Did you know that more than 2.6 million people in the United States alone used methamphetamine (“meth”) in 2020? The statistics have not changed much since then and meth remains one of the most dangerous drugs you can put in your body. But what are the effects of meth on the body and brain anyway?
How long does meth stay in your system and what makes it so addictive in the first place? What should you do if you’re addicted to meth and want to stop? Keep reading and learn more about how meth affects the brain, body, and the rest of your life and how you can get over a meth addiction.
What You Need to Know About Methamphetamine
Meth goes by a variety of names such as crystal, ice, or blue. Meth is not legal in any shape or form and it is a very addictive and dangerous substance. The only time meth was ever used for medical purposes was when it was first created in the first part of the 20th century.
Manufacturers originally created this drug to act as a kind of inhaler to decongest the nasal cavities and open up the lungs. However, people soon found out that this drug created very powerful feelings of euphoria when used. It also had the power to decrease one’s appetite while acting as a stimulant.
All this may not sound all that bad, but when a person starts using meth more frequently, it can start to have detrimental effects on the central nervous system and the rest of the body. Meth wreaks havoc especially on the central nervous system because of the way it affects the brain.
Meth comes in a variety of forms, but more often than not, it comes in the form of a pill or powder. Occasionally, it will come in crystal or glass-like formations which is why meth is often known as crystal meth. In the case of a pill, all you need to do is swallow it and the powder inside will eventually get digested by your stomach before traveling to the brain to enact its effects.
Smoking and Injecting Methamphetamine
Smoking meth produces immediate results unlike digesting it which may take an hour before the effects kick in. However, this high is quite short-lived and, in some cases, it can make a person immediately addicted to meth.
Another common way of using meth involves injecting it. This also produces an immediate high and is extremely dangerous because the high is so intense. Digesting meth in the form of a pill is also dangerous but not as much as smoking or injecting the drug because your stomach can only digest a small amount of meth at one time, so the high will not be as strong.
Some people may not become addicted when using meth for the first time while others will. The possibility of addiction can vary according to a variety of factors such as how likely a person is to become addicted to different substances, the strength of the meth dose, and so on.
Once the addiction takes hold, it can easily make a person’s life spiral out of control. But what does meth do to the body and what makes it so dangerous anyway?
The Effects of Methamphetamine on the Body
The effects of meth on the body become more and more obvious the longer a person uses the drug. There are also many symptoms of meth addiction and side effects of meth that become more prominent the longer the addiction goes on. One of the biggest signs of meth use has to do with declining dental health.
Those who have used meth for a long time often have what is known as “meth mouth.” Meth mouth involves a slew of dental problems such as tooth decay, tooth loss, cavities, gum disease, and more. The reason why meth is so damaging to one’s dental health is because of how it dries out the mouth.
Most people who use meth experience xerostomia, also known as dry mouth. If your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it will no longer be a safe and protected environment for your teeth. As a result, the bacteria that live in your mouth will latch to your teeth and start to eat away at your tooth enamel because you won’t have enough saliva to wash them off of your teeth.
Meth can also cause people to clench their teeth more frequently. This can cause trauma to the teeth and cause problems such as cracked and chipped teeth. But the effects of meth on the body go far beyond dental health.
The use of meth can lead to formication which is the feeling that there is something (such as insects) crawling beneath the surface of your skin even when nothing is really there. This can lead the addict to obsessively scratch at his or her skin in an attempt to fight this sensation. This scratching often leads to skin sores and other skin injuries such as rashes and even skin infections.
Weight loss is another common symptom on the list of crystal meth effects. This is because meth has the ability to suppress a person’s appetite. More than that, meth is a stimulant and it makes the user more energetic. More energy and activity, of course, lead to the burning of more calories which will cause a person to lose weight.
As a result, many meth users are usually very skinny and sometimes even dangerously skinny. They are often deficient in a variety of nutrients because they are not eating as much as they need to. This level of thinness can further contribute to skin problems such as sagging or thin skin which can make a person look much older than he really is.
