Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can cause long-lasting damage to a person’s brain and body. Meth has many street names including ice, glass, meth, crank, speed, or chalk, and the drug can be abused in numerous ways including smoking, snorting, or injecting. It can be found as a white or blue color and often in the form of a crystal-like rock. Meth has no medicinal purpose and is solely abused recreationally.
Meth is most commonly used as a “club drug”, but abused by people of all ages. Despite the risks associated with using it, it remains popular because of its immediate, long-last effects. It creates an almost instantaneous euphoria that can last up to 12 hours. Those under the influence of meth express feeling higher motivation, improved confidence, and feeling as if they have improved intellect.
Symptoms of Meth Abuse
Unlike other substances, the long-term side effects of meth abuse do not take years to develop. Within a few weeks or months of regular use, those who use meth experience a wide range of side effects that range in severity. Because of the potency of the drug, dangerous, life-threatening symptoms can emerge quickly.
The most common short-term side effects associated with meth abuse tend to go away once the drug is out of the system. These include:
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
Consistent use of meth can cause the following symptoms and behavioral changes:
- Severe mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Tremors or convulsions
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Significant weight loss
- Erratic behavior
Many who abuse meth will experience “tweaking” at some point. During this time, a person will struggle with intense cravings and feelings of anguish. It is not uncommon for those who are tweaking to exhibit symptoms of delusions or altered perceptions of reality. Once a person has made it through this experience, they often experience a “crash” in which they do next to nothing but sleep. Many people struggle with powerful symptoms of depression simultaneously.
Physical and Mental Consequences of Meth Abuse
Repeated meth abuse can cause disruptions to the brain’s chemical balance that leads to a plethora of mental health problems. Meth can cause a number of long-term mental health conditions to develop. These may include:
Perhaps the most obvious signs of meth abuse are the changes it causes to physical appearance. Some problems are so prevalent that slang terms like “meth mouth” are widely known. The most common physical changes are:
- Skin sores
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Weight loss
- Thinning/patchy hair
- Dry/cracked skin
Meth can cause problems with vital organs that may leave long-term damage. The brain and heart specifically suffer greatly due to meth abuse. Some of the damage caused can be reversed when meth use stops, but some side effects are irreversible. Repeated use of meth has been linked to the following physical health problems and diseases:
- Learning/speech problems
- Death of muscle tissue
- Blood vessel spasms
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Recovery from Meth Addiction
Because meth causes the brain to release higher amounts of dopamine, the chemical that makes us feel good, a person can become addicted easily. Consistent use of meth, however, can impair functionality which can make a person feel a decreased sense of happiness, and in some cases, lead to permanent impairment. These symptoms alone can cause a person to struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. It is also not uncommon to find many people struggle with psychotic symptoms early in recovery due to methamphetamine withdrawal. Some of these side effects are permanent, but these same effects can be recovered from, even if it takes several years to do so. Meth addiction treatment including detox, residential treatment, outpatient, and aftercare services can help those in need recover.
Some consequences of use, such as the damage caused by a heart attack or stroke, cannot be cured. Damage to the dopamine-regulating parts of brain can also be irreversible, causing a person to feel chronically tired or depressed. While many studies show that many aspects of the damage done by meth cannot be reversed, there have been reports of recovery from some brain injuries after years of abstinence.
Other symptoms such as tooth decay, gum disease, sores, and hair loss can be treated to some degree, but they often will never return to their original state. Many are left with scars or an inability to grow hair in specific places (due to picking or pulling).
The longer a person abuses meth, the more likely these long-term symptoms will develop. Those who abuse meth often need years of aftercare support in order to recover from addiction. Without proper treatment, the side effects of meth abuse are deadly, but with immediate intervention and thorough care, it is possible to recover.
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