The Meth Epidemic and How It Destroys The Body
Are you or your loved one involved with meth? If you fall into this category, you might want to equip yourself with information about the drug. Meth is a derivative of the amphetamine drug, which was used as a bronchial dilator and nasal decongestant. The amphetamine drug is a stimulant and it increases focus and wakefulness. At the same time, it reduces fatigue and appetite. Its street name is speed. On the other hand, methamphetamine is not the same as the amphetamine drug. When ingested in the same dosages, high levels of methamphetamine get to the brain and become more potent. This means that its effects are more harmful in comparison to the amphetamine drug and especially to the central nervous system.
Meth can be made from household items and even through a doctor’s prescription. It is prescribed for conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy. It is taken into the body through injecting, smoking, orally, and snorting. When it gets to the system, the person can experience aggression, paranoia, and hallucinations. Meth has severe effects on the brain vessels of the user, thus if a person uses meth in large amounts at a time when the person is likely to die. When a meth addict becomes addicted, they use it for a long time. This makes them active for a couple of days straight without sleep or eating. This makes the person crash afterwards and sleeps for a long period. Once the person wakes up, he or she develops severe depression and anxiety. This could lead to suicidal thoughts. Therefore, even if the person does not die from overindulging in methamphetamine, they still can die from suicide.
Additionally, when meth is introduced into the body it stays within it for a long period in comparison to other drugs. This means that when the brain vessels are affected it is not temporary damage. The damage could be fatal and permanent. When meth reaches the brain, it blocks the consistent uptake of dopamine in the brain. This, in turn, increases the nervous system activity of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical in the body that has a reward effect on the brain. It is in charge of making the human get pleasure from activities such as drug use, shopping, and having fun friends. When the dopamine of a meth user is affected, the person loses this ability and become unable to do anything. This is what leads to depression and anxiety. Additionally, it brings about the high relapse rate of this drug in comparison to any other. The drug brings about euphoria and pleasure.
Effects of Dopamine on Various Aspects of the Life of the Addict
The following are the effects that methamphetamine has on the brain:
- Psychotic behavior due to the use of meth for long periods. This increases the likelihood of death, hallucinations, delusions, extreme aggression, anxiety insomnia, and paranoia.
- Meth affects the pleasure centers of the brain; the person develops a dependency with time since the dopamine retake of the brain is blocked. This means that the cognitive abilities of the body are damaged permanently.
- Consistent use of methamphetamine damages the receptors of dopamine making it less likely to feel pleasure without using the drug.
- Use of meth releases dopamine to the brain this causes an immediate and intense sense of euphoria that is prolonged.
Most of the people who use methamphetamine tend to use it because of the effect that it has on the brain. The pleasure rush or euphoria lasts for some minutes and gives off a euphoric high that takes about six to twelve hours. This prolonged euphoric high comes from the fact that meth forces the brain to produce a large amount of the dopamine neurochemical. This neurotransmitter is responsible for controlling pleasure.
Most drugs cause the release of dopamine by the brain including nicotine and alcohol. However, the release that is recorded for methamphetamine surpasses all of these. Some tests have been carried out on animals, when methamphetamine was introduced into the body the animals shot from about 100 to 1250 units. Take note that sex will increase it to about 200 and cocaine only makes the brain achieve about 350 units. This is why the rate of relapse is higher for this drug. This level is about twelve times the dopamine that is released for simple pleasures such as sex and eating. The euphoria is unexplainable because under normal circumstances no human can experience a similar level of euphoria. This is why when the drug wears off the user dives into severe anxiety and depression. The person needs to continue use or face the eminent suicidal feelings.
Continuous use of meth alters the chemistry of the brain of the user. This changes the wiring of the pleasure centers of the brain. This makes it impossible for the person to experience pleasure without having the drug in the body. Studies have shown that this could be repaired with time. However, this takes place within years. The tissues re-grow and rewire back to normal. The person has to be under constant evaluation because of the relapse rate and possibility. This was proved by a report that evaluated the brain scans of a number of meth abusers by the National Institute on Drug Abuse director. The brain scans were carried out for a period of fourteen months without the use of methamphetamine. Most of their brain chemistry started going back to normal. The damaged receptors of dopamine re-grew. Take note that the research showed that the cognitive abilities of the users failed to go back to normal.
After an entire year without the use of meth, the subjects of the study showed issues with respect to their motor coordination, judgment, memory issues, they had the same symptoms as people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.
