Methamphetamine, simply referred to as meth, is a psychoactive stimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of drugs. Meth triggers the brain’s pleasure center, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rates. Meth also increases alertness, concentration, energy, and in high doses can induce euphoria, enhance self-esteem, and increase libido. The drug works immediately creating a need for instant gratification. This drug is highly addictive because it activates the psychological reward system through increasing levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain. Dopamine increases cravings, which meth directly affects leading to a strong meth addiction.
Methamphetamine also is known as meth, speed, crank, crystal, or ice. Crystal meth can be smoked, snorted, or injected, as well as easily dissolvable in liquids. Besides the highly addictive nature of this drug, it is readily available and relatively inexpensive. A single puff of meth can keep a user high for 24 hours.
Statistics have shown that currently at least 1.5 million individuals are addicted to crystal meth. Meth addiction is devastating to the brain and body. The classic physical look of crystal meth abuse is a wounded face and a collapsed jaw. Meth also can lead to picking, which is anxious scratching. Rotten teeth and a collapsing jaw are frequent physical symptoms because meth dries out the gums leading to teeth grinding and the jaw collapsing inwards. Other physical symptoms include severe weight loss, excessive sweating, and endless energy. Emotionally, crystal meth addiction can lead to violence, paranoid schizophrenia, and suicidal tendencies. Methamphetamine drug addiction, similar to other addictive drugs, releases high levels of dopamine, which affects motivation, reward, and pleasure. With consistent drug abuse, users develop a tolerance, having to increase the amounts used or increase their frequency of use. When using stops, abusers experience intense cravings, inevitably leading them to the next high. Prolong abuse of crystal meth can over-stimulate dopamine leading to erosion of the brain’s nerve terminals. Brain imaging studies have shown that meth causes significant functional and structural changes in the brain, down to the molecular level. Fine motor control, speed, and impairs verbal learning are reduced with meth use. The brain areas that control emotion and memory are impacted as well. Changes may include mood disturbances, aggressive and violent behavior, and severe psychotic episodes. In some cases, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions can continue even after stopping abuse. Many of the damages to the brain are irreversible, but some effects can be reversed.