What Is Crystal Meth?
The abuse of illicit substances claims nearly 200,000 lives every year, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Simply put, methamphetamines are stimulants, as defined by KidsHealth, which may be referred to as speed, crank or meth, and they represent just one of the illegal drugs being abused every day in America. Among them are levomethamphetamine, dextrolevomethamphetamine, and dextromethamphetamine, the latter being the purest form and most often used in crystal meth — also known as glass and ice.
This crystal meth variation has been around since 1989 and is manufactured from ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, often in illegal home-based labs, per the Council on Drug Abuse. As unfortunate as it is, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that 20 percent of households with meth labs are home to children. As of 2012, 440,000 people admitted to using crystal meth in the month prior to being surveyed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and 133,000 used it for the first time in the preceding year.
Crystal meth is popular among partygoers and easily found on the club scene. Medical News Today describes crystal meth as being bluish-white in color and looking similar to rocks or shards of glass. The drug is extremely addictive in nature, known to inflict dependency in some first-time users.Users of crystal methamphetamine experience a rush within 15 to 20 minutes of snorting or swallowing and immediately following injection or smoking of the drug that makes them feel larger than life with a euphoric sense of elation that is addictive in and of itself. Typically, the effects of one use of crystal meth last for six to eight hours, but they can persist for a full day, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
There are concerns that crystal meth could act as a gateway drug to injection drug abuse, with HealthDay reporting on one study that accounted for 395 young persons ages 14 to 26 who were non-injecting crystal meth users. Sixty-four of them injected a drug for the first time, commonly still crystal meth, at a five-year follow-up point.
Symptoms of Addiction
One surefire way to determine if someone is dependent on crystal meth is to take the drug away; those who experience withdrawal symptoms have grown dependent. Psychological addiction is shown via symptoms of extreme shifts in mood, severe insomnia, and intense paranoid and delusional behaviors, according to MedlinePlus. Physical withdrawal symptoms can be inclusive of sickness, hunger and even seizures, according to AllinaHealth.
Psychology Today notes that some addicts fail to stay in recovery due to anhedonia, a condition caused by the loss of dopamine receptors that inhibits the recovered from finding pleasure or enjoyment in things that once made them happy. This leads many down the path to drug use again when they can’t feel joy any other way. Additionally, it can take up to two years of being drug-free for some addicts to have restored dopamine function that is comparable to a non-addict’s levels.
The Consequences of Crystal Meth Abuse
Prolonged use of crystal meth not only destroys the life you’ve built, but your health too. Abuse of this drug can permanently damage your liver, kidneys, and lungs in addition to causing hypertension and injuring blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to stroke and cardiac complications, sometimes resulting in death, per the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. The brain damage suffered by meth addicts is said to be alike to the damage caused by stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. You may also lose nasal tissues if you regularly snort the drug, have breathing problems if you smoke it, and develop abscesses or contract diseases if you inject it. In some cases, users may swallow the drug, use it as a rectal suppository or insert it vaginally. Washington College states that tooth decay, psychosis, depressed mood, and weight loss are all common long-term use side effects as well.
Many people think of crystal meth as being similar to cocaine due to its high effects, but the two are not alike in every way. One serious side effect of crystal meth is that, unlike cocaine, it does not permit brain cells to repackage dopamine; rather, cells react to crystal meth by excreting enzymes that kill off excess dopamine, leading to permanent depletion of healthy dopamine cells over time, per PBS Frontline. Psychology Today defines dopamine as a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s processing of reward and pleasure.
While emergency rooms saw fewer incidences of methamphetamine-related cases for a few years, their reemergence has slowly been on the rise with 102,961 cases in 2011, up from 64,117 in 2009, per the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Of course, fatalities due to the abuse of crystal meth can’t be ignored. Deaths attributed to methamphetamine were last documented in 1998 as reaching almost 500, per In the Know Zone. The University of Arizona states that the most frequent cause of methamphetamine-related death is multiple organ failure stemming from heatstroke.
Users of crystal meth are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors that could result in unintended pregnancy, the contraction of infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV, or legal ramifications for criminal activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported on studies accounting for 86 percent of methamphetamine users who are enrolled in inpatient treatment programs as having HIV.
For many addicts, brief stints in a rehabilitation facility can serve them well in getting back on their feet. It isn’t uncommon for people to enroll themselves for inpatient care for just four weeks, sometimes less if the situation permits. However, these short stays are often for addicts dealing with minor abuse problems that aren’t quite as serious as addiction to a drug like crystal meth. Likewise, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends treatment periods of at least 90 days to ensure efficacy.
Crystal meth addicts require an extensive amount of care. It is best to seek the help of a professional when wanting to detox from this drug. The withdrawal process when coming off crystal meth can be difficult, but it is infrequently life-threatening. Detoxing addicts have been known to become violent and/or suicidal, making supervised detox the way to go. Withdrawal is generally more severe for those who:
- Injected the drug
- Used other drugs in conjunction
- Are in poor health
- Are lacking a support system
A 2012 Reuters article discusses the results of an Australian study that compared three groups of people: 248 who sought rehab-based treatment, 112 who only completed a detox program, and 101 meth users who were not involved in any form of treatment. At a three-month follow-up, only about 15 percent of participants from the detox group and an equal amount from the non-treatment group were successfully abstaining from meth, whereas 48 percent of the rehab participants were in recovery.
However, many who were abstinent at the three-month mark didn’t make it a full year; only 20 percent of the rehab group participants were still abstaining after 12 months and 7 percent from the other two groups combined. Further down the line, only 12 percent from the rehab group were still clean at the three-year mark, compared to 5 percent of the others. Thus, the study did reinforce the belief that lengthier stays at treatment facilities were linked to an increased likelihood of patients entering recovery.
Get on the Path to Wellness Today
Initially, rehab most often begins with a detox period. During the first seven to 10 days of detox, you may experience body aches and a host of psychological symptoms discussed above. After this phase is complete, you might struggle with insomnia and depression, among other things, for weeks or even months on end. During this time, your chance of relapsing is quite high. For this reason, inpatient treatment may be the best course of treatment to keep you from resorting to drugs to feel good again.
At Axis, we know that treatment professionals specializing in the rehabilitation of crystal meth addicts are few and far between, and we’re proud to offer exemplary services for crystal meth addiction. Call us today to hear more about what we can do for you.