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7 Chilling Facts About Crystal Meth Addiction

Diane Jones By Diane Jones, CRNP on August 8, 2017

Crystal meth is one of the most addictive substances available to those who abuse habit-forming drugs. While cocaine and heroin have been studied more extensively for their effects on the human brain and body, the long term effects of crystal meth are just as severe. It is important to understand crystal methamphetamine side effects, and to become aware of how serious abuse of this drug can be.

Crystal Meth Addiction and Its Effects

As stated by the National Library of Medicine, crystal meth is a type of methamphetamine that has been manufactured into a shiny rock. The rock is called a crystal. It is usually smoked from a glass pipe, which is one of the reasons it is much more addictive than other drugs. When a substance like methamphetamine is smoked, its effects are nearly instantaneous, and burn off very quickly, causing users to crave more very soon after their first hit.

Methamphetamine has had a long and sordid history as a drug of abuse. While it was originally used to help keep the troops awake on both sides of the Second World War, it later became available to the Japanese public after the war ended, causing a serious epidemic of addiction (Drug Free World). Afterward, it was sold as a diet pill and an antidepressant in the 1950s in the United States. Once the government realized how dangerous the drug was, they made it illegal for almost every use in the 1970s. Today, though, it can still be prescribed under special circumstances.

It is estimated that 13 million people 12 and older were reported to have used methamphetamine once in their lives in 2008. Unfortunately, this number has only increased. Treatment admissions for this particular drug of abuse tripled from 1996 to 2006, and the NIDA estimates methamphetamine abuse cost the United States approximately $23.4 billion in 2005.

However, the effects of crystal meth on those who abuse it are even more devastating. Users can become addicted extremely quickly because of the nature of the drug’s use, and many will try to sustain their highs for as long as possible, smoking for several days or even a week straight.

What Can Crystal Meth Do to Me?

Understanding the harmful long term effects of crystal meth addiction—as well as how to recognize it—is important to anyone with a loved one using this dangerous drug. Crystal methamphetamine has side effects that could harm you or someone you love mentally and physically. The drug could cause a person to behave in ways you would never have imagined. It can even tear apart your family.

Though frightening, it is necessary to understand the facts associated with crystal meth abuse and to be aware of the long term effects of crystal meth that become more and more likely to occur the longer the drug is abused.

The Chilling Facts of Crystal Meth Addiction

When a person abuses crystal meth, they immediately put themselves at risk of addiction. Recognizing this issue is the first step, but if your loved one is already addicted to the drug, it’s time to look for the long term effects of crystal meth highlighted below.

#1: Crystal Meth Is Popular With Younger Individuals.

College, High school and even middle school students are at a particularly high risk of methamphetamine abuse. Because the drug is known to cause intense hallucinations as well as high energy and weight loss, many younger individuals start using it without realizing how dangerous the effects are.

A recent study cited by the NIDA found that 0.6 percent of 8th graders, 0.7 percent of 10th graders and 1.20 percent of 12th graders admitted to having used methamphetamine in their lifetimes in 2016. 0.30 percent of individuals aged 12 to 17 admitted to having used the drug at least once in their lifetimes in 2015 while 3.30 percent of individuals aged 18 to 25 admitted to this use as well. The drug is attractive to younger individuals for a number of reasons, which makes it all the more dangerous, as it is likely to cause many long term effects.

#2: Crystal Meth Addiction Can Lead to Both Acute and Chronic Overdose.

People who abuse methamphetamine put themselves in danger of both sudden and long term overdose. This particular drug can potentially be abused in large doses, which can lead to overheating, stroke, and kidney failure. As expressed by the NIDA, all of these effects can be deadly and will require immediate medical care.

Some people also overdose on methamphetamine simply from abusing it too often. The NLM affirms that methamphetamine stays active in a person’s system for much longer than other stimulants, including cocaine. A person’s delusions caused by the drug can last as long as 15 hours while the drug could also linger in their system even beyond this point. Chronic use could cause the drug to build up in the individual’s system and cause the effects above, as well as other serious side effects.

#3: Crystal Meth Addiction Can Lead to Malnutrition.

Those who abuse crystal meth often do not eat regularly or healthily. The drug also causes increased physical activity and loss of appetite. Over time, this often leads to severe weight loss, malnutrition, and potentially even eating disorders. One study found that crystal methamphetamine use could even be a choice more teens are turning to in order to lose weight, creating an even more dangerous market for the drug.

One of the strongest signs that someone you love is abusing a stimulant (such as crystal meth, cocaine, or amphetamines) is rapid, unexplained weight loss. Severe malnutrition can also cause problems all throughout an individual’s body, such as dizziness, muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, and if left untreated, permanent disability.

