The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 24.7 million abusers of amphetamine-type stimulants. This includes the drug known as methamphetamine.
In 2008 the US government reported 13 million Americans over the age of 12 have used meth with 529,000 of those as regular users. The problem isn’t getting any better–it’s getting worse.
Meth addiction is no joke. It’s one of the most addictive substances in the United Staes. It can ruin your teeth, make you age quickly, destroy your life, and even kill you.
Whether you’re a meth abuser, or you know someone who is, it’s time to get help. Keep reading to learn the symptoms, facts, and signs of meth use.
Facts About Meth Addiction
For those who don’t know, there’s a difference between meth and crystal meth. Methamphetamine is a man-made drug derived from the chemicals n-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine.
It’s a stimulant that’s similar to amphetamine and is highly addictive. Meth affects your central nervous system. Some of its street names are chalk, Tina, gak, and cranks.
Meth usually looks like a crystalline white powder but can be other colors like pink, yellow-gray, and brown. The powder tastes bitter, can dissolve in water easily, and doesn’t smell like anything.
Crystal meth, on the other hand, is a form of methamphetamine. It looks like small shards of glass or shiny blue-white rocks. Crystal meth is often referred to as glass, ice, and crystal. This form of meth is also highly addictive.
How Meth Works
You can snort, smoke, inject or take meth orally. In all forms, it will powerfully affect your central nervous system.
Both forms can cause addiction in only a few weeks. Most meth addicts are between the ages of 15 and 40, and they often abuse meth along with other drugs.
Once the drug has been taken, it begins to suppress your appetite while increasing your energy levels. If injected, snorted or smoked, you’ll begin to feel euphoric immediately.
When meth is taken orally, it takes between 15 to 20 minutes for the drug to take effect. But the faster the drug is absorbed, the more powerful it is, and the greater the risk of addiction becomes.
The History of Meth
Methamphetamine was developed by Japanese scientist Nagayoshi Nagai in 1893. It was used in World War II by England, America, Germany, and Japan to boost endurance and fight off fatigue.
After the war, pharmaceutical companies used meth to make a profit and created an over-the-counter pill to give to the public. As a result, the first meth epidemic began and spread starting in Japan until it made its way over to the US West Coast in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of amphetamines as Schedule II drugs. In 1996, Congress passed the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act which regulated mail order and chemical companies that sold the chemicals used in meth.
How Meth is Made
Meth is made from over-the-counter medicines and chemicals we commonly use at home. That’s one of the reasons for the high addiction rates – it’s easy to make.
Here is a list of common meth ingredients:
- Anhydrous Ammonia
- Hydrochloric Acid
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Red Phosphorous
- Sulfuric Acid
Many of these ingredients are found in things we all have in our home. Acetone is found in nail polish remover. Anhydrous Ammonia is found in cleaners and fertilizer.
Hydrochloric acid is used to make plastic. Lithium is found in batteries. Some diet pills and cold medicines contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
Toluene is found in brake fluid and it’s so corrosive it can actually dissolve rubber. Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye and it’s commonly used to dissolve roadkill. It can cause blindness.
Red phosphorus is found on matchboxes and explosives. It’s extremely flammable. And sulfuric acid is found in drain and toilet cleaners. It can burn your skin if you come into direct contact with it.
All of these items are extremely dangerous on their own. But when you begin mixing them together, they become highly lethal.
Cooking meth is just as dangerous as using it. Get out immediately if you find you’re in a meth lab, as there is the potential for the entire place to explode.
Causes of Meth
There are several reasons why people become addicted to meth. Doctors believe the following factors contribute to a high rate of addiction.
It’s partly biological. Meth causes the brain to deteriorate. Suddenly, it becomes difficult to naturally feel pleasure. In an attempt to regain their euphoric feelings, users begin abusing the drug.
Genetics also play a role in addiction. If you have family members who struggle with addictions, such as siblings or parents, it’s more likely for you to develop an addiction as well.
Even the environment is a factor. Those who grow up in a home with abuse and addiction are more likely to abuse drugs to cope with their emotions.
And last, but not least, addiction is psychological. It’s not uncommon for those who abuse drugs to also struggle with untreated or undiagnosed mental illnesses. Some even turn to illegal substances to help them self-medicate to “treat” the illness.
Risks of Meth
There are some scary risks that are known symptoms of meth use. Anxiety, insomnia, and depression are common risk factors.
And as if those weren’t bad enough, it’s also not uncommon to experience psychotic symptoms such as violent behavior. These symptoms can also last even after someone has stopped using the drug.
Meth severely changes the way your brain functions. It increases the release of dopamine, a chemical found in your brain that makes you feel good. But at the same time, the meth blocks the brain from absorbing that dopamine.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to notice reduced motor skills and impaired verbal skills in people who have abused or are currently abusing methamphetamine.
Meth Symptoms That Drastically Change Your Appearance
There are other symptoms of meth use as well. It causes problems with your cardiovascular system. It can literally cause you to age within only a few months.
