Signs of Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) Abuse
Methamphetamine is a class of drugs that can increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore they are classified as sympathomimetic drugs. They can increase the mental and the physical performance of the user. Its physiological effects are similar to emotionally aroused people: increased respiration rate and perspiration, higher blood pressure and body temperature, increased blood flow to the extremities, and dilation of the pupils.
Methamphetamines are absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed rapidly. Their chemical structure is similar to that of the neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. As they have a similar structure, they have the ability to stimulate the same receptor sites for these neurotransmitters. Another scientific explanation for their stimulating action is that they can send the norepinephrine and dopamine back to their presynaptic sites by blocking their uptake. Theoretically, by stimulating the norepinephrine receptors, the amphetamines make the user feel more alert. Stimulating the dopamine receptors, the user becomes euphoric and more active.
The methamphetamines are removed from the bloodstream in two ways. First, they can be excreted through urine after being transformed by liver’s enzymes. The second way in which the amphetamines are removed from the user’s bloodstream is when they are “deactivated” and removed by different imuno-molecules.
Methamphetamines are especially harmful to the cardiovascular system and can cause cardiac arrest. Recent evidence indicates that methamphetamine use increases the risk of a stroke.
Small amounts of methamphetamines can increase breathing and heart rates, cause heart palpitations, and provoke anxiety or nervousness. Higher doses can make these effects more intense. Headaches, dizziness and a rapid or irregular heartbeat can occur. Some users become hostile and aggressive.
Using methamphetamines over an extended period of time can cause some health problems. With increased doses, users may become talkative, restless, and excited and may feel a sense of power and superiority. With prolonged use, the short-term effects are exaggerated. Because amphetamine suppresses appetite, chronic heavy users fail to eat adequately and thus develop various illnesses related to vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. They may also be more prone to illness because they are run down, lack sleep, and live in an unhealthy environment.
Chronic heavy users may also develop a drug-induced psychosis, a mental disturbance that is very similar to paranoid schizophrenia. The condition is an exaggeration of the short-term effects of high doses. Symptoms include hearing voices and paranoia— delusions that other people are threatening or persecuting the person. Heavy users may be prone to sudden, violent, and irrational acts.
Dangers of Meth Abuse
Methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Tolerance develops quickly, and users may become psychologically and physically addicted within a short period.
The drug tolerance is a pharmacological concept that describes the subjects’ reduced reaction to a drug following its repeated use. Increased dosages may amplify the drug’s effects. However, this may accelerate tolerance and decrease the drug’s effects in the long term. The tolerance is a critical factor in developing a drug addiction.Tolerance is a reversible process, and the rate of tolerance depends on the particularities of the drugs used, dosage and the frequency of use.
The reason methamphetamine is highly addictive is because a significant amount of dopamine remains in the brain cells synapses for extended periods of time after use. The dopamine keeps the cells “activated”, allowing the user to experience the powerful feelings of euphoria.
After a while, the user is unable to produce dopamine naturally and requires the drug to feel normal, needing larger doses to experience feelings of pleasure.
When the user begins to develop a tolerance for the drug, higher and higher doses are required to achieve the “high”. In these situations, we can talk about dangers of abuse.
There is no doubt that methamphetamine’s dangerous effects can contribute to fatal outcomes. Among these deadly factors, we may include:
• Increased body temperature
• Increased blood pressure
• Increased heart rate
• Irregular heart beats
• Heart attack
• Cerebral hemorrhage
• Breathing problems
• Sudden death
The psychological dependence affects the behavior of the user. The individual has a particular mental state that is characterized by an imperious wish of using the drug in order to obtain the drug’s effects.
The psychological effects of methamphetamine include euphoria, dysphoria, changes in libido, alertness, apprehension and concentration, decreased sense of fatigue, insomnia or wakefulness, self-confidence, sociability, irritability, restlessness, grandiosity and repetitive and obsessive behaviors. Methamphetamine use also has a high association with anxiety, depression, amphetamine psychosis, suicide, and violent behaviors.