#4: Crystal Meth Addiction Leads to Severe Withdrawal Symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms from crystal meth are unlike those associated with other drugs. The American Addiction Centers declares that, first the individual must go through the comedown period. The general effects are:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

The individual will experience both emotional and physical pain, which will make them begin to crave the drug. But once the initial symptoms subside, severe depression, fatigue, and jitteriness begin to occur. These symptoms, as well as others, can last as long as 3 or 4 weeks, making the detox period associated with crystal meth longer than others. Unfortunately, even after the individual gets through the initial withdrawal phase, there are still other lingering, long term effects of crystal meth addiction.

#5: Crystal Meth Addiction Leads to Brain Damage.

Methamphetamine abuse changes the way the brain works over time. Many drugs of abuse have this effect, but crystal meth in particular can cause so many changes, it can actually leave the individual with semi-permanent brain damage.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience  found that methamphetamine abuse could cause an increased expression of microglial cells in the brain. The presence of these activated cells is also found in individuals who suffer from diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. In addition, those who abuse crystal meth in large doses over a long period of time are also likely to experience symptoms similar to those associated with these diseases.

While doctors are still uncertain if this brain damage is fully reversible, the NIDA cites studies where methamphetamine users were found to show higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease later in life.

#6: Crystal Meth Addiction Causes Behavioral Problems and Psychosis.

People who abuse crystal meth for prolonged periods of time often experience severe, unpredictable behavior, paranoia, irritability, and even violent outbursts. But these issues do not always subside with time and abstinence. Those who are going through the withdrawal symptoms from crystal meth often experience psychotic effects during this period as well. This can last for a week or so and is often called toxic psychosis.

Unfortunately, those who go through withdrawal and are able to recover from meth addiction sometimes still experience psychotic episodes later in their lives, even years after they last used the drug. Meth abusers who once exhibited psychosis have been known to experience a resurgence of these effects due to stressful stimuli (NIDA 4).

Stroke Risk More Than Doubles for Young Adult Crystal Meth and Cocaine Users

#7: Crystal Meth Abuse Doesn’t Just Harm the Abuser.

Crystal meth use can harm more than just the user over time. The drug can cause severe outbursts of violence, which are dangerous to the user and everyone close to them. In addition, a study published in 2009 discovered lung injury was found in mice exposed to vaporized methamphetamine. This research pointed to the fact that secondhand smoke from crystal meth may be harmful.

The Attorney General of Illinois has also listed other dangers particularly associated with children living in methamphetamine labs across the country. These can include an increased likelihood of chemical contamination (associated with the chemicals used to create crystal meth), danger caused by police raids or booby traps often set up by the owners of the meth lab, abuse and neglect.

Those living in a meth lab are also at a serious risk of being caught in a fire or an explosion, as nearly 15 percent of the labs discovered across the country are discovered as the result of an explosion.

The Signs and Symptoms of Crystal Meth Addiction

The signs and symptoms of crystal meth addiction are also chilling and can help you determine if your loved one is already addicted to this dangerous drug. Other long term effects of crystal meth include:

  • Psychosis
  • Brain function disturbances
  • Insomnia
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Cracked and broken teeth (also known as meth mouth)
  • Stroke
  • Homicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A weak immune system
  • Skin sores and infections
  • An increase in risky or dangerous behavior
  • High blood pressure
  • Prolonged anxiety
  • Tweaking: a term for those who use methamphetamine for several days straight without sleeping
    • The signs of tweaking include
      • Staring eyes
      • Jitteriness
      • A quivering voice
      • Jerky, strange movements

If someone you know has experienced two or more of these issues during a 12-month period, addiction has already set in, and treatment will be necessary.

Getting Help for Crystal Meth Abuse and Addiction

Without professional care, the individual will not be able to overcome their methamphetamine addiction safely. Crystal methamphetamine side effects are not easy to overcome, and the longer a person uses this drug, the more likely they are to become addicted. If you believe you are in trouble, you probably already are, and if you are worried for a family member or friend, now is the time to get them help.

There are plenty of options for safe, long term meth addiction treatment.

  • Inpatient care: Many rehab centers offer 24-hour care in a controlled environment to methamphetamine addicts. The withdrawal symptoms from crystal meth alone are severe, and many individuals need time away from their daily lives to put an end to their substance abuse and make a significant change.
  • Outpatient care: Some individuals do not need inpatient treatment, although methamphetamine causes severe side effects, even during recovery. Still, if you have a strong social support system at home and a safe, drug-free environment in which to recover, this could be an option for you.
  • Nontraditional care: Some rehab programs provide treatment in different environments, such as wilderness therapy. This can be effective for certain types of individuals, especially young adults.
  • Support groups: Support groups offer added support to those in addiction treatment. Crystal Meth Anonymous is one such option.

Patients who seek out these programs are able to build stronger recoveries and learn how to handle the severe, long term effects of crystal meth. Anyone who is struggling with a dependency on or an addiction to this drug will require treatment. If you believe you or someone you love is struggling with crystal meth abuse and addiction, there is no time like the present to find safe, effective care in a recovery center.

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