You can lose most of your teeth, which is commonly known as “meth mouth”. Convulsions are also common.
Meth also increases your libido, and not necessarily for the better. It’s not uncommon to find meth users infected with HIV or hepatitis due to increased risky sexual activity.
Like cocaine and speed, even small amounts can cause your heartbeat to rapidly increase or become irregular. Your blood pressure can rise along with your body temperature.
And in high doses, death from a stroke, heart attack, or organ failure can happen due to overheating.
Signs of Meth Use
It’s helpful to recognize the signs of someone abusing meth. Obviously, if you see someone’s appearance rapidly changing for the worse, it’s a sign that something is very wrong.
However, other signs include being very awake or physically active. Their appetite has likely decreased as well. You also might notice someone breathing faster than normal or their body temperature becoming higher than normal.
Tweaking is another way you might recognize that someone is abusing meth. Tweaking occurs at the end of a drug binge when the abuser can no longer feel a high or rush when consuming the drug.
The abuser is desperately trying to achieve the same euphoric high as they used to get, but can’t. As a result, they’re left with intense cravings and often feel desperate.
You may notice someone who is tweaking because they are picking at their skin or hair. That happens because the abuser now feels as though bugs are crawling under their skin.
They may stay awake for days or weeks which will cause them to end up in a psychotic state. Hallucinations are not uncommon. So is a disconnect from reality.
Be careful, as they are likely to harm themselves or others while they’re tweaking. You may notice dilated pupils, rapid eye movements, talking constantly, jerky movements, or unusual outbursts or mood swings.
Going Through Meth Withdrawal
It’s not easy to get someone to admit they have a problem. Often, it’s harder on the observer than it is on the person taking the drugs.
And when you or someone you love decides to stop using methamphetamine, it’s not an easy process, nor is it pleasant. But it is necessary.
Luckily, it’s not one of the more dangerous drugs to detox from. But that doesn’t mean someone should try to attempt stopping on their own.
To ensure you stay safe and are successful in detoxing, you should always detox in a proper rehab center where you’ll be carefully watched over by trained medical professionals.
Signs of a Meth Withdrawal
There are quite a few signs of meth withdrawal. Common symptoms include:
- Very deep depression
- Decreased energy
- Increased sleeping
- Night sweats
- Teeth grinding
- Increased appetite often leading to weight gain
- Continued craving for meth
- Suicidal thoughts
It can take up to as much as two years to fully recover from a meth addiction. It’s not uncommon to require medications to help with your recovery.
The more meth you use and the longer you use it for, the harder it is to recover. It will also take longer thanks to the damaging effects on your body.
This is especially true if you’ve caused long-term damage to your brain due to continued use of meth. It can require you to seek out specialized treatment. You’ll also need continuous care over a long period of time in order to manage whatever side effects were caused by the repeated abuse and disruptions to your brain.
This type of assistance will help minimize the possibility of having a relapse. Also, the sooner you stop using, the sooner you can begin to heal.
Levels of Care You Can Choose From
If you’re ready to get help, the first step is to check with your insurance company to see what type of care they’ll cover. This is a vital step.
You don’t want to enter a treatment program only to find out that your insurance company won’t cover the costs. Once you know what your insurance covers, it’s time to figure out what type of rehab is best for you.
Inpatient care is when you enter a rehab treatment facility and stay there. At an inpatient facility, you’ll be treated by medical professionals who are trained to handle meth addictions.
You’ll also receive counseling and you’ll participate in group therapy. It’s a great way to get away from your triggers so you can focus on yourself and getting the help you need and deserve.
Outpatient care is a good option when it’s best for you to be at home. Outpatient care allows you to stay at home surrounded by your friends and family.
You can also continue to work to support yourself and your family while in outpatient treatment. You’ll attend group therapies and address your triggers so you can stay off meth.
If you have a strong addiction, detoxing will play a vitally important part of your process. Detoxing usually takes anywhere from 5-10 days. Most of the time, the length depends on the type of treatment center you choose.
Some detox services involve close monitoring while others do not. Some will utilize medicines to help you detox. Other detox centers focus on alternative ways such as healthy eating and mindfulness to help you heal.
Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Treatment
This type of treatment is a bit like a hybrid of inpatient and outpatient treatment. The patient spends their work week at a treatment center working on healing.
And on the weekends, the patients get to be at home with their families. However, these types of programs often don’t offer the same full range of services as an inpatient treatment center would.
But insurance companies often cover this type of rehab for much longer than they will an inpatient residential treatment. In fact, intensive outpatient treatments with partial hospitalization are becoming more popular with insurance companies.
Get Help Today
Meth addiction destroys your brain, your body, and your life. And it doesn’t affect just you–it affects every person in your life.
There are no happy endings for meth addicts. Only pain, destruction, and in some cases, death.
Do the hardest and smartest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Contact us and ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help. There’s only the shame you feel because you have an addiction.