The Effect on the Heart
This is not to mention that the use of meth is detrimental to your heart health. Because meth is a stimulant, it causes the heart rate to increase along with one’s blood pressure. If your heart is always working so hard, it will become exhausted sooner or later and the tissues in the heart and the cardiovascular system will start to become weaker and weaker.
This often leads to the stretching out of cardiac tissue which can make it a chore for the heart to pump blood. Many people who use meth end up with coronary artery disease or other heart problems such as heart attacks or strokes.
The Effects of Methamphetamine on the Brain
The effects of meth on the brain are just as bad, if not worse, as the effects of the drug on the body. Psychosis is one of the most common symptoms that meth causes to one’s mental health. Psychosis involves a whole slew of different mental symptoms such as confusion, agitation, insomnia, and changes in mood.
A person on meth may be complacent at one moment and violent at the next. There is usually no rhyme or reason for the changes in a meth addict’s behavior. Nothing in particular may cause a meth user to become violent all of a sudden.
Some people who have used meth for a long time may even experience more serious symptoms of psychosis such as hallucinations and paranoia. Hallucinations may come in many different forms such as visual, auditory, and others. Meth users may also experience delusions.
For example, a meth user may think that a psychiatrist is trying to harm them in some way when the opposite is actually true. This can make it very difficult to work with and treat those who are addicted to meth. These mental symptoms tend to fade after the person stops using meth.
Interestingly, however, symptoms of meth psychosis may suddenly return long after the person has quit the drug. This insinuates that the effects of meth leave long-term effects on the brain long after the drug is out of the person’s system.
What You Need to Know
One reason this may be is that using meth for a long period of time can end up changing the structure of a person’s brain. The brain has particular areas that are responsible for processing and storing information about emotion and memory. It seems that meth use specifically targets these parts of the brain and damages them.
This leads to a variety of mental problems that a meth addict may experience. For example, many meth addicts forget what they were going to do or say very easily. Damage to the part of the brain that is responsible for emotion may also explain why meth users have sudden changes in mood and emotion.
This kind of brain damage can even make it difficult for meth users to learn new information, especially information related to verbal learning. Fortunately, there are quite a few treatment options that can help those who are addicted to meth.
How to Treat Methamphetamine Addiction
Medication-assisted treatment is one of the best treatments you can choose when it comes to treating addiction. This kind of treatment involves using the use of a safe drug to counteract the effects of a harmful drug. Usually, the drug naltrexone is the drug of choice for counteracting the effects of many harmful and addictive drugs.
Using naltrexone can take away the euphoric feeling that many addictive drugs cause. This is very useful since it is usually the euphoric high that makes addicts keep abusing a drug. Once this high is taken away, there is less incentive to keep abusing the drug.
However, medication-assisted treatment is not the only treatment option to choose from. Often, addicts need this kind of treatment in conjunction with another. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is a very effective type of therapy that works well on all sorts of people.
The goal of this therapy is to change the way you think and view the world. By doing this, your behavior will change as well. Changing the way you think may seem like an impossible task, but that’s what cognitive behavioral therapy aims to achieve.
A therapist will be able to help you through this kind of therapy. Having a therapist is very helpful because by talking to another person about what is bothering you, you can better look at your problems in a different light and reflect on them. You will also have a chance to think about your problems in a new way and come up with solutions.
Keep in mind that no kind of treatment can cure you overnight. When recovering from meth addiction, you will need to have patience. After several weeks and even a few months of therapy and treatment, you will slowly start to recover and get your life back on track.
Many people find that the withdrawal phase is the hardest part of recovery. This is when you stop taking the addictive drug and wait for it to finally leave your system. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms which can be very painful, but after the withdrawal stage, you will find that it will be much easier to treat yourself and get your life back on track.
All About the Effects of Methamphetamine
The effects of meth are not to be scoffed at. Meth is an addictive drug that can affect your body and brain in a variety of ways. Meth can not only cause brain damage but it can also be detrimental to your dental health, your skin, and the rest of your body.
With the right treatment, you should be able to recover with enough time. To learn more, check out our treatment options here.