In the early 1990s homemade meth labs started popping up all over the place, but the highest concentrated areas were in the Midwest and the South. Users began producing their own product and also started to sell it to dealers. Due to the drug’s addicting attributes, people all over were becoming dependent on using methamphetamine. During the Persian Gulf War, the US air force had been criticized for its troop’s use of the drug.
There is a medicinal use for methamphetamine. Desoxyn, a legal version of the drug can be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also referred to as ADHD, and obesity. An off-label use for the drug is used for treatment-resistant depression. In any case, this drug is usually turned to as a last resort measure.
Today methamphetamine has many street names. Meth, tik, ice, crystal, glass, speed, crystal meth, and rock are just several names this drug goes by. Regardless of what it is called, meth is harmful to the mind and body, and can be deadly.
Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant. It gives the user increased alertness, energy, and concentration when taken in low doses. A higher dose or chronic use will also cause mania, euphoria, and increased libido.
Methamphetamine most commonly comes in two different forms. It can be purchased as a white powder, or in crystal form. The drug can then be administered in several different ways. It can be swallowed by mouth, snorted through the nose, smoked out of tin foil, a bowl, or a pipe, or injected into the skin or vein with a needle.
Meth has many unpleasant side effects. Because it is a stimulant, which suppresses appetite, many meth users become underweight and/or malnourished. Other side effects include dry mouth, accelerated heartbeat, high or low blood pressure, high body temperature, dizziness, numbness, tremors, dry and itchy skin, acne and boils, convulsions, heart attack, stroke, and death. It can also cause the user to be irritable or agitated. In higher doses or with chronic use, meth can cause hallucinations, repetitive- obsessive behavior, and paranoia.
The longer the substance is used for, the increasingly more dangerous and severe the side effects become. Long term use can cause anxiety, heart disease, memory loss, violent behavior, and psychosis. There is also a direct link between meth use and the user being at an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.
Overdose is another concern when it comes to meth use. Many meth addicts will go on binges or “benders”, where they will continue use for several days straight. During this time, the addict keeps using the substance, usually in large amounts and/or frequent intervals. Due to the effects of the drug and lack of sleep, the person is left impaired and unable to make rational decisions. However, there are indications that a user is overdosing from the drug. These signs include heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, high blood pressure, and elevated body temperature, also known as hyperthermia.
Dermatillomania is often a sign of meth use. This is a behavioral condition, where one picks and scratches at their skin. This is why many meth users have marks and scabs on their face, arms, and legs.
Another unpleasant symptom that arises from meth use is what is known as meth mouth. Discoloring, tooth decay, and tooth loss is quite common for meth users. This generally happens due to their mouths lacking saliva that is essential for a healthy mouth, poor oral hygiene, and from teeth grinding that occurs when using. Many users do not have a desire to visit the dentist, or the means to pay the visit, which in turn leads to continuing tooth rot.
Sexually transmitted disease is a concern for chronic meth users. Due to lower inhibitions, increased libido, and impaired discretion, many users have frequent, unprotected sexual encounters with multiple partners. Contraction of HIV and Hepatitis C should is also a concern for IV users.
Treating a meth addiction is difficult, to say the least. When using meth, dopamine is released from the brain causing an instant mood elevating, euphoric feeling. When that feeling wears off, it leaves the user wanting more. It is one of the most difficult addictions to treat because the dependency on it becomes so severe, and the withdrawal symptoms are not pleasant. Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, depression, lucid dreams, and increased appetite.
Chronic users may also experience anxiety, headaches, restlessness, excessive sleeping, and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can last for days up to a year, depending on the severity of the addiction. Depression is also common when stopping use because the drug created a chemical imbalance. It may take up to a year for the imbalance to be repaired. The depression associated with methamphetamine withdrawal is far more severe than the depression associated with the cessation of cocaine.
The euphoric effects of methamphetamine certainly do not outweigh the risks involved in using it. However, millions of Americans are addicted to this dangerous drug. Due to its highly addictive nature, it is best to not even try it in the first place.