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Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine, popularly shortened to meth, is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant drug that dramatically affects the central nervous system. Meth has very small-scale medical uses for the treatment of attention deficit disorders, narcolepsy, and obesity. It is also frequently used illegally for recreational purposes. Meth comes in a variety of forms, including powder, rocks, crystal, and pills. In the crystal form, meth as referred to as 'crystal meth.'

Meth is similar to cocaine in that it is a powerful upper, although it's effects last much longer. Meth has been referenced as the 'poor man's cocaine,' because it is less expensive in relation to the length of the high caused. Depending on its form, meth is commonly known on the street as speed, ice, crystal, chalk, crank, and glass.


Methods of Administration

When used recreationally, meth can be ingested, injected, snorted, smoked, or taken anally. The drug has slightly different effects, depending on how it is administered. When snorted, meth produces euphoria, but not an intense rush. The effects of snorting generally begin within 3 to 5 minutes, whereas ingestion will usually take about 15 to 20 minutes.

When meth is smoked, it is normally the fastest method because it allows the chemical to quickly travel to the brain. Ice is the typical form of meth that is smoked. It is a fairly pure, clear crystal that is smoked like crack cocaine. The smoke this produces is odorless, and leaves behind a residue that can be resmoked. This will produce effects that could last for 12 hours or longer. When taken this way, it is known as 'chasing the white dragon,' or 'chuffing.' It is not proven that inhalation of meth is more toxic then any other method of administration.

Another popular method to use meth is injection, or 'slamming,' but there are very serious risks involved. The hydrochloride salt of meth is soluble in water, and users may use a large dose that may be fatal to non-addicts. People who take meth this way will often develop skin rashes, called speed bumps, and infections at the site of injection. As with any illicit drug of injection, the needle is shared between users, which brings a risk of transmitting HIV, hepatitis, and many other communicable diseases.

Not much study has been done on the anal insertion method, mostly because the subject of the anus is considered taboo in many cultures. Meth used this way is seen most frequently in the communities that use it for sexual stimulation. It has been discussed that using this way increases sexual pleasure, and is called a 'booty bump,' 'butt rocket,' 'plugging,' or 'keistering.'


Short-term Effects of Meth Abuse

Regardless of the form meth is taken, it will stimulate the individual's central nervous system and generally last somewhere between a couple hours to as long as twenty four. Immediately after smoking or injecting the drug, it will enter the brain and trigger a release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. This causes the users to feel a brief yet overwhelming rush or 'flash,' which has been described as very pleasurable. It will also affect the users neurochemical mechanisms that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, appetite, attention, mood and automated responses such as alarm and alertness. Although many people think these to be positive side effects, they are usually followed with an alteration in irritability, paranoia, incessant conversation, insomnia, aggression, jerky movements, convulsions and hypothermia.

After the effects of meth begin, users may become obsessive or begin to perform repetitive tasks such as hand washing, cleaning, or assembling and disassembling objects. Meth has also been known to boost the user's self-confidence, causing many users to be overcome by what is called 'superman syndrome.' This causes the individual to ignore their physical limitations and do things that are usually incapable of performing. A hallucination that is commonly experienced by meth users is the so called crank bug. The user is overcome with the sensation that insects are creeping all over their skin. They will pick and scratch their skin, trying to get rid of the illusionary insects. This can cause them to create open sores on their skin that could become infected.


Health Risks of Chronic Meth Abuse

The effects of chronic methamphetamine abuse are very severe and can often be fatal. Meth abuse has adverse effects on the user that are both physically and mentally. A person who uses meth can suffer from liver damage, brain damage, malnutrition, kidney disorders, impaired immune system, blood clots, and many other negative health conditions. Chronic meth use can also cause anxiety, insomnia, confusion, irritability, fatigue, depression, headaches, mood disturbances, violent behavior, grinding of teeth(bruxism), slurred speech, dilated pupils, dizziness, numbness, sweats, and even addiction.

Meth abusers frequently become psychotic and suffer paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. When an individual experiences this type of psychological state, they may begin to have homicidal or suicidal thoughts. These psychotic symptoms can last for months or years after use has ceased. Meth is also know to cause a plethora of cardiovascular problems including: irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, inflammation of the heart lining, rapid heart rate, and irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain. When a person overdoses on meth, they could suffer from hypothermia, convulsions, and stroke. If this is not treated early enough, it will most likely result in death.

Pregnant mothers abusing methamphetamine also is a significant problem. Meth abuse during pregnancy can lead to prenatal complications, risk of premature delivery, and altered neonatal behavioral patterns. The drug has also been linked also to congenital deformities.

Another risk from meth abuse is lead poisoning. One of the more frequent methods of producing meth uses lead acetate as an ingredient. Slight errors in meth production could cause it to become contaminated with lead. Lead poisoning has been documented in many users.


Meth Mouth

Another one of the many negative side effects of meth abuse is what is called 'meth mouth.' Meth mouth is a condition, which is common among meth abusers, where the addicts lose their teeth at an accelerated rate. Unlike the common myth, this is not caused by any corrosive effects of meth itself. Meth mouth is actually caused by various factors such as: dry mouth, long periods of neglected hygiene, excess consumption of sugared beverages, and tooth grinding. This will leave the abusers teeth in a stubby, blackened state where they can fall out of the user's mouth.


Meth Addiction

Amphetamines are extremely addictive. Tolerance for methamphetamine as almost instantaneous, the pleasurable effects disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls significantly. This will cause people to continue to use the drug to avoid the crash that comes when the meth's positive effects begin to wear off. The user must take increasingly larger doses of meth to catch the high that they first experienced. This process takes place because when the person uses meth it suppresses the normal production of dopamine, which creates a chemical imbalance. The person will need more and more meth just to feel normal again.


Meth Withdrawal and Treatment

The symptoms of meth withdrawal are characterized by excessive sleeping, depression, anxiety, and severe craving for another dose. Withdrawal is almost always intense, although it is seldom fatal.

Addiction to methamphetamine can be a difficult disorder to treat, and the success rate for traditional meth treatment is rather low. Statistics show that 93% those in traditional rehabilitation return to using meth. Meth addicts do not necessarily require specialized treatment, but they do need more time in intensive drug rehab programs than they normally receive under current practices.

It has been show that daily administration of specific amino acids can assist in the recovery procedure by making it easier for addicts body to reverse the reduction of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This has shown some success, but it is not been proven to be consistently effective. Although there are many differences in effects caused by meth and cocaine, these two drugs have many similar characteristics and effects. It has recently been discover that the treatment responses of meth and cocaine users have very similar outcomes when exposed to the same treatments.
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