Methamphetamine Effects on the Body

woman struggling from meth addiction sitting uncomfortably

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (or “meth” for short) was discovered in 1893. During World War II, combatants on both sides of the Atlantic used methamphetamine to stay alert (1). Methamphetamine belongs to a class of drugs called amphetamines. They work by speeding up the functions of the brain. As prescribed by a doctor, amphetamines can be used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Some research also indicates that therapeutic doses of amphetamine can improve focus, concentration, and memory (2). Methamphetamine may resemble shards of glass or crystal. For this reason, it may be referred to as “crystal,” “glass,” or “ice” on the street. Other names for it include “tweak,” “speed,” and “tina.” Meth can be consumed by smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting.

How Does Meth Affect The Brain?

Meth is a stimulant. It mainly affects the brain’s central nervous system (CNS). This part of the brain that assists in regulating our emotions and behavior. The nerves in this part of your brain are called neurons. As a stimulant, meth makes the natural processes of the neurons work faster. When consuming meth, you experience a heightened sense of energy. Your heart rate increases and your breath quickens. Your blood pressure and body temperature escalate. Your appetite will be suppressed so you won’t feel hungry. Meth also deteriorates the glial cells of the prefrontal cortex. These cells are responsible for judgment, abstract thought, and attention (3). Glial cells are likewise responsible for protecting the body against infection.

Effects of Prolonged Use

Methamphetamine is inexpensive to produce, and it is also incredibly potent. As a result, it is highly addictive. Since its production involves toxic chemicals, making meth can be just as dangerous (if not more so) than consuming it. Labs are known to combust, killing or injuring those nearby. Prolonged use of meth can lead to severe weight loss and malnourishment, memory loss, and repetitive scratching. You are likely also familiar with “meth mouth” via images of users with rotten teeth and gums. Those who inject methamphetamine put themselves at risk for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. Living with a constant elevated sense of awareness leads users into paranoia. Combined with a lack of sleep (often for days at a time), hallucinations result. Meth’s hold on the brain is so strong, that users can even experience psychosis during withdrawal or detox. Symptoms of meth psychosis can include stronger hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and violence (4). Between 2011 and 2018, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths increased five-fold (5).

Is Recovery Possible?

Definitely! Recovery is always possible, even from a substance as noxious as methamphetamine. A recent study (6) indicated that a combination of an oral medication (bupropion) and an injection (naltrexone) might aid in treating meth addiction. At present, there are no medication-assisted therapies for recovery. That makes this study a first of its kind. Current treatments for meth addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational incentives (7).

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to methamphetamine, take heart. Treatment is available, and recovery is possible. Call Midwood Addiction Treatment now at 888-628-1110.


Sources

(1) https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-meth
(2) https://rdw.rowan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1056&context=som_facpub
(3) https://americanaddictioncenters.org/meth-treatment/effects-on-the-brain-and-cns
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027896/
(5) https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/01/methamphetamine-overdose-deaths-rise-sharply-nationwide
(6) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2020214
(7) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

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