What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or meth, is a very potent central nervous system psychostimulant. It produces feelings of euphoria, along with increased energy, alertness, and attention.
Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Food and Drug Administration’s Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, and their use may lead to severe physical or psychological dependence or addiction. Substances in this classification have some medically accepted value and in some cases, are used for medical purposes.
Medical methamphetamine, called Desoxyn, is used in rare cases to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and severe obesity. When medical methamphetamine is prescribed, the doses are much lower than the doses people take of the illegal street version.
Illegal or Street Methamphetamine
Illegal meth is often produced in makeshift laboratories or smuggled into the country. This addictive and powerful stimulant comes in many different forms, such as pills, liquid, powder, and a crystal form known as crystal meth. It can look like a pill, white powder, shiny blue-ish rocks, or pieces of glass. Crystal meth, called rock, is the most potent form of the drug. Meth can be chewed, smoked, snorted, or injected.
Batu, Black Beauties, Crank, Tweak, Uppers, Crystal, Glass, Ice, Poor Man’s Cocaine, and Speed are some of the dozens of street names for methamphetamine.
How Does Meth Work?
When a person uses methamphetamine, the high they experience occurs because the drug rapidly releases high levels of the natural chemical dopamine in their brain. The drug affects the brain’s motivation, decision-making center, and reward system. The amount of dopamine released by meth is more than ten times the amount released by any pleasurable activity. It is this rapid release of high dopamine levels that strongly reinforces the drug-using behavior. It causes the person to want to have the experience over and over again. In addition to changing how the brain works, methamphetamine also speeds up the body’s cardiac and respiratory systems to dangerous and sometimes fatal levels.
Because of the psychoactive properties of meth, such as the extreme sense of happiness and false confidence it inspires, those who use the drug develop dependence quickly. Some people can become addicted after just one or two uses.
Tolerance also develops quickly, meaning that the person must take more and more of the drug to achieve the high they desire. Methamphetamine addiction is a vicious cycle. When the high is over, the user feels very depressed because their dopamine supply is depleted. This drives them to seek another high with another dose of meth. Over time, people addicted to meth develop anhedonia. They are not able to experience pleasure from everyday, simple things.
When a person stops using meth, their body experiences withdrawal as it adjusts to the drug not being present. Withdrawal symptoms are physical and psychological. Meth withdrawal symptoms and their severity can vary from one person to another depending on the amount of meth used, length and frequency of use, method of use, and whether other substances were involved.
Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline
According to VeryWellMind, research shows that withdrawal from methamphetamines consists of two phases. Phase one, the first week or so after the person’s last use, has the most intense withdrawal symptoms, especially in the first 24 hours. Phase two is the “subacute” phase with less intense symptoms lasting for two to three additional weeks.
In some cases of meth withdrawal, users experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), with some psychological withdrawal symptoms lasting for months.
The person withdrawing from meth may have headaches, muscle spasms, and pain. Their mouth may be dry, and their eyes red and itchy. They may experience insomnia, exhaustion, and fatigue. Feelings of agitation, irritability, anxiety, sadness, depression, and apathy typically occur. The individual may have cognitive and motor impairments, difficulty concentrating, and be disoriented. They may have a loss of energy and motivation, decreased sexual pleasure, and changes in appetite.
If You Need Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. You are not alone. Call and speak to a caring professional at Anabranch Recovery Center, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey to a sober life.