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Understanding The Effects Of Meth Use
Methamphetamine, also known as “meth” or “crystal meth,” is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause addiction in as little as one use in some users. This is mainly due to the rush of dopamine that the drug produces. Dopamine is a neurological chemical that’s not only responsible for inducing feelings of pleasure, but also for motivation, memory retention, learning, and reward processing. The rush of dopamine produced by meth is much higher than the natural amount that is produced in the brain, which causes people to continue using the drug in order to keep those heightened pleasurable feelings.
Many individuals who use meth take the drug over a period of several days, staying perpetually high throughout this duration of time. This often ends up in the development of a tolerance; after taking the drug for a prolonged period of a time a person will require higher and higher doses to feel the same effects as before. The stimulant effects, along with the drug’s affordability, can lead people to quickly become addicted.
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Short-Term Effects of Meth Use
Similar to crack cocaine, meth produces a “rush” when smoked or injected; this is caused by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters in the brain. When meth is snorted, it creates a euphoric sensation, but not a rush. The rush from injection produces the strongest effects and can last up to 30 minutes. After the initial rush, people using the drug experience a steady high that can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on the mode of consumption. Injecting meth produces a stronger high than smoking or snorting, but the effects wear off more quickly. Meth users are known to stay up for multiple days in a row due to binge use and the stimulating effects.
In addition to the initial rush, common short-term effects of Methamphetamine include the following physical symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Irregular breathing
- Skin sores
- Tooth decay
- Decreased appetite
- Increased alertness
- Weight loss
Meth use also causes a multitude of psychological effects including:
- Mood swings
- Formication (sensation that insects are crawling on skin)
Long-Term Effects of Meth Use
Long-term Methamphetamine abuse has many negative consequences. For example, habitual meth users are at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases due to impaired judgment and cognition. People who regularly inject the drug may also suffer from collapsed veins and are at a higher risk of contracting blood-borne pathogen diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis due to shared needles. Snorting meth can also damage sinus cavities and nasal passages, which can lead to chronic nosebleeds.
Other physical side effects that can result from long-term use include:
- Respiratory issues
- Liver cancer
- Premature aging
- Kidney failure
- “Meth mouth” (rotting, black teeth)
- Reproductive issues
- Infection (due to skin-picking and poor hygiene)
- High blood pressure
- Sudden cardiac death
The most debilitating effect of long-term meth use, however, is addiction. Prolonged meth use actually changes the brain chemistry of users, destroying the wiring in the brain’s pleasure center, and making it increasingly difficult to experience any sort of pleasure without the drug. The body then develops a tolerance – requiring more and more to experience the same level of effectiveness. Once a tolerance for meth is developed, an individual will experience symptoms of withdrawal when attempting to stop. This is called methamphetamine dependence.
This dependence can then cause other long-term psychological effects such as:
- Memory loss
- Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
- Mood disturbances
Eventually, a person may begin behaving in dangerous or negative ways in order to continue using meth such as engaging in criminal activity. If a person continues to use meth despite negative consequences, they likely have developed an addiction.
People that regularly abuse the drug or are addicted to meth are also more likely to overdose, especially those that take it in high doses or inject it intravenously.
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Symptoms of Meth Overdose
The effects that meth has on the heart and central nervous system can overwhelm the body and lead to seizures, heart attack, stroke, and potentially life-threatening overdose. When meth is mixed with other drugs like alcohol or cocaine, the likelihood of experiencing an adverse reaction is increased.
Symptoms of meth overdose include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Slowed breathing
- High body temperature
If someone exhibits any of the above symptoms, immediately call 911 for professional medical assistance. The odds of surviving a meth overdose depends on how much meth the person used and how quickly they receive help. Once at the hospital, medical personnel will treat the symptoms as they present. This can include gastric lavage (stomach pumping), administration of activated charcoal (absorptive of stomach contents), oxygen support, intravenous fluids, and administering medications to help treat any heart, kidney, muscle, or cognitive impairments.
Find Treatment for Meth Addiction
A meth addiction can be extremely hard to overcome, but know that it is possible. A comprehensive treatment plan consisting of detoxification, counseling, and ongoing support has proven to help meth users break their psychological and physical dependence on the drug once and for all. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction to Methamphetamine, contact a dedicated treatment provider and learn about your potential rehabilitation options today.
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