5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT METHAMPHETAMINE
Methamphetamine affects the dopamine neurotransmitters in your brain. Activating this pleasure and reward center means temporary euphoria and energy, but it comes at a very high cost.Methamphetamine is one of the most treacherous drugs in existence because it causes both short-term and long-term damage. Along with causing permanent damage to the blood vessels, it can cause severe tooth decay, extreme weight loss, and even brain damage that resembles Alzheimer’s disease or a stroke.
Meth addiction is an ever-growing problem around the world. In the United States, the meth market is valued at $3-8 billion, with about 85% of the methamphetamine used by Americans being produced in large labs in Mexico. It’s estimated that there are 450,000 current meth users in the US.
Here are five things you need to know about methamphetamine and your ability to recover from its effects.
1. Meth can cause many visible signs of addiction.
While some drug addictions lead to minor physical changes that are apparent to other people, long-term or frequent meth use can cause striking physical changes. Meth abuse leads to tissue and blood vessel damage, which makes it harder for the body to repair itself. Many meth addicts suffer from acne as well as slow-healing sores, which are often caused by picking of the skin. The drug can also cause the skin to lose elasticity and luster, which can make you seem even decades older than you really are.
As meth represses hunger and acts as a stimulant, many meth addicts experience bursts of physical activity combined with very little food intake. This can cause heavy meth users to become gaunt.
2. Methamphetamine use leads to severe tooth decay.
Tooth grinding after meth use, reduced saliva production and poor oral hygiene can result in severe tooth decay and tooth loss. A very common sign of meth abuse is tooth decay, which is often called “meth mouth” in the media. Many heavy meth users have stained, rotting, and blackened teeth that often cannot be saved through dentistry. This can even be true among meth users who are young or who have not been using the drug for very long. While the exact cause of “meth mouth” isn’t known, it’s probably caused by many factors. Along with the issues explained above, it’s believed that the corrosive effects of meth erode the enamel coating on teeth.
3. Meth users are at risk of STDs and pregnancy.
The euphoria and reduced sexual inhibitions associated with meth use can put users at a higher risk for STDs as well as unwanted pregnancy. While meth is not an aphrodisiac, it does prompt dopamine release in the brain, which can increase sex drive and boost confidence. Unprotected sex is especially dangerous for meth users, particularly those who inject the drug and share needles.
4. Methamphetamine can cause permanent brain damage.
Meth causes brain damage in two ways. First, it depletes dopamine and destroys the cells that replenish this neurotransmitter. Using meth over and over changes your brain chemistry by destroying your brain’s pleasure center. This makes it harder and harder to find any pleasure at all. It can also cause permanent brain damage by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke. Brain damage from long-term use of meth can result in symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or a stroke.
Unlike most drugs, meth can have a very long recovery period for regular users. Many people recovering from meth addiction have trouble finding any pleasure or enjoyment from life and their environment for years after stopping use. While the pleasure centers of the brain can recover with time, the damage to a user’s cognitive abilities can be permanent.
"Meth Head” seems to still provide one of the most accurate, and disturbing, accounts of the complexity of human nature as it relates to substance use."
- Josh Kruger, LGBT Philadelphia
Obviously the use of meth has made a steady progress and it is now no longer a problem for just some parts of the country. In addition, it’s no longer a problem limited to any specific demographic – it covers the Great American Middle Class – from school kids to soccer moms to hard working fathers. The Illinois Attorney General’s reported the following profile of a meth user:
He or she is a middle class white person in the 20s and 30s living in either a rural community or in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago etc. where meth is has become a widely used “club drug.”
While most meth users are in their 20s or 30s, more and more cases of meth use are being reported among middle class teenagers as well as those in the 40 plus age bracket.
Meth use is now spreading from the middle class to the wealthy and affluent.
Meth addiction is not long something that happens to “other people.” It’s everyone’s problem and needs to be treated as such.