Crystal Meth Addiction

In a recent survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) it was reported that at least 1.2 million Americans aged 12 year or older had abused methamphetamine in the year prior to the date of the survey.  Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that creates an immediate euphoria, but also has severe negative health effects for those who use it.

Methamphetamine can appear as a white, odorless power with a bitter taste; however, it is also available in rock form. In this state, it is referred to as “crystal meth.”  While the powder is either inhaled (snorted) or injected after being treated, crystal meth is heated until it releases a vapor that is smoked.

How Crystal Meth Works on the Human Brain

When a person uses methamphetamine, the drug will invade specific areas of the brain where the hormones dopamine and norepinephrine are stored.  Both of these hormones control the level of pleasure an individual will feel in any given moment.  Crystal meth will enter vessels of the brain that contain dopamine and norepinephrine and cause them to be released.  This immediately gives the user a sense of euphoria and pleasure in excessive amounts.

Enzymes are generally present to control the amount of pleasure or pain an individual experiences in accordance with specific circumstances.  Crystal meth will also block these enzymes from doing their job, essentially creating an atmosphere of pure, albeit, artificial pleasure.

The Immediate Effects of Use

Methamphetamine begins the addiction process from the very first instance of abuse.  Once methamphetamine has been introduced to the brain, the ability of the brain to operate normally has been greatly reduced.  The synapses of the brain will not function properly and the user will be immediately compelled to use more of the drug.

Short-Term Risks of Addiction

Besides the risk of nearly immediate addiction, crystal meth can cause several physical changes in the body, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle spasms
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Crystal meth can cause the blood vessels in the body to become too narrow for the blood supply.  This causes the heart to beat erratically and can cause a condition called fibrillation.  If the condition is severe enough, this can lead to cardiac arrest.

Long-Term Risks of Addiction

The long-term effects of crystal meth addiction can be physical, financial and psychological.  Not only is the individual risking severe medical conditions and diseases like rotted teeth or lung cancer, the individual may suffer from:

  • Violent behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Formication (the continuous feeling of bugs crawling over the flesh)
  • Paranoia resulting in homicidal or suicidal thought patterns
  • Decreased sexual function (especially in men)

In some individuals, crystal meth increases the desire for sexual activity which greatly increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV or AIDS.

Signs of an Addiction to Crystal Meth

Drug addiction is a chronic brain disease that is marked by several specific characteristics.  When an individual suffers from addiction, he or she will suffer from obvious changes in their behavior, including:

  • A compulsive need to use a drug despite harmful effects to family, work obligations or school
  • A need for more drugs to obtain the same effects due to the development of tolerance to a given substance
  • The inability to stop using a drug once use has begun during a drug use session
  • Constant cravings and desire to use the drug

Crystal meth addiction can affect anyone at any time.  It is used by professionals as well as homemakers, teens and adults.  This devastating addiction should be addressed as quickly as possible to ensure the addict has the greatest chance at living a full, happy life.


The Rapid Rise of Meth Consumption

Meth abuse has increased during the last 20 years, in spite of all the dangers associated with the drug. According to info compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the percentage of treatment admissions for meth abuse jumped from 4 to 9 percent between 1995 and 2005. Of the 1.8 million admissions accounted for in the 2005 figure, meth was the primary drug of choice for 169,500 addicts and the secondary drug for an additional 80,000 users.

Reasons People Use Meth

As with many drugs, meth can initially bring about desired feelings. Some users are drawn to meth for the following effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Heightened libido
  • Weight loss

Women with body issues are sometimes drawn to meth because of its effects as a weight reducer and appetite suppressant. Addiction takes hold as the weight-reducing effects are stalled through prolonged use and bodily tolerance. The drug has also been popular as a sexual enhancer within certain high-risk lifestyles, in which many users will mix meth with other drugs in advance of intercourse. Scenarios in that last category are especially risky, because common sense regarding sexual practices is often clouded when under the influence of meth and other hard drugs.

Physical Dangers of Meth Consumption

Prolonged meth abuse can lead to numerous forms of mental and physical damage, from convulsions and hypertension to memory loss and liver damage. Nonetheless, the drug continues to attract many first-time users. In a 2004 national survey conducted by SAMHSA, percentages of meth use amongst teenagers was highest in the following states:

  • South Dakota: 2.4 percent
  • Montana: 2.3 percent
  • North Dakota: 1.7 percent
  • Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming: tied at 1.6 percent

In addition to the numerous psychological and health risks attributed to meth, the drug can also have grave consequences on a user’s physical appearance. Photos compiled by the Meth Project Foundation reveal many sad stories of users who have suffered severe facial scars and deformities after various periods of consumption. The effects of meth are obviously not pretty, in spite of the aesthetic and sexual promises that lure certain people into using the drug.

Further Reading