Apart from affecting the cognitive abilities of the user, the brain chemistry change caused by meth could make the person violent. Since it is a stimulant, it causes the release of a lot of adrenaline, wakefulness, anxiety, the fight or flight response, and makes the person focus (Tweaking). When a person is experiencing this tweaking, he or she develops an obsessive and hyperactive behavior. If your loved one is using meth, he or she may start doing things out of the ordinary such as:
- Ordering freebies online
- Making programs run faster
- Rescuing items from the dumpster
- Feeling like an insect is crawling under their skin (Delusions, hallucinations, aggression, and paranoia). Thus, the person might keep picking at him or herself and even go to the extreme of tearing their clothes. This goes on even after years of ending the consumption of meth.
- Physical effects
The following are the effects that methamphetamine has on the body:
- It leads to tooth loss and decay. This comes from the user’s poor diet, oral hygiene and tooth grinding. This grinding is brought about by the constant anxiety that they experience when under the influence for a prolonged period.
- It affects the skin in that it loses its elasticity, luster; sores appear and take longer to heal, and acne. This makes the person look older than he does or she really is.
- Meth damages the blood vessels and tissues in the body and brain. This prevents the body from repairing itself from any injuries caused.
The most striking effect of using this drug is the fact that it leads to an alteration in the appearance of the person. You can single out a person who does methamphetamine and one who uses another drug. This is because meth constricts the blood vessels making it affect the steady flow of blood to other parts of the body. Frequent consumption of meth makes the vessels weak this makes the body tissues more likely to suffer damage and affect the ability of the body to repair itself. Most of the users have sores all over their body brought about by the consistent skin picking caused by anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions. This is known as formication. It is the feeling that something is crawling under their skin.
Stimulants like meth make the person experience serious physical activity outbursts. Take note that as this happens, the person’s appetite is suppressed meaning that he or she does not have enough energy to do the physical activities that they are doing. Their sole source of fuel in the body is the meth since they do not eat healthily. This leads to excessive weight loss. This is not the type of weight loss that is adored by contemporary culture. This type of weight loss makes the person become frail and gaunt. Additionally, meth users have rotting, stained, and broken teeth because of the poor oral hygiene, poor diet and tooth grinding that happens when they are under the influence.
Even though the meth high boosts confidence, desirability, and attractiveness, it is actually making them attractive. Their physical appearance deteriorates with time.
- Meth mouth
The following are the characteristics of a meth mouth:
- Teeth damage due to grinding, binge eating sugary drinks and food, and going long periods without flossing or brushing the teeth.
- It makes the salivary glands to dry. This paves way for the mouth acids to cause cavities by feasting on the tooth enamel.
- The teeth rot, discolor, and break.
Meth mouth is the main characteristic of methamphetamine effects on the body. Meth mouth contains rotten, stained, and blackened teeth. Most of the time, these teeth cannot be saved even if it is present in users who have indulged for a short period. Most reports that try to make us understand the cause of meth mouth attributes it to the corrosive chemicals of meth. The chemicals, in this case, are lithium (Present in batteries), red phosphorus (Present in matchboxes), and ammonia (Present in fertilizers). These chemicals and the effects of the meth high cause the meth mouth. Snorting or smoking meth erodes the enamel, which is the protective covering of the tooth.
Meth use shrinks the blood vessels of the user. This affects the steady blood flow needed by the mouth to retain its health. This continuous shrinkage kills the vessels and leads to the decay of the oral tissues. Additionally, dry mouth is caused by meth. It is also known as xerostomia. With lack of saliva to help in the neutralization of the harsh acids present in the mouth, the acids eat the gums and tooth. This brings about cavities. This becomes worse when the user stops practicing proper tooth hygiene, grinds the teeth, and ingests sugary foodstuffs.
Tooth decay extent varies as per the user. For example, a report conducted in the Journal of Periodontology 2000, found that meth users who ingested it through snorting has worse tooth decay in comparison to those who injected or smoked it. The length of the use of the drug does not affect the extent of the tooth decay. Tooth decay could be similar for a person who has used meth for a year and one who has used it for five years.
The following are the effects that methamphetamine has on sex:
- Meth users who ingest it intravenously are at risk of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B or C due to the sharing of needles
- Methamphetamine impairs judgment and increases the libido of the user. This increases the likelihood of engaging in sexual behavior.
