One of the largest and fastest growing pandemics in the nation, crystal meth addiction is crippling Americans throughout the country at an alarmingly fast rate. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million people are addicted to crystal meth in the United States alone, and this number seems to be growing despite legislation attempts to reduce the numbers through enforcement of tougher laws, rules and regulations on the manufacturing and sale of this substance.
Unless you or someone you love has actually been addicted to meth and you have lived in the world of hell that meth addiction causes it is difficult to fully grasp the magnitude of the problems caused by meth. Crystal meth addiction leads to some of the most dire and difficult to cope with consequences of any other drug on the market or on the streets today.
Below you will learn what crystal meth is, how it is used, what its effects are, how to identify addiction, and how to get help for addiction.
What is Meth Addiction?
Crystal meth is typically smoked, snorted or injected to provide a lasting high that makes the user feel invincible, upbeat, energetic and euphoric. The drug is relatively cheap to make and is often called a bathtub drug because there are a number of chemicals (many of which are interchangeable) that are combined together to create meth. Highly addictive and very easy to obtain, meth is also known as Ice, crank or Crystal on the streets. Because there are so many adverse chemicals used in the manufacturing of this drug such as battery acid, ammonia and other harsh chemicals, the nature of this addiction is highly physical and it also take a great toll on the user from a psychological or mental standpoint as well.
Why do People Use Meth?
If a drug is so dangerous, so addictive and so disgusting, whey do people use it? Crystal meth is most often the drug of choice more than anything because of the ease of getting the drug paired with the low cost for the duration of the high that the drug has a potential to produce. For instance, one small amount of crystal meth which may only cost $10 could last one or two people a full day or more keeping them up all night, partying and having “fun.”
Meth is manufactured using a number of chemicals including ephedrine or pseudoephedrine in conjunction with various other components such as alcohol, cold tablet, lithium batteries and a range of other ingredients that have now been found popping up in home labs. Unfortunately, though meth is relatively easy to “cook” there are many dangers that come with manufacturing this product as the chemicals that are used can be highly flammable.
How is Methamphetamine Abused?
Available in many different forms, meth can be smoked, snorted, injected or ingested orally. Each of the methods of meth use will have a different effect on the user and the amount of time that the drug is active will differ slightly from one method of use to the next.
Below is a look at how each method of methamphetamine use will affect the user:
- Smoking meth – leads to a fast uptake of the drug into the brain and can amplify the addiction potential as well as many adverse health consequences such as lung tumors and other problems
- Injecting meth – leads to an intense rush or flash of a high that is described as a pleasurable state which typically only lasts a few minutes
- Snorting or Oral Consumption of Meth – leads to a less intense rush that lasts anywhere from 5 to twenty minutes and can linger. This method has the least risk of causing addiction but there are no guarantees.
Effects of Crystal Meth Use
There are many short term and long term effects of using crystal meth. Some of these effects will naturally subside on their own within a few hours while others could take days or more to go away even after the last dose of crystal meth was administered. Crystal meth affects the psychological system as well as the physical components of the body and can lead to a range of adverse reactions.
Short-Term Effects of Meth Include:
- effects similar to cocaine abuse
- erratic behavior
- violent behavior
- suppressed appetite
- poor sleeping or insomnia
- mood swings
- unpredictable behavior
- high blood pressure and increased heart rate
- suicidal throughts
Long Term Effects of Meth Include:
- brain damage that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
- meth mouth (rotten teeth)
- sores on the body
- boils or infections on the skin
- weight loss
- cracked teeth
Many of the short and long term signs of meth abuse can be fixed once the meth addiction is treated and the user is no longer abusing the drug. Unfortunately, some of the severe complications of meth use such as coma, death or certain types of paranoia that do not go away are a lifelong adverse effect of having used this dangerous drug.
Symptoms of Meth Addiction
What signs and symptoms should you be on the look out for if you think someone you know is using meth? There are some tell tale symptoms of meth addiction that you may be able to spot right away or which may become more prevalent as time goes on.
Look out for the following symptoms of meth addiction:
- Track or needle marks on the arms, legs, hands, feet or neck
- euphoric states followed by fatigue or depression
- respiratory problems, sinus infections or lung infections
- cough or hoarse voices from smoking methamphetamine
- paranoia that seemingly doesn’t go away
- skin abscesses or infections of the skin with no explanation
- anger or irritability
- hostility or aggressiveness
Physical Long Term Effects of Meth Addiction
Physically, meth addiction can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and to other areas of the body. Those who abuse meth are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke as a direct result of their drug abuse. In most cases, abstinence from meth abuse for a period of at least 2 years can lead to the reversible of many of the negative physical signs of methamphetamine abuse but not all. Motor function and verbal memory will typically repair to some extent after two years of meth abstinence but some other neurological aspects of the prolonged use may not repair themselves even with time.
The long term effects of meth abuse include:
- permanent psychosis that may include paranoia, hallucinations or repetitive motor activity such as a neurological disorder
- changes in the structure and functioning abilities of the brain
- memory loss
- permanent aggressive or violent behaviors or outbreaks
- mood swings
- dental problems including cracked or chipped teeth, tooth and gum decay and gum disease
Effective Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction
The most effective methods of treatment that have been found to assist those with meth addiction include behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy methods. Each of these methods of treatment involves helping the patient to combine new thoughts with their behaviors and vice versa to control their outbursts, cravings and decisions. Contingency management interventions are also acceptable methods of treating methamphetamine addiction for some patients. The following methods are common used in treatment centers for the treatment of meth addiction:
- behavioral therapy – changing behaviors that would once trigger the use of drugs into behaviors that are now productive and do not include drug abuse
- family education – teaching others in the family about the meth addiction and how they can help their loved one by not facilitating the addiction but to support their recovery
- individual counseling – providing a safe place for the addict to get help for their addiction without having to worry about the thoughts of others. Individual counseling also allows for a place to talk about potential causes of the addiction such as past or present physical abuse or trauma.
- 12-step therapy – many counseling centers, treatment centers and community programs provide twelve step treatment for those suffer from all types of addiction including methamphetamine addiction. Crystal Meth Anonymous groups are available in communities to provide social support for recovering addicts
- drug testing – most treatment programs will include randomized drug testing to ensure that the patient is on track and is not using drugs while they are in treatment
- contingency management interventions – these programs offer incentives to the patient when he or she goes a set amount of time without using meth by providing coupons or vouchers to assist them in finding something that they like as a reward. The coupon may be for a free meal, a special gift or something else of value.