continue repeated doses.
Methamphetamine is occasionally prescribed by doctors to treat some medical conditions. However, doctors are hesitant to prescribe because meth has a high potential for abuse and addiction, and the long-term use of meth may result in serious health consequences.
Due to the addicting nature and danger of meth use, it’s important to spot the signs and symptoms of meth abuse and addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of Meth Abuse And Addiction
Taking meth will likely result in immediate health effects, even when a person takes a small amount. Some health effects may include:
- abnormal energy and wakefulness
- fast breathing
- increase in body temperature and blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- loss of appetite
Because meth affects the brain and the chemical dopamine (the pleasure chemical) a person suffering from meth addiction will likely experience a rush of euphoria. This high can make people hyperactive, meaning they have excess energy and may behave in bizarre ways.
A person suffering from meth abuse or addiction may show signs of extreme energy. hyperactivity, and other strange or manic behavior.
Signs of meth addiction may include:
- abrupt mood changes
- burns on lips or fingers
- moving around frequently
- not eating
- not sleeping
- paranoia (fearing someone may be out to get them)
- skin scratching
- suicidal thoughts
- talking constantly
- visible sores
A person addicted to meth will likely have to take more and more meth in order to achieve the desired effect, or high. This is called tolerance and may result in a person switching from ingesting or snorting meth to smoking or injecting it for a stronger and more instant high.
Spotting the signs and symptoms of meth abuse can help save a person from dangerous consequences. A person abusing meth over long periods of time is likely to increase risky behavior and suffer long-term health effects.
The Dangers Of Meth Abuse And Addiction
The health risks and dangers of meth abuse increase with prolonged use. There are many severe psychological consequences that have long-term effects when the drug is abused.
Long-term health consequences may include:
- contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C (injections)
- difficulty concentrating
- dental problems ( “meth mouth”)
- extreme itching that may cause sores
- extreme weight loss
- psychosis (losing touch with reality)
- thinking problems
- violent behavior
Smoking meth can burn, or melt away at a person’s gums and mouth.
Excessive itching or scratching occurs as a result of “crank bugs,” which describes how people using meth feel a sensation similar to bugs crawling all over their skin. This is likely to result in visible sores, and increase the risk of infection.
Long-term meth use may also affect people’s choices and may lead to risky behaviors like driving under the influence, unprotected sex, and engaging in criminal activities.
Overdose from meth abuse is possible and may result in an increase in body temperature that can cause a person to pass out. This can lead to death if not properly treated, so any sign of overdose should be treated as an emergency, and 9-1-1 should be called immediately.
Fatal meth overdose can also be caused by:
- heart attack
- organ failure
People suffering from meth addiction will also begin to look old.
By burning lots of energy, consistently being malnourished by a lack of appetite, having decaying teeth and gums, and having sickly looking skin with sores and scratches, a person is likely to intensify the aging process.
Stopping use of meth can be difficult because people are likely dependent on the drug, meaning they experience a period of sickness called withdrawal when they try to quit.
Meth Withdrawal And Detox
Withdrawal symptoms occur after a person stops using meth, and the symptoms arise out of a drug dependence.
Drug dependence means the body has grown accustomed to having meth in the system and depends on it for daily functioning.
When a person experiences symptoms of withdrawal, their day to day functioning is thrown out of whack. They will likely seem agitated and annoyed and may be combative or hostile.
A person may begin to feel the following symptoms after stopping the use of meth:
- intense drug cravings
- outbursts of anger
- psychosis (lost sense of reality)
- tiredness, but trouble sleeping
Many of the symptoms of meth withdrawal are psychological. The feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger may be extreme, and the drug cravings can be so intense that people may behave in unpredictable ways.
The period of withdrawal and detox (the body’s natural process of ridding itself of harmful toxins) may be so uncomfortable that a person is likely to turn to more meth, or other drugs, to help soothe the nasty feelings of withdrawal.
Due to a person’s mental state during withdrawal, a medically supervised detoxification may be a good option for some. During a medically supervised detox, a person will likely enter a hospital or inpatient treatment center to receive close observation and monitoring during the detoxification process.
If symptoms of withdrawal are severe, staff may administer medication to alleviate symptoms.
While going through withdrawal and detox is a necessary step in recovery, a medically supervised detox is not a cure for addiction. More therapy and treatment should follow so a person has the best chances for recovery.
Treatment For Meth Addiction
Effective treatment for meth abuse and addiction should implement the essential components needed for most addiction treatment.
The two essential components for treatment generally involve the use, and combination of, medications and behavioral therapy.
At this time, however, there are no government-approved medications used specifically to treat meth addiction.
Treatment for meth abuse is likely best served by a host of behavioral therapies.
The ultimate goal of behavioral therapy is to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs.
By utilizing a variety of evidence-based approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy or motivational incentives, a person will focus on learning the tools and skills needed to live a drug-free, balanced life after recovery.
Inpatient treatment centers are likely the best course for people suffering from meth abuse and addiction because they will likely receive around the clock, 24-hour care, have access to different behavioral therapies, and live in a stable environment to get their mind in the right place for recovery.
The process of recovery takes time, and a person suffering from meth abuse and addiction may need a stable environment, and therapeutic resources, to learn how to manage ongoing drug cravings and the disease of addiction.
NIDA –Teens: Meth