Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a psychoactive stimulant and one of the most dangerous drugs on earth. It is ranked as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which indicates that the user has a higher chance of abusing it and becoming addicted. The drug is usually produced illegally in home-based meth labs.
Methamphetamine was synthesized in Japan in 1893 by chemist Nagai Nagayoshi, with its crystal compound created 16 years later using red phosphorus and iodine. It was widely used in the military during World War II and by Japanese industrial workers to maximize productivity and fight fatigue. With the world yet unaware of its addictive properties, meth was even approved in the 1940s and 50s as treatment for narcolepsy, depression, and alcoholism, among other ailments. A postwar surplus of the drug led to rapidly increasing civilian demand, and eventually, the world's first meth epidemic.
While its massively addictive properties have since been studied and most forms of the drug are now illegal, certain forms of meth have been approved to treat ADHD and exogenous obesity in the form of Desoxyn tablets. A notorious party drug, many are pressured to try meth once and eventually get hooked. It is extremely important that if you haven’t tried meth to keep it that way.
Most strains of meth are created in home-based meth labs. So-called “scientists,” meth dealers utilize everyday, at-home ingredients to produce one of the most dangerous substances on earth. This process is extremely dangerous; many meth labs are discovered by authorities due to explosions or fires that result from these chemical “experiments.” Despite the U.S. government’s attempt to control and regulate these ingredients, it is almost impossible to stop meth production. The ingredients commonly found in meth may cause some surprise:
Meth is intensively addictive, the most powerful form of speed, and has only gained potency over the years.
- Brake Fluid
- Butane (lighter fluid)
- Hydrochloric acid
- Sodium Hydroxide (a chemical found in drain cleaners)
- Anhydrous Ammonia (used as an industrial refrigerant or pesticide)
- Match Boxes (red phosphorous)
How Does Meth Work?
Meth is intensively addictive, the most powerful form of speed, and has only gained potency over the years. It is a stimulant that creates a rush for the user by flooding the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter and hormone. The primary function of dopamine is to regulate feelings of pleasure and pain. When on meth, the levels of dopamine are so high that it creates a sense of euphoria for the user. Since our bodies don’t naturally flood our brain with dopamine at this level, the user has to use meth again and again in order to regain this feeling. A user can build a tolerance to the drug which lessens the effects, and therefore drives the user to take even more of the drug to achieve the desired high.
The fact that meth floods the brain with dopamine is important to remember when quitting meth. It is natural for someone who is finding sobriety to feel depressed and hopeless because their brain isn’t producing dopamine naturally. This can drive the addict to relapse in order to feel a sense of normalcy, and thus the vicious cycle of meth use begins again. Eventually, sobriety will begin to pay off when the addict’s brain begins to recuperate. This period of recuperation is variable by person and by the strength, severity, and duration of their meth use. The longer one uses meth, the more damage there is to heal, and thus more time spent feeling down and out.
How Is Meth Taken?
Meth can be taken in various ways. Some of these include:
- Injection: One of the most common ways to take meth as well as the most dangerous. Through an injection in the bloodstream, a user receives a dose via needle. This injection method causes the quickest high. Injection will sometimes cause skin rashes. Worse, injecting meth opens the doors to HIV and hepatitis risk due to needle sharing.
- Smoking: Smoking is another common method used to administer meth. Usually involving a glass pipe, this method of inhaling the drug is also known as “chasing the white dragon.” Smoking meth doesn’t actually indicate inhaling smoke; users inhale the fumes once they are vaporized. Lung cancer can be a byproduct of this method.
- Snorting: Snorting meth is also referred to as insufflation. The user will take the meth, crush it, then inhale it. This method produces a high very quickly, but the high is usually short lived when administered in this fashion.
- Ingesting: When meth is prescribed it is in the pill form, which makes ingestion a simple method. The high produced is not very extreme, but the duration of the high will be much longer than the other methods. Ingestion is a safer method as there aren’t many risks associated with ingestion itself.
- Suppository: Taking meth anally by suppository is the least common method of administration. Taking a drug by suppository means that the drug is inserted into the anus and then absorbed by the mucous membranes. There hasn’t been a lot of research about this method to know of the dangers associated.
Meth Side Effects and Consequences
Meth is a dangerous and highly addictive drug, with dire consequences when abused. A high on meth can be described as “feeling invincible”: feelings of euphoria and endless energy. Some other characteristic side effects of abusing meth are a temporary cessation of appetite, a spike in body temperature, an increase in focus and alertness, and a hike up in heart and respiratory rate. The short term side effects of meth use may include impaired speech, excessive talking, extreme excitedness, uncontrollable movements/spasms, numbness, depression, insomnia, and an increase in sexual arousal.
