Addictive substances come in many forms, and methamphetamine, usually referred to as meth, is one of the most dangerous. Those who suffer from methamphetamine addiction have a difficult road to recovery, but as with any addiction, there is hope for a healthy life.
THE TRUTH ABOUT METH
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that is similar to amphetamine. Unlike cocaine or heroin, meth does not occur naturally and is instead derived from synthetic chemicals. Domestic labs use over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine as a base. Mexican drug cartels are among the largest producers of meth, and they typically use different precursor chemicals that result in a higher-purity product.
Meth is generally produced as a pill or a powder, but crystal meth, as the name implies, resembles pieces of crystalline glass. Meth can be swallowed, snorted or smoked. It can also be heated, mixed with water or alcohol and injected. These different methods of use produce different effects.
Swallowing or snorting meth generates a long-lasting high without the intense initial rush. Smoking or injecting provides a direct route to the brain, creating a quick, euphoric high which quickly dissipates and necessitates further use. Repeated use produces many negative physical and mental consequences.
WHAT METH DOES TO YOUR BODY
Meth abuse is incredibly harmful to your body. Unlike cocaine, which is rapidly processed by your body, meth remains in the body for longer periods of time. This extends the high but also taxes the brain by prolonging the stimulant effects. Meth stimulates dopamine release in the brain while also blocking re-absorption. The brain becomes inundated by higher levels of dopamine, which can be damaging to neurons.
Addiction to meth also produces a number of negative physical effects. As a stimulant, it increases blood pressure, body temperature and respiration. Repeated use can tax the heart, leading to heart failure and death. Mentally, meth generates feelings of euphoria, focus, energy and alertness, but as use continues, euphoria may turn to paranoia or even violence.
Chronic meth addiction may result in changes in behavior and ability to interact in social situations or perform job duties. Anger, anxiety and confusion may become standard emotions for those who abuse meth regularly. Insomnia, hallucinations or delusions may also develop as a result of long term use.
Because meth remains in the body for an extended period, there is a greater chance for alterations to brain chemistry and neural pathways. Rapid weight loss, sores on the skin from scratching and poor dental health are additional physical effects of extended use.
METH WITHDRAWAL AND TREATMENT
The first step toward breaking an addiction to methamphetamine is to enter a medically supervised detox program to manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal from meth is different from other drugs; because meth increases dopamine levels while damaging dopamine receptors, stopping use can lead to a sudden drop in dopamine levels that can result in a deep depression that may lead to suicidal thoughts, as well as anxiety and insomnia.
Behavioral therapy to retrain healthy habits is also an important component of the healing process. Traditional therapy may also assist in identifying emotional or physical trauma which may have opened the door for drug experimentation. Support groups are also a useful tool in sobriety in order to engage with other people who are experiencing the same difficulties you are.
You may be struggling with meth addiction or you may know someone who is. You understand how destructive meth can be and how difficult it can be to escape, but no matter how bad it seems, there is hope for recovery. With treatment and determination, you can live a healthy life free from meth.