First synthesized in 1893, methamphetamine is hardly a new drug. After decades of aggressive anti-meth advertising, most people are well-aware of its incredibly detrimental effects. Prolonged meth addiction leads to functional changes in the brain. It also alters the brain’s size, undermines the health and integrity of the bones, and contributes to hair and tooth loss among many other things.
Chronic meth users are plagued by paranoia, and psychosis. They also have physical problems like lung, kidney, and liver damage. The effects of meth addiction have ruined countless lives. Despite these things, it continues to be one of the most heavily abused drugs in the United States.
This synthetic substance is illegally produced in large and tightly managed laboratories around the world. It is also created in homes, apartments, and garages in various forms. Meth is relatively low in cost, easy to acquire, and both physically and psychologically addictive.
What Is Meth?
Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that’s designed to activate key chemical processes throughout the brain. Like many other substances, methamphetamine tampers with the central nervous system (CNS) and its natural reward system. When people use methamphetamine to get high, their brains release a powerful surge of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters. With meth, the results include:
- Heightened alertness
- Increased confidence
- Heightened feelings of pleasure
Meth lowers inhibitions, makes people feel more focused and active, and eliminates certain social anxieties and fears. People who use meth are often able to stay awake for days at a time. They also have greatly diminished appetites and can comfortably subsist on very small amounts of food. Meth is frequently used as a party drug, as well as by high-achievers. People with untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also use meth.
Despite having more energy, a need for fewer resources, and increased pleasure, meth users quickly begin to experience the ravaging effects of this drug. Absent of good nutrition, chronically dehydrated, and rarely sleeping, long-term meth users suffer from extraordinary dental decay. Tooth loss, skin sores, and a hollow, sunken appearance are among some of the most noticeable signs of prolonged meth use.
What Does Meth Look Like?
Crystal meth has a clear, crystalline appearance and is usually sold in a powder or rock form. Bitter-tasting and odorless, it can be easily dissolved in alcoholic beverages or water. Meth that has been cut with other products can be pink, orange, yellowish or gray, blue, or brown. Methamphetamine is also sold in a compressed, pill form for crushing and snorting, or swallowing.
Meth Addiction and Abuse
Meth was initially designed to allow people to be able to focus, function, and perform for extended periods of time in ways that weren’t possible without the drug. Although it can be highly effective to many of these ends, these changes in perception and ability always come with tremendous side effects. People start abusing methamphetamine for various reasons.
For instance, a person who struggles with untreated ADHD may enjoy the increased focus that this drug provides. Countless people turn to meth for its ability to stimulate weight loss. As such, many meth addicts also struggle with undiagnosed and untreated eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder.
Methamphetamine has a reputation for presenting relatively mild withdrawal symptoms when compared to other illicit substances. Due to this fact, many people fail to recognize meth as being physically addictive. When detoxing from meth, people will likely experience excessive fatigue, increased hunger, and dramatic mood swings.
However, the impact that methamphetamine has on the brain and its reward system is a far greater indication of the drug’s addictive properties. After months or even years of abusing methamphetamine, many meth users find that they are unable to feel confident, happy, motivated, or focused without it. In fact, these are among some of the most common meth addiction symptoms.
Damage is done to dopamine-producing cells within the brain. Known as neurotransmitter burnout, it can lead to feelings of hopelessness, confusion, extreme depression, and even suicidal thoughts and suicidal tendencies.
It’s additionally important to note that the long-term effects of meth use can include permanent brain damage. This type of damage is on par with that of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.
Whether they are sober or actively getting high, long-term meth users often contend with apathy, disorientation, and confused exhaustion. The incredibly strong psychological dependence that people develop with ongoing meth use is ultimately physical in its origins. Until normal brain functioning is resumed, attempting recovery without support can be incredibly unsafe.
Street Names for Meth
Methamphetamine or meth goes by many names. It can also be found in many different forms and used in a large variety of ways. People can snort, smoke, ingest, and inject methamphetamine. Common street names for meth include:
- Crystal meth
- No doze
- Rocket fuel
There is a legal form of methamphetamine that can be prescribed by doctors for the treatment of obesity and ADHD. This is only prescribed when the benefits of doing so appear to outweigh the risks. The brand name for this controlled substance is Desoxyn. However, all other forms of meth are made in illegal, unregulated facilities.
As such, the ingredients, purity level, and quality of this drug can vary from producer to producer, and batch to batch. Different names for street meth are usually assigned according to these differences. With crystal meth having higher levels of potency and purity, lower-grade products are often referred to with names like crank or junk.
There are also many ways of fusing methamphetamine with other drugs. This is done to increase its potency, prolong its high, or diminish its cost. Common street names for methamphetamines that have been fused with other substances are shabu, fire, and biker’s coffee.
