Methamphetamine is one of the world’s most addictive substances. When consumed, methamphetamine releases a large amount of dopamine in the brain, which creates a temporarily heightened sense of pleasure. This surge of dopamine can give users a false perception of increased energy, euphoria, and wellbeing. Eventually, though, the high fades, leaving users seeking that level of pleasure again. But methamphetamine is dangerously potent. In fact, chasing the drug’s dopamine high is one of the main reasons why methamphetamine is so addictive in the first place.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Even though methamphetamine was originally taken as a decongestant, antidepressant, and weight loss aid, in 1971 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II substance. This means that methamphetamine has a recognized medical use but also has a high potential for addiction and abuse.
Doctors use prescription methamphetamine, often sold under the brand name Desoxyn, to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Desoxyn, which has been approved by the FDA, can help boost attention, reduce impulsive and hyperactive behavior, curb appetite, and boost metabolism. To help prevent methamphetamine abuse and addiction, most doctors prescribe Desoxyn for short-term use. Additionally, most of the prescriptions are non-refillable. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped people from using methamphetamine illegally.
When used recreationally, methamphetamine is commonly referred to as “Chalk,” “Crank,” “Crystal,” “Fire,” “Glass,” “Go Fast,” “Ice,” “Speed,” and “Tina.” Usually, recreational users smoke, snort, inject or take methamphetamine orally. Illicit methamphetamine typically comes in 2 forms: powder and rock.
- Powder meth is a crystalline dust-like substance. Even though the substance is often white, powder meth can also be yellow, pink, or brown. This form of methamphetamine is odorless, bitter, and can be dissolved into a liquid. Most people who use the powder form of methamphetamine smoke, snort, or inject the substance into their veins. Sometimes, methamphetamine is compressed into a pill.
- Crystal meth looks like coarse crystals. These crystals, which look like ice, can be clear or blue. Generally, users smoke this form of methamphetamine.
Why Is Methamphetamine So Addictive?
Methamphetamine is so addictive for several different reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Methamphetamine’s potency. Methamphetamine is so potent that even a small amount of the drug can result in an intense high. Even though there’s no real way to monitor the dosage of illicit methamphetamine made in illegal labs, experiencing a meth high just once can result in overdose or sudden death. Because methamphetamine is so potent, individuals can develop a tolerance to the drug very quickly. This means that even though individuals may have used a small amount of methamphetamine the first time, they will need more of the drug the second time to experience the same high. Unfortunately, this increases the likelihood of addiction.
- The methamphetamine high. The methamphetamine high is intense but short-lasting. Within minutes of consuming methamphetamine, individuals start to feel euphoric, confident, and energetic. Most people also experience a false sense of empowerment. When the high wears off, most individuals feel depressed, fatigued, anxious, and moody. Some individuals have hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms almost always occur alongside intense, uncontrollable cravings. Sadly, to avoid these symptoms and satisfy these cravings, many people use meth again, which increases their risk of addiction.
- Methamphetamine’s interaction with the brain. Methamphetamine releases a large amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that regulates pleasure, learning, and reinforcement. The pleasurable feelings which dopamine sends through the brain teach the organ to seek out those feelings again and again. This means that even though individuals may consciously decide to get high the first few times they consume methamphetamine, eventually the decision to get high will become a learned habit. Scientifically speaking, the decision to get high moves from the prefrontal cortex, or conscious, part of the brain to the hindbrain, the area of the mind responsible for non-voluntary action such as blinking and breathing.
- Methamphetamine binges. Binges are a common part of methamphetamine consumption. During a binge, individuals continue to consume more and more methamphetamine while ignoring their body’s nutritional needs. Most people do this to maintain their initial, euphoric high. Unfortunately, repeated use will decrease each subsequent “high,” making it difficult for individuals to achieve their initial euphoria. Sadly, this often leads to increased methamphetamine use which can easily develop into addiction.
Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine
Misusing methamphetamine can cause several adverse health effects. Methamphetamine can cause cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, and a rapid heart rate. Meth can also elevate users’ body temperature (hyperthermia) which can lead to convulsions.
Some of the long-term effects of methamphetamine include:
- Mood swings
- Brain damage
- Violent behavior
- Dental and gum issues
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Confusion and disorientation
Despite these adverse health effects, many people find themselves drawn to the drug.
Signs of Methamphetamine Addiction
The potency, risk of binges, and effect on the brain make methamphetamine one of the world’s most addictive drugs. Recognizing a methamphetamine addiction can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Luckily, there are several signs that indicate an addiction to methamphetamine.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with methamphetamine addiction include:
- A sudden and unexplained loss of interest in hobbies, activities, relationships, and career goals that were once important
- Twitching, facial tics, and jerky movements
- Noticeable, sudden, and unexplained weight loss
- Skin sores
- Reduced appetite
- Burns, especially on the lips and fingernails
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Rotting teeth
- Sudden outbursts of anger
- Mood swings
- Tweaking, a period of anxiety and insomnia that can last for 3 to 15 days at the end of a methamphetamine binge
Recognizing these signs can be frightening and overwhelming. Luckily, professional treatment programs can help individuals overcome substance abuse challenges.
Helping Individuals Overcome Some of The Most Addictive Drugs
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we believe that all individuals can live a drug-free life. We also believe that recovering from addiction doesn’t have to mean pausing your entire life. Our outpatient addiction treatment programs can help individuals overcome methamphetamine addiction while maintaining aspects of their daily lives. Our recovery services include:
- A partial hospitalization program (PHP), our highest level of care.
- An intensive outpatient program (IOP) designed for individuals who have completed our Partial Hospitalization Program or an equivalent outpatient treatment program at another provider and are ready to continue their recovery.
- An outpatient program (OP) designed for individuals who have completed higher levels of outpatient addiction treatment either at Meta Addiction Treatment or another accredited provider.
As part of our treatment, we provide clinical services such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, case management, peer support, and nutritional counseling.
You or a loved one don’t have to continue living life addicted to methamphetamine. Let us help empower and equip you to take charge of your recovery. Contact us today to speak to one of our recovery experts.