Often referred to as “the poor man’s cocaine,” and popularized on the television show Breaking Bad, crystal meth is perhaps one of the most addictive substances in the United States. It hijacks the brain in such an effective and irreversible fashion that quitting is incredibly difficult. It also triggers dependency faster than nearly any other illicit substance.
While certain formulations of methamphetamine have a limited medical use in treating the symptoms of Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is, for the most part, taken illicitly for recreational purposes. Even in the midst of the opioid crisis, in some areas of the country, the rates of crystal meth addiction far outpace those of cocaine, heroin, or other opioids
WHAT IS CRYSTAL METH?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system and is incredibly addictive. Crystal meth can be inhaled, snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally. It is typically in the form of bitter chunks of brown, white, pink, or yellow crystalline powder and is referred to as crystal, ice, crank, speed, and glass.
Meth is extremely cheap to produce, which makes it easy for manufacturers and dealers to flood the market and make an easy profit.
People who were dependent on crystal meth reported their reasons for choosing it as their drug of choice due to it being more accessible and inexpensive compared to other drugs.
What makes crystal meth so cheap to manufacture is the fact that its main ingredients, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine, are actually found in common cold medicines. Apart from that, people will use all kinds of poisonous, easily obtained materials to make crystal meth, including:
- Paint thinner
- Battery acidIodine
- Brake fluid
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lighter fluid
- Engine cleaner
- Cat litter
This is a short list of the incredible range of dangerous substances mixed into a given dose of crystal meth, which is just another reason it is so dangerous: there is absolutely no way to tell exactly what you are getting in a given dosage, making poisoning or overdosing extremely likely.
HOW DOES CRYSTAL METH WORK?
As a central nervous system stimulant, crystal meth works in much the same way as most other stimulants, entering the brain and drastically raising the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for controlling key functions such as body movement, pleasure, and our motivation and reward systems.
While, as previously stated, meth can be taken in a number of ways, the most common means is smoking. When someone smokes crystal meth, the drug takes effect rapidly, sometimes in as little as five to 10 minutes, and can, depending on the strength and dosage, last anywhere from six hours to an entire day.
What differentiates crystal meth from stimulants such as cocaine is that cocaine is what is known as a “reuptake inhibitor.” What that means is that when someone uses cocaine, it blocks dopamine from being reabsorbed into the brain and instead builds up in the synapses, creating the rush of euphoria associated with cocaine use.
Crystal meth, on the other hand, not only blocks the reabsorption of dopamine but also activates the brain’s dopamine receptors, stimulating the production of even more dopamine, flooding the brain and overwhelming it with a longer-lasting, more powerful high. In fact, meth releases more than three times the amount of dopamine as cocaine, which is what makes it so much more addictive and dangerous.
Crystal meth literally rewires the brain, in part because of how much it affects how someone processes reward and motivation, making them completely psychologically dependent on meth to function, quickly progressing towards full-blown addiction.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CRYSTAL METH?
The effects of crystal meth use and abuse are as wide-ranging as they are dangerous. Even small amounts of methamphetamine can produce powerful effects psychologically and physically. In the short-term, the effects of crystal meth abuse include:
- Increased alertness and physical activity
- Rapid breathing
- Decrease in appetite
- Elevated or irregular heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Elevated body temperature
When someone has been engaging in chronic, long-term crystal meth abuse, the long-term effects can be disastrous, including:
- Intense itching and picking at skin
- Extreme weight loss
- Increasingly violent/aggressive behavior
On top of these effects, crystal meth addiction can lead to permanent brain damage, impairing coordination, verbal learning, memory, and even emotion. Although some of these cognitive problems can be reversed slowly after someone has stopped using crystal meth for a year or more, others are irreversible and can cause even more deterioration over time. In fact, recent research has shown people suffering from severe crystal meth addiction are at a significantly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
If someone with a crystal meth addiction has been abusing the drug by means of injection, then there are even more negative long-term effects to contend with. People who inject crystal meth are at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C as a result of needle-sharing and risky, unprotected sexual behavior prompted by altered judgment due to drug use.
The injection sites are also prone to infection, abscesses, and putting the user at a high risk of collapsed veins and infections in their heart valves and lining.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF CRYSTAL METH ADDICTION?
Unlike many other substances, the signs and signals of crystal meth addiction can be fairly easy to spot based on how drastically crystal meth abuse alters someone’s appearance and behavior. Apart from the red flags that point to a crystal meth addiction, as obtaining and using crystal meth becomes the sole focus of someone’s life and decisions, they will also exhibit behaviors associated with substance use disorders in general.