The names for meth can change based upon its grade, and purity. Methamphetamine can also look quite different in its different forms. These changes reflect its manner of production, the ingredients that it’s been cut with, and other drugs or substances that it’s been mixed with to heighten its potency.
Some of the most common cutting agents for meth include:
- Baby powder
- Baking soda
Meth is often also cut with a legal industrial chemical called Isopropylbenzylamine. Cutting agents are used by meth producers to increase the volume and weight of their products. There is often little concern for the incredibly dangerous side effects of the agents being used. Metals such as nickel, lithium, and palladium contribute to incredibly high rates of kidney and liver damage among meth users. Industrial chemicals and over-the-counter pain relievers are also added to some batches.
Side Effects of Meth
The side effects of meth are both widespread and severe. Given that meth users spend long stretches of time awake, psychosis can set in quickly.
Although facial sores are common among meth users, these sores are rarely caused by meth itself. Instead, people often begin picking uncontrollably at their skin due to meth-induced hallucinations. Also known as meth sores, these self-inflicted injuries can open the door to severe, secondary skin infections.
Meth can also ruin the user’s teeth and gums. Often referred to as ”meth mouth”, long-term use can cause tooth decay and gum disease. The signs of meth mouth include blackened or rotting teeth and gum sores.
While increasing energy and alertness, methamphetamine also affects cardiovascular functioning and other basic physiological functions. Even a single-use event can result in dramatic increases in:
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
The long-term effects of meth use can be far more dire. Meth use can lead to considerable losses in overall bone density and bone health. Given that meth users have both a heightened sense of pleasure and dramatically lowered inhibitions, meth use is frequently associated with promiscuous behavior. This leaves users at an elevated risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease.
Meth users have higher than average rates of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS infections. Those who use meth also have a lower ability to naturally prevent the progression of these illnesses. People who use meth, whether before or after contracting HIV/AIDS, statistically have significantly lower survival rates that non-meth-users. The risks of contracting blood-borne disease like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis are even higher among intravenous meth users.
How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?
The initial rush of meth use can last for approximately 30 minutes to one hour. However, a methamphetamine high can last for 16 hours. With long-term use, a person can remain on a heightened sense of alert with lack of hunger and sleeplessness. This can last for several days.
Meth Detected in Urine
Meth use can be detected in urine tests for up to 72 hours. For long-term meth users, this may extend up to one week.
Hair Sample Tests
Hair sample tests performed on a regular meth user will be able to detect this drug for up to 90 days. This can be done with hair at approximately one-inch in length.
The length of time that meth remains in the system varies from person to person. As with all toxins, the body begins breaking meth down and removing it as soon as it’s introduced. Due to varying levels of potency, different methods of ingestion, and the potential for meth to be mixed with other drugs or cutting agents, these efforts sometimes take longer than average.
It’s also important to account for the negative impact that methamphetamine has on the body’s filter organs. When the liver and kidneys have been overwhelmed by long-term meth use, meth can remain in a person’s system for quite a long time. Long after a person no longer feels high, traces of meth will still be found in the urine, saliva, blood, skin, and hair for weeks or even months.
Treating Meth Addiction
Meth users can safely detox at home without being at serious risk of permanent, withdrawal-related injury or death. However, given that this drug is incredibly psychologically addictive, the success rates of self-managed recovery efforts among long-term meth users are low. After the initial fatigue and increased hunger have passed, feelings of apathy and intense depression will set in.
Most meth addicts relapse within the first one to two weeks of recovery when going cold turkey alone. Even with professional treatment, many people experience a single-use relapse event within the first one to three years following rehab. Structured, inpatient treatment always provides the greatest chance at long-term success.
Inpatient meth addiction treatment is designed to alleviate the intense feelings of distress that people experience as their brains and bodies relearn how to function without this drug. Inpatient programs additionally remove meth users from toxic environments and harmful relationships so that they can focus entirely on getting well.
During treatment, patients learn new coping strategies for dealing with social stress. They also take part in cognitive behavioral therapy to adopt positive, proactive, and ultimately healthful ways of thinking. In-house addiction treatment includes:
- Group therapy
- Private therapy
- Skill-building workshops and exercises
- Therapeutic and stress management activities
- Medical management of withdrawal symptoms
Treating meth addiction can also include dual diagnosis treatment. This helps those living with undiagnosed depression or other comorbidities. These issues usually contributed to or prolonged their meth use. With dual diagnosis treatment, patients learn safe, sustainable ways for improving their mindsets, maintaining mood balance, and confronting everyday stressors.
At Recovery Bay, we offer a diverse range of services and therapies for meeting the needs of all our patients. Our multi-pronged meth addiction treatment program promotes improved self-care, personal responsibility, and a reliance upon ongoing recovery support. Get in touch with us to learn more about our inpatient men’s rehab. Get started on the path to recovery today.