Physical dependence occurs when methamphetamine addicts develop pathological organic needs of using the substance in order to avoid the disorders that may appear as soon as the individual stops administering the drug. This type of dependence is very common among the methamphetamine users.
The physical effects of methamphetamine can include loss of appetite, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, flushed skin, excessive sweating, increased movement, dry mouth and teeth grinding (leading to “meth mouth”), headache, irregular heartbeat (usually as accelerated heartbeat or slowed heartbeat), rapid breathing, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, high body temperature, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, dizziness, twitching, numbness, tremors, dry skin, acne, and pale appearance. Methamphetamine that is present in a mother’s bloodstream can pass through the placenta to a fetus and can also be secreted into breast milk. Infants born to methamphetamine-abusing mothers were found to have a significantly smaller gestational age-adjusted head circumference and birth weight measurements. Methamphetamine exposure was also associated with neonatal withdrawal symptoms of agitation, vomiting and fast breathing.
Recognizing a Methamphetamine Addiction
Recognizing a methamphetamine addiction can be tough even for the physicians.
Before getting help from addiction help specialist, it is crucial for the user to recognize and admit the fact that he might have an addiction problem.
The addiction is usually recognized by its consequences on the human body. Among these, we may include:
1. Decreased sexual desire: In the previous section of this drug we mentioned that the short-term effects of methamphetamine use include an increase in the libido. The effects are different when discussing the long-term use. After the user develops an addiction to this drug due to chronic consumption, they experience a decreased sexual desire and develop physical disorders like erectile dysfunction in males.
2. Increased risk of developing sexually transmitted and bloodborne diseases: Some statistics show that methamphetamine users are more likely to develop sexually transmitted diseases due to lowered inhibitions. That often means having unprotected sex with strangers. If they engage in risky sexual behaviors or if they use needles to inject the substance, they run the risk of developing diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases.
3. Affected physical appearance: As a direct result of using the drug, methamphetamine users have a terrible physical appearance. Methamphetamine use slowly destroys body’s structures and impedes its ability to heal.
• Skin: Methamphetamine cause hallucinations. They often get the users to a point where they think that bugs are crawling under their skin. Most of them try to get them out of their body by scratching the skin. The scratching often causes chronic abscesses and lesions of the user’s skin.
• Tooth decay: Methamphetamine is a very corrosive power. It damages everything it touches. Most of the chronic abusers experience significant tooth decay and loss. Tooth decay is very common among the users that smoke the drug. Even if the user is not smoking the methamphetamine, they still have significant oral health problems because of their notoriously poor diets and hygiene.
• Weight loss: Even though methamphetamine can speed up the user’s body metabolism and reduce hunger. Health professionals do not recommend meth as a solution for overweight people due to its potential of developing a dangerous addiction.
4. Insomnia: Long-term use of methamphetamine may alter the user’s ability to have healthy sleep habits.
5. Mental impairment: Chronic Methamphetamine use can easily cause confusion, anxiety and psychotic symptoms such as delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.
6. Increased risk of developing a heart disease: Usually, methamphetamine users experience cardiac problems such as irregular heartbeats, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and heart attacks. The problem is that the cardiac risk is not even associated with the duration of methamphetamine use. Sudden cardiac death is a risk even for the persons that use the drug for the first time.
Signs of a Methamphetamine Overdose
Individuals who abuse methamphetamine commonly experience a sense of euphoria. The euphoric state is accompanied by increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as the widening of the pupils. However, when taking large amounts of meth, complications can occur, and they can be extremely serious and result in permanent damage or death. Methamphetamine overdose can result in:
• Convulsions which may lead to death if not treated immediately
• Hyperthermia (a rise in body temperature)
• High blood pressure
• Chest pain
• Irregular and rapid heartbeat
• Heart attack
• Difficulty breathing
• Kidney damage and possibly kidney failure
• Permanent, stroke-producing damage to small blood vessels in the brain
• Severe stomach pain