Some Of The Signs Of Crystal Meth Addiction Include:
- Rapid, significant weight loss
- Track marks if injecting
- Open sores on their arms or face
- Aggressive, irritable behavior
- Noticeable disregard for appearance/hygiene
- Disturbed sleep patterns or sleeplessness
- Money or valuables missing
- A decline in school or work performance
- Being unable to stop using crystal meth
- Hiding crystal meth use from friends and family
- Legal problems as a result of crystal meth use
- Noticeable dental problems
If you have observed these signs in someone you care about or yourself, they are indicative of an addiction to crystal meth and steps should immediately be taken to seek out professional addiction treatment as soon as possible.
For either you or your loved one’s safety, checking in to detox is the highest priority to flush out the meth and other toxins and mitigate the physical and psychological damage as much as possible in the hope of avoiding permanent harm.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN CRYSTAL METH ADDICTION TREATMENT?
Because it is both so harmful and so difficult to quit, crystal meth addiction treatment is imperative. This is not a substance that someone can recover from without the aid of a professional addiction rehabilitation program.
The first stage of crystal meth addiction treatment is and absolutely must be, detoxification. This should be done under the supervision of a medical professional at a medical detox center. Crystal meth withdrawal symptoms include delusions, seizures, both homicidal as well as suicidal thoughts and behavior, psychosis, urinary issues, and extreme exhaustion, meaning that if you attempt to detox on your own, it can easily prove to be fatal.
And even if it is not life-threatening, crystal meth withdrawal also has an extremely high risk of relapse, which can lead to an accidental overdose. When detoxing at a medical facility, you can avoid the dangers of certainwithdrawal symptoms as well as the risk of relapsing before finishing the withdrawal process. A detox medical professional can also administer specificmedications to ease any unnecessary discomfort caused by the symptoms of crystal meth withdrawal.
Once you have finished detoxification, the next step in crystal meth addiction treatment is checking into an addiction recovery treatment program. Detox alone is not going to be enough to quit using meth, it just means that there will no longer be any crystal meth in your system. In order to actually address and learn to manage the addictive behaviors that led to a dependence on crystal meth, it is crucial that you follow through with aftercare treatment.
An addiction recovery treatment program can be done on either an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of the addiction. During treatment, an individual will learn to understand the root of their issues with addiction and gain the skills and coping tools to avoid relapse and maintain long-term sobriety. While each person’s treatment program will look a bit different based on what is deemed to be most effective for them, it will most likely involve at least some of the following types of therapy:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Family therapy
- Addiction education workshops
- Relapse prevention planning
- Holistic therapy
HOW DANGEROUS IS CRYSTAL METH?
As has been illustrated, it is almost impossible to overstate the dangers of crystal meth. Even taking it for the first time can have potentially fatal consequences, as higher doses can cause psychosis, seizures, and even brain bleeds.
The hallucinations caused by long-term crystal meth abuse are frequent and extremely frightening and can be auditory as well as visual in nature. Part of the reason why so many people addicted to crystal meth will pick at their skin until they have sores is due to a common hallucination of bugs underneath their skin.
Meth mouth can also completely ruin a person’s teeth beyond repair, causing severe tooth decay and gum disease, resulting in teeth breaking, falling out, rotting, or otherwise completely crumbling away.
It is also possible to overdose fatally on crystal meth, the signs of which include:
- Extremely dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pain
- Chest pains
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure/body temperature
- Kidney failure
- Psychotic episode
If someone suffers a crystal meth overdose, emergency medical services should be sought as soon as possible to save their life and otherwise prevent permanent organ damage. There is also the danger of someone in the midst of an overdose that features a psychotic episode becoming violent to the point of harming themselves or those around them.
On top of this are the previously mentioned effects of severe and often permanent neurological damage and deterioration, which include the loss of such cognitive functions as:
- Being able to visualize objects in space
- Form nonverbal memories
- Learn new information
- Retain old information
- Problem-solving and judgment
- Certain aspects of movement and attention
Crystal meth is a substance that will ruin the user’s body and mind, wearing both down until there is almost nothing left. The only was to prevent this from happening is obviously to avoid using crystal meth in the first place, but in the event that you or someone you know is engaging in crystal meth abuse, get them or yourself into treatment as soon as you are able.
START YOUR JOURNEY TO RECOVERY TODAY
If you or someone you care about is currently struggling with a dependence on crystal meth, Maryland House Detox is here to help start your addiction rehabilitation with a professional medical detox under the care and supervision of our experienced and compassionate medical staff.