The come down from a high on meth can be especially unpleasant. The user is very likely to suffer from both depression and exhaustion. After using meth, users will generally want to sleep for an extremely long period of time once the high is over. It is common for a meth user to take the drug again to try and avoid the come down; this can cause the person to be awake for days and become severely disoriented. Violence is also attributed to a come down from meth, as the drug causes agitation.
The regular use of methamphetamine will cause the user to feel the aforementioned negative effects more intensely and frequently. An addiction to meth will usually take over the addict’s life with feelings of moodiness, an irregular sleep schedule, anxiety, weight loss, and the inability to maintain social relationships and a job. “Meth mouth” is a very serious dental condition that meth users face.
The negative effects become more serious as the use is prolonged. These negative side effects can turn into full-blown health problems. Some issues associated with long-term meth use include:
Meth use will often cause paranoia and anxiety, which can cause the user to grind their teeth.
- Possible brain damage
- Fatal kidney and lung disorders
- Violent and aggressive behavior
- Permanent psychological problems
- Weight loss
- Behavior that mirrors paranoid schizophrenia
- Disturbance of personality development
- Decreased sex drive
None of these symptoms would be ideal for anybody, regardless of circumstance. It is well known that drugs pose a gigantic health risk, but none of them affect your physical appearance as badly as methamphetamines. This is all the more reason to give up meth use, or to avoid the drug altogether.
Perhaps being the most telltale sign of prolonged meth use is “meth mouth.” This term refers to the incredibly quick rate of tooth decay that most meth users will face after prolonged use. The drug itself does not cause the damage directly; rather, it is a list of factors and conditions that are commonly associated with meth use that cause “meth mouth”. Meth users are known to neglect taking care of their oral hygiene, which brings about poor gum and teeth maladies.
Using meth will immediately affect the salivary glands, causing salivary movement to cease. This is dangerous because saliva helps stave off infection and bacteria in the teeth and gums. Meth use will often cause paranoia and anxiety, which can cause the user to grind their teeth. Grinding teeth destroys the structure of the tooth and causes the teeth to crack and crumble away. With the addition of dry mouth, there isn’t much hope of a healthy mouth for a meth addict.
“Meth mouth” isn’t a characteristic of every person who uses meth. It is generally the people who have been addicted to the drug and have clearly neglected their oral hygiene for an extended period of time who experience it. The “meth mouth” process usually begins with yellowing of teeth, followed by flakes of enamel coming off of the teeth. “Meth mouth” can leave the teeth stained a brown or black color, with non-restorable stumps along the gumline.
Quitting Meth and Treatment Options
An addiction to meth is extremely dangerous, and if left untreated it can lead to fatality. Despite knowing what dangers are associated with meth, many users refuse help when confronted. Due to the addictiveness of the drug, meth users can undergo a very intense withdrawal when they attempt to quit. It is because of this that checking into a rehab is so effective in terms of quitting meth. Symptoms associated with meth withdrawal include excessive sleeping, excessive eating, drug craving, anxiety, and depression.
Recovery of Brain Dopamine Transporters in Chronic Methamphetamine Abusers (source)
There are two ways to quit meth, either cold turkey or the tier method. Cold turkey is a term used when the person intends to quit the drug all at once. This form will be accompanied by the worst withdrawal symptoms. When quitting meth cold turkey, it is in the recovering addict’s best interest to avoid situations where they can be reminded of the drug. The tier method is a method where users will cut their intake of the drug each time they use so as to eventually wean themselves off of the drug entirely. This method is used when the user cannot withstand withdrawal symptoms. For example, the user would take three quarters of their usual meth dose, and after that they would take half of what would be a full amount, and so on until they are completely off of the drug.
Going through the withdrawal symptoms alone can be extremely difficult, thus making the possibility of relapse so great. An addiction to meth is a tough one to break, but it is necessary in order to live a happy and healthy life. For the best results in recovery, it is a smart choice to check into rehab.
If you or a loved one are need of addiction treatment, now is the best time to seek it. When dealing with meth, you are working on borrowed time as you can easily overdose, permanently damage your body, or get into serious legal trouble at a moment’s notice. Meth is a drug that can literally destroy your body and mind. Now is the time to reclaim control over your life.