Facts about Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine(meth) is an extremely addictive stimulant. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, meth addiction is treatable.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can have serious effects on a user’s physical, mental, and social well-being. It is also known as speed, ice, chalk, meth, crank, and crystal. Methamphetamine is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, intranasally (snorting the powder), by needle injection, or by smoking.
Like cocaine, meth creates an intense, immediate high for the user. While the high from cocaine is relatively short-lived, the meth high is much longer lasting, up to six hours.
What Are the Physical Consequences of Using Meth?
Methamphetamine use can cause serious health problems including memory loss, aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, and heart problems. Chronic methamphetamine abuse significantly changes how the brain functions. Long-term methamphetamine abuse has many negative health consequences, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior.
The intoxicating effects of methamphetamine can also alter judgment and inhibition and lead people to engage in unsafe behaviors, including risky sexual behavior. Abusers of meth who inject the drug may share contaminated needles, syringes, and other injection equipment. HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases can be contracted and spread through these behaviors.
How Does Meth Use Affect a Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorder?
Chronic methamphetamine abusers can display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin). These characteristics can make it difficult to distinguish between a substance use disorder and a mental illness.
Source: NIDA InfoFacts
How Does Meth Use Affect the Brain?
Methamphetamine increases the release and blocks the re-uptake of the brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) dopamine. Chronic methamphetamine abuse significantly changes how the brain functions. Brain imaging studies have shown alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning. Recent studies in chronic methamphetamine abusers have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in chronic methamphetamine abusers.Source: NIDA InfoFacts
Is Meth Addiction Treatable?
Yes. Detoxification and withdrawal from meth, which is an amphetamine, can take several weeks. Medical treatment for meth addiction is interdisciplinary and works on several levels. One effective method of treatment is the Matrix Model, developed by the Matrix Institute of California. The model is backed by over thirty years of research.
Contingency management interventions provide tangible incentives in exchange for engaging in treatment and maintaining abstinence. Such interventions have also been shown to be effective. At this time, no medications have been approved to treat methamphetamine addiction; however, this is an active area of research for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Source: NIDA InfoFacts
Where Can I Learn More?
- drugabuse.gov A National Institute on Drug Abuse Web site.
- familydoctor.org A consumer Web site of general health information, including addiction and mental illness.
- healthyplace.com This easy-to-search consumer Web site contains extensive information about severe mental illness and specific drug use.
- methamphetamine.org This Web site by the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs has easily accessible information for consumers.
- matrixinstitute.org Learn about the Matrix Model at this Web site.
- samhsa.gov and csat.samhsa.gov These U.S. government Web sites are dedicated to mental health and substance abuse treatment, respectively.