The low sexual inhibitions and heightened sex drive increase the risk of meth users to contracting STIs. Some people may argue that it is an aphrodisiac. However, this is not true. Meth sparks the release of powerful chemicals by the brain. This makes the user have adrenaline, desirability, and a sense of well-being. This boosts the user stamina and confidence. The chemicals affect the judgment and pleasures centers of the brain. Most users state that they do things that they would never do in their normal state such as not using condoms with random sexual partners and sharing needles with random people. Reports show that there is an increased spread of HIV/AIDS among meth users.
In addition to this, the increase in stamina and energy increases the chances of injury and spreading infection. It could lead to rape instances. This aggression goes on for long periods. The LGBTQI community has seen a spark of meth use since the late 1990s, especially the gay community. This has increased the likelihood of the spread of HIV/AIDS. Take note that the spread of HIV/AIDS is not limited to this community, anyone who engages in risky sexual behavior is at risk.
The irony of this tale is that even though methamphetamine increases the stamina and sexual desire of the user it reduces the person’s desirability. Chronic use of meth leads to impotence, which is sometimes known as crystal dick. Most meth users speak of not being able to orgasm even though they may remain aroused for long periods. For others, ones the drug is in the system their sole purpose are sex.
- Other methamphetamine effects
- High body temperature that could lead to brain damage
- Liver damage
- Low illness resistance
- Disorganized lifestyle
- Increase in the user’s heart rate
The risk factors for developing meth problems can come up from various interrelated factors. They include:
- Emotional health: Emotionally unstable people are prone to indulge in excessive use of meth to try to escape their negative thoughts. This escape plan does not last as the person sobers up eventually. This makes them keep using meth causing the formation of dependence on it.
- Social environment: The people around you play a very essential role in how you behave. You are likely to take up their characteristics over time. Thus, if you hang around with people who are excessive consumers of methamphetamine then you will become one. Alternatively, they can influence you to become a meth user. Peer pressure does not apply only to adolescents. It is a growing concern in adult relationships too. People who are not assertive end up being influenced by meth use by their loved ones. On the other hand, some people use it to be able to fit into various social settings. Thus, if they are constantly exposed to an environment that they find uncomfortable, they will consume some meth to help them get by.
- A person’s upbringing/ how someone was raised: If a person is raised around meth users, they are less likely to watch their drug intake when they get older. Their mind is wired to view excessive drug intake as normal. This makes them likely to overindulge when exposed to drugs.
- People suffering from mental health problems like bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety are also at risk of using meth as a means of self-medication.
- For High functioning meth users, the risk can be affected by peer influence, high-stress jobs, abusing other substances, trauma, or drinking from an early age, in addition to the above-mentioned risk factors.
Examine their behavior over a period of weeks and if they exhibit the following signs, approach them and talk to them about the dangers of meth use and the treatment options.
- The person can go through periods during which he or she abstains from meth resulting in negative physical reactions such as feelings of discomfort, elevated heart rate, sweating, anxiety, nervousness, or irritability. All these are withdrawal symptoms.
- The person usually wakes up feeling depressed or anxious after indulging heavily the days before because their body is dependent on it to perform its functions. However, take note that just because you fail to immediately experience a sense of depression and anxiety it does not necessarily mean that you are at less risk of becoming a meth addict.
- The person substitutes their food with methamphetamine making them replace most of the daily meals with it. This leads to severe weight loss and poor health.
- The person believes that he or she can control their drug use. Thus, they will be angered or irritated when you express that they are exhibiting signs of addiction.
- The person uses meth when alone or anytime during the course of the day. He or she is likely to go about their daily responsibilities when high.
- The person tends to hide their drug use behaviors because they do not want their loved ones to restrict their consumption.
- The person uses meth to build confidence or relax when faced with a foreign environment or event. Methamphetamine is their remedy for everything.
- The person may be or have faced in the future some legal issues because of meth. This includes getting a DUI, causing injuries to others or aggressive behavior.
- The person is regularly late or misses work and appointments. This includes missing classes and family events because of excessive use of meth causing sleeping blackouts.
- They are normally defensive about their drug habits making them get irritated whenever it becomes a topic of conversation. This could be the case regardless of if the conversation is favoring them or not.
- The person can deny adamantly about having a drug problem when asked about their indulging habits. High functioning meth heads usually believe that they do not have a drug problem since they are capable of functioning properly in society for short periods.
- The person usually experiences sleep blackouts during which he or she cannot remember specific events that occurred and they seem to lose chunks of time. This is the case regardless of not seeming high at the time or demonstrating a high tolerance.
- They never want to leave any other drug behind after a meth-use spree. This makes them indulge in alcohol consumption among other drugs when they wake up.
- The person usually wants to keep using meth even when not everyone else wants to.