Meth addiction is a growing problem. Currently, most of the methamphetamine in the United States is produced by transactional criminal organizations (TCOs) in Mexico. This methamphetamine is highly pure, potent, and low in price.
Methamphetamine or meth is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Other common names for methamphetamine include blue, crystal, ice, meth, and speed.
The drug can be easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications. To curb this kind of production, the law requires pharmacies and other retail stores to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine, and take steps to limit sales.
Methamphetamine production involves a number of other very dangerous chemicals. Toxic effects from these chemicals can remain in the environment long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area. These chemicals can also result in deadly lab explosions and house fires.
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Meth is typically "cooked" or produced in makeshift home laboratories located in abandoned or rural areas. Makers of illicit meth synthesize the drug by isolating the elements of highly reactive products.
The ingredients for meth are cheap and easily obtainable from any local drug store; the products range from lithium batteries to drain cleaner and the end product may contain as many as 32 different chemicals. Cooking meth produces toxic, flammable fumes and may result in chemical explosions. Houses used as meth labs are often inhospitable afterwards, due to the poisonous chemicals that are released when meth is made.
Meth labs are an environmental hazard; the byproducts of cooking meth contaminate their surroundings with harmful fumes that could combust at any time. Many people that cook meth suffer from severe health problems, including asthma, insomnia, tremor, and delusions. Even living in a residence that was once a former meth lab can be detrimental to an individual's health, as residual chemicals can remain on surfaces in the home for months to years after.
Cream is a slang term for methamphetamine. In recent years, cream has been available in powdered form and flavors mimicking ones found in ice cream, such as chocolate and strawberry to market it to teens.
Having a cream addiction is very dangerous. The powerful chemical has both life-threatening short and long-term side effects, including noticeable physical ones, and fatal overdoses.
Notably, cream is popular for its increased energy production and intense feelings of euphoria, confidence, and excitement. These feelings of energy and joy last anywhere between 6 to 8 hours and over 20 hours.
Using cream has both mental and emotional side effects that are easily recognizable. Behaviorally, people can expect to experience high amounts of energy. Because of the strong feelings of euphoria that the drug produces, and its highly addictive chemical reactions caused in the brain, people may behave irrationally.
Long-term side effects can range from depression, to memory loss, to psychosis and poor brain function. In addition to these dangers in cream addiction, these traits will also depend on how much cream is taken, or the frequency of chemical consumed. Lastly if the individual consumes cream with alcohol or another substance, he or she can expect to experience different side effects, and possibly increase the rate of having a fatal overdose.
Methamphetamine addiction can start to take over a person's life in a very short period of time. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), an individual can be clinically diagnosed as having a meth use disorder if he or she meets more than two of any of the following criteria within a 12-month period:
If two or three of the criteria are met, the meth abuse disorder is considered mild. Four or five is considered moderate, and six or more is considered severe.
Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug's ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include:
People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids that can remain on drug equipment. Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection.
Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don't use the drug. Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.
Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences, including:
In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain's dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory. This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems seen in those who use methamphetamine.
Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of time. A recent study even suggests that people who once used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.
Are there health effects from exposure to secondhand methamphetamine smoke?
Researchers don't yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects. What they do know is that people can test positive for methamphetamine after exposure to secondhand smoke. More research is needed in this area.
The serious health risks of using meth are widely known, yet many people still experiment with the drug. The euphoric rush that causes so many to use methamphetamine is caused by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Meth is more dangerous than other stimulants because a larger percentage of the drug remains unchanged in the body and stays present in the brain longer. The drug is toxic to nerve terminals in the brain and meth can destroy the brain cell synapses where dopamine is released, causing mood disturbances and dependence on the drug.
Prolonged meth use changes the brain chemistry of users, destroying the wiring in the brain's pleasure center, and makes it increasingly difficult to experience any sort of pleasure without the drug. In addition to behavioral changes, chronic meth use can also cause irreversible damage to bodily systems and blood vessels in the brain, which can result in a stroke.
The extreme psychological and physical toll that meth takes on the body makes it one of the most dangerous drugs on the market. Meth deeply affects both an user's brain and body, and these symptoms and warning signs are visible in a variety of ways.
One of the first symptoms of meth abuse is a sudden loss of interest in areas of life that were once important to the person. Hobbies, relationships, and career goals will all begin to take a back seat to getting and using meth.
Initially, many people will attempt to hide their drug use, but the longer someone uses meth, the more prominent it becomes in their lives. Methamphetamine chemically alters how an user thinks and feels, which can make what was once a recreational drug activity a major life priority.
People abusing or addicted to meth will exhibit a variety of behavioral and physical symptoms. Some of the most common signs of meth use include:
Another telling symptom of meth use is "tweaking" - a period of anxiety and insomnia that can last for 3 to 15 days. Tweaking occurs at the end of a drug binge when a person using meth can't achieve a rush or high any longer. Tweaking can cause psychological side effects, such as paranoia, irritability, and confusion due to the desperation to use again. Tweaking from meth can also cause people to experience hallucinations and become prone to violent behavior.
Another sign that someone is using meth is the crash phase. During this period, the body is deprived of the dopamine that meth was previously supplying and causes extreme exhaustion. A crash can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days and is characterized by long periods of sleep, intense drug cravings, and depression.
While research is underway, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction. The good news is that methamphetamine misuse can be prevented and addiction to the drug can be treated with behavioral therapies. The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies, such as:
a) Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations likely to trigger drug use.
b) Motivational incentives, which uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free
Research also continues toward development of medicines and other new treatments for methamphetamine use, including vaccines, and noninvasive stimulation of the brain using magnetic fields. People can and do recover from methamphetamine addiction if they have ready access to effective treatments that address the multitude of medical and personal problems resulting from long-term use.
Although there are no current medications used to treat cream abuse, patients in a facility can be treated for mental or emotional conditions as a result of cream addiction. For example, Bupropion is used to treat ADHD, but also works to reduce cream cravings. Antidepressants are useful in treating depression that can emerge as a result of cream withdrawal symptoms.
Meth is a dangerous and highly addictive drug. If someone you know is exhibiting signs of meth abuse, it's essential that you communicate the importance of getting professional help. Inpatient rehabs, therapy, and support groups can all help individuals struggling with a methamphetamine addiction achieve and maintain sobriety. If you're ready to take that first step towards overcoming meth addiction, contact a treatment provider today to find the best rehabilitation center for your needs.