Methamphetamine (meth, crystal meth) is an addictive and potentially deadly drug that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), causing increased brain activity, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Meth is used for its euphoric effect, ability to increase energy and attention, and suppress appetite. Unfortunately, however, meth use can also have severe and devastating consequences on a person’s physical and mental health and the lives of those around him or her.
This drug can be administered in several ways—orally or by snorting, smoking, or injecting. No method of use is safe, but some, especially injecting, may pose more risks than others. Shooting meth can expedite an addiction’s development because of the immediacy and intensity with which intravenous effects are experienced.
In 2012, an estimated 1.2 million people were past-year meth users, and in 2011, more than 100,000 people visited an emergency department as a result of meth use. Although the DSM-5 doesn’t include precise statistics on IV meth use, it does report that around 18% of amphetamine-type stimulant abusers at some point inject the drug.
What Is Meth?
Methamphetamine is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it does have some limited medical purpose. Still, most of the world’s meth supply is illicitly produced by drug cartels or clandestine home labs.
Effects and Side Effects of Injecting Meth
Injecting meth is an administration route that causes the drug to rapidly reach the brain, resulting in an intense rush and euphoric feelings. However, these effects only endure for a few minutes, and soon, more of the drug will be needed to continue experiencing the sought-after feelings.
This is why meth is so frequently used in a “binge-and-crash” pattern, characterized by the user repeatedly using the drug over a brief period in an attempt to sustain the high. This behavior can persist for several days and is also referred to as a “run.” During this time, individuals may completely neglect necessary functions and responsibilities, such as eating, bathing, or taking care of children, in favor of further meth use.
The intense high associated with meth use is a product of the rapid release of dopamine in the brain. This neurochemical is, in part, responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. These effects reinforce drug-using behaviors due to the rewarding sensations induced. Because meth users often use it in a binge pattern, repeated exposure and the massive release of dopamine often leads to a profoundly depressive state when the binge finally ends.
In the early stages of the high, the user will typically feel excited, elated, energized, and euphoric. They may exhibit a flurried thought process that leads to talkativeness and rapid speech. The individual may have an increased libido as well as poor impulse control. He or she may also feel an increase in confidence or physical strength.
In the later stages, as the comedown begins, the user may start to feel restless, nervous, aggressive, and possibly exhibit symptoms of psychosis and paranoia. Cravings for meth are likely to onset in addition to depression and fatigue.
The Dangers of Injecting Meth
Injecting meth can result in many mental and physical health complications. These are related to both the drug of abuse and the method of administration. Injuries and illnesses that that may be caused by injecting meth include the following:
- Track marks
- Puncture marks
- Collapsed veins
- Skin infections and abscesses
IV Meth users are also at an increased risk of contracting blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C. The risk of such infections is increased due to the sharing of unsterilized needles and possibly engagement in risky sexual activity.
Chemical Brain Imbalances
Over time, regular meth abuse can permanently alter the user’s brain chemistry. Chronic and repeated use will eventually result in tolerance, meaning the user requires ever-increasing amounts of the drug to experience the sought-after effects. The brain and body will become dependent and thereby accustomed to the continued presence of meth. When this occurs, and the person attempts to stop using, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.
Perhaps the most problematic meth withdrawal symptom is an ongoing and intense craving for the drug. Although withdrawal syndrome isn’t generally considered life-threatening, there is an increased risk of suicide for those undergoing this process, especially when attempted alone.
Other withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- The inability to feel pleasure
- Lowed heart rate
- Slow movements
- Impaired cognition
- Bad dreams and insomnia
- Increased appetite
Meth has potent effects on the brain’s dopamine system. As noted, using meth produces a surge of dopamine in the brain associated with pleasurable and rewarding feelings. Repeated use can have adverse brain-altering effects because the stimulant damages dopaminergic neurons, resulting in reduced levels of these vital brain neurochemicals.
“Tweaking” is a stage that occurs somewhere between 4-24 hours after a meth binge has ended. A meth binge occurs when the user takes repeated doses of the drug to sustain the high, which can persist for several days. Tweaking is characterized by agitation, disorganized thinking, paranoia, hypervigilance, and hallucinations. These symptoms occur before the “crash” stage of meth use and can be dangerous for the person suffering and those around them.
Getting Professional Treatment for Meth Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer comprehensive treatment programs in a comfortable, structured environment. Rehab is usually the best option for persons suffering from a severe meth addiction because it offers an escape from the everyday environment conducive to drug use and allows them to concentrate their attention on recovery.
We employ caring, highly-skilled medical and mental health personnel who provide patients with the tools they need to recover successfully. Using integrated, evidence-based treatment, we can help you reclaim your life and be free from active drug addiction indefinitely!