Growing use of methamphetamine was reported in the United States and in California from 1999 to 2008, increasing 17% per year in California, according to the American Journal of Public Health. With growing use has come more overdose deaths in California, rising 127% from 2008 to 2013, according to CaliforniaHealthLine.org. This should be concerning for all communities, and education about the dangers of meth use is important in trying to help slow the use of this illegal drug.
How Bad is Meth?
Compared with some other illegal drugs, methamphetamine, also commonly referred to as “meth” or “crystal meth,” is cheap and widely available. Although domestic production has decreased with law enforcement crackdowns on some chemicals used to produce it, meth from “superlabs” in Mexico is trafficked into the US and is especially abundant in the Western states. This has brought prices down and made meth a go-to drug for many who might otherwise use cocaine or heroin.
Meth comes in a crystal form that can be smoked, crushed and snorted, mixed with water and injected or even simply swallowed. The resulting high can last for many hours and gives the user an increased sense of alertness and wakefulness, loss of appetite, increased heart rate and respiration, and increased sexual arousal.
Effects of methamphetamine
While the user may enjoy the immediate effects of meth, with prolonged or overuse of the drug the user will experience paranoia, delusions, anxiety and confusion. Also, the effects on the cardiovascular system can result in death. In 2017, about 15% of all overdose deaths involved meth, according to drugabuse.gov.
Hospital emergency rooms have reported upticks in the numbers of patients experiencing the effects of meth overdose, which sometimes may be extreme paranoia and delusions resembling a paranoid schizophrenic state, and which can also cause strokes and heart attacks. Some users combine meth with heroin and fentanyl with deadly results.
‘Meth mouth’ and other long-term effects of meth
Long-term use of meth has serious negative effects on the brain and body. Highly addictive, meth changes the chemistry of the brain as it produces surges in dopamine. Users stay awake sometimes for days at a time, foregoing food and sleep as they go on a “run.” The effects of the drug, combined with ignoring nutrition and hygiene, lead to weight loss, itching and skin sores and severe dental problems.
The term “meth mouth” refers to the dental decay that occurs over time in meth users. While high many forget to brush and floss teeth, and often consume soda and candy leading to cavities. The chemicals in meth are also shown to cause bone loss and this affects teeth and roots, which can lead to periodontal disease. Decayed and missing teeth have become an indicator of meth use, and anti-meth campaigns often include photos of meth users with meth mouth.
Tweaking and twitching on meth
Other physical effects are weight loss and twitching, which have become associated with “tweakers,” the slang term for meth users. A skinny, twitching individual will be pegged as a tweaker based on those characteristics. These conditions are prevalent among chronic users, and even after quitting, some people still twitch, as well as suffer from anxiety and paranoia.
Changes in brain function caused by meth use include reduced coordination and impaired language skills, as well as impairment in emotion and memory areas of the brain. These effects are sometimes reduced after a year or more of abstinence, but some effects may never completely be reversed, according to drugabuse.gov.
Dangers of methamphetamine
Criminal behavior also is associated with chronic meth use. Most long-term users become unemployed and instead of a job have a “hustle,” which is usually an illegal means of earning money. This can include dealing, prostituting or stealing. Many tweakers survive by shoplifting or “boosting,” and often have complex schemes involving several people to steal and return items from retailers. Others get involved in identity theft, fraud and forgery. Many end up in the criminal justice system with felony charges and do prison time.
Recovery from meth addiction is aided by residential treatment, where the user will have time to detox, and the brain chemistry will begin to normalize. Anxiety and depression are common during the withdrawal period and having a safe place to ride out these feelings is very helpful. Medication prescribed by a psychiatrist may be useful and even necessary for some. The long-term recovery prognosis for meth addicts is good, provided they attend to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Cornerstone representatives are available 24/7 and ready to answer your questions about meth addiction and treatment.