Methamphetamine FAQs

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant with effects similar in nature to cocaine (although much longer lasting). It is available as a powder or, in smokeable form, as a crystal or glass like substance.

How Is Methamphetamine Used?

Methamphetamine can be:

  • Snorted
  • Ingested
  • Smoked
  • Injected

The route of administration affects the intensity and duration of the high. Smoking and injecting produce an almost immediate high and a “rush”; while snorting meth results in a high a few minutes later and ingesting (swallowing) the drug results in intoxication about 20 minutes later. Meth is most commonly smoked.

Is Methamphetamine Addictive?

Meth is a very addictive drug. Some addiction professionals consider methamphetamine to be the most difficult drug to quit using.

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How Many Americans Use Meth?

Based on information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.3% of Americans aged 12 and older reported trying methamphetamine at least once. In 2007 (the last year survey results are available) 1.3 million Americans used meth at least once. In 2007, 157 000 Americans tried the drug for the first time.

What Are The Short Term Risks of Meth Use?

People take methamphetamine to feel powerfully euphoric and alert. Meth causes an increased release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain and also blocks the reuptake of this chemical. This results in a temporary overabundance of a substance (dopamine) responsible for much of the pleasure we feel in life – created artificially.

But in addition to the sought after effects of euphoria, alertness and energy, the acute use of methamphetamine can have negative health consequences, such as:

  • Cardiac effects, including a dangerously elevated or irregular heart rate and very high blood pressure (meth can cause heart failure, even in acute situations)
  • A very high internal body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Convulsions (can be fatal)
  • Brain cell toxicity (brain cell death)

People high on meth demonstrate impaired judgment and are at greater risk of potentially hazardous sexual activity and other high risk behaviors. The possession and consumption of meth remains illegal and meth users also risk criminal sanctions.

The occasional use of meth can kill you or get you in a lot of trouble, but the real devastation of the drug is seen when evaluating the health and wellbeing of chronic users.

What Are the Long Term Health Consequences of Methamphetamine Use?

The regular chronic use of methamphetamine destroys the body and mind faster than just about any other drug of abuse. Some of the many long term health consequences of meth abuse/meth addiction include:

  • Emotional problems – an inability to feel any pleasure without meth use, the result of a damaged dopamine system in the brain
  • Malnutrition and the health deficits associated with a history of insufficient vitamin and mineral intake
  • Meth mouth
  • A greatly elevated risk of stroke
  • Motor activity problems
  • An increase in aggressive behavior
  • A decrease in cognitive functioning, including memory problems and verbal learning deficits
  • An increased risk of HIV
  • IV meth users are at an increased risk of skin infections and endocarditis

Meth users damage areas of the brain that regulate dopamine – areas essential to mood, memory, motor activity and cognitive function. Studies show that once damaged by meth, some of these areas/functions do recover, in time (time measured in years, not months) while other areas/functions seem irreversible damaged.

Users recovering from a meth addiction find this slow pace of improvement very frustrating and this contributes greatly to the risks of meth relapse.

What Is “Meth Mouth”?

Chronic methamphetamine use causes extreme dental damage; a condition commonly known as meth mouth. Meth use damages the teeth in a number of ways, such as:

  • It reduces the amount of dental-protective saliva in the mouth
  • Meth is an acidic substance that erodes tooth enamel
  • Meth users often grind their teeth together while high
  • Users on meth binges aren’t likely brushing and flossing with regularity

Teeth damaged by methamphetamine can look blackened or discolored. Meth users often complain that their teeth literally crumble away.

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

What Are The Withdrawal Symptoms of Methamphetamine?

Regular users who suddenly stop taking methamphetamine will experience withdrawal symptoms. Meth withdrawal symptoms begin about a day after last use and last with severity for between 7 and 10 days, and last with gradually subsiding intensity for a further 2 weeks or so.

The primary symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal are:

  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Hunger
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings

Meth Addiction Treatment

Methamphetamine addiction is tough to overcome. A long meth habit leaves a person ill-prepared to withstand the enduring symptoms of withdrawal, such as depressive symptoms and anxiety. Meth damages the brain, and although memory, concentration and cognitive abilities do improve in time, the risk of relapse is high during those initial months filled with strong drug cravings, when you’re feeling down and you’re not at your best, mentally, to resist.

Most people need meth addiction treatment to really break free from the people and places that prompt excessive temptation and to learn strategies that work to minimize the odds of relapse. Meth addiction is tough, but with treatment, manageable.

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