An Introduction To Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth addiction is on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of deaths due to meth overdose has climbed sharply in recent years. Even though governments around the world have been cracking down, more people are using meth. Since it is so highly addictive, this trend is likely to continue. Here, we’ll look at the history of this dangerous drug, its effects and the symptoms of crystal meth addiction.
What is Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth is the common name of crystalline methamphetamine. This drug is a powerful stimulant. It works by exciting the central nervous system. When taking a stimulant, the person feels euphoric. They also feel more focused. This is because stimulants create more dopamine in the brain. By doing this, the person feels a sense of happiness. It triggers the reward pathway, which is what makes people feel content and fulfilled. Since these feelings of happiness are much more intense than a person can feel naturally, they begin to crave the drug. This is what leads to crystal meth addiction.
Crystal meth got its name because it looks like crystals. It can also resemble ice or translucent rocks. It usually comes in clear shards that are smoked, snorted or injected by users.
A Brief History of Crystal Meth
Though stimulants have been around for thousands of years, Crystal meth is a relatively new drug. Here’s an overview of the background of crystal meth:
- 3000 B.C. – Ephedra shrubs are found to have stimulating effects. They are used in early Asian medicine to treat asthma, coughs, colds, fevers and many other illnesses.
- 1885 A.D. – A chemist named Nagai Nagayoshi finds the drug in Ephedra plants which causes the stimulating effects. This drug is called ephedrine.
- 1893 A.D. – Methamphetamines are first created. These are difficult to manufacture.
- 1919 A.D. – Crystal meth is first created by chemist Akira Ogata. He did this by putting ephedrine into a crystallized form.
- 1939 – 1945 A.D. – Methamphetamine tablets are provided to soldiers during World War 2 (WWII). The goal was to fight fatigue and increase alertness.
- 1980’s A.D. – The United States creates regulations to limit the sale of ephedrine, since it was being used to make crystal meth. Drug manufacturers begin using a similar drug called pseudoephedrine to manufacture meth. This can be found in the cold medication SUDAFED.
- 1994 – 2004 A.D. – Crystal meth addiction spikes. During this ten-year period, meth use rose to 5% of the adult population in the United States.
- 2006 A.D. – The United Nations calls crystal meth the most abused hard drug on Earth in their World Drug Report.
- 2011 – 2018 A.D. – Methamphetamine overdose rates increase more than 500% during this seven-year period.
This is an incomplete picture. Yet, it clearly shows that crystal meth addiction has been on a steady rise over the past 100 years.
How Crystal Meth Affects the Body
There are several stages that occur when using crystal meth. The first is the initial “high” when it first reaches the brain. Here’s what happens during this first stage:
Phase 1: Rush
- The brain is flooded with dopamine. This creates a joyous feeling.
- Heightened energy levels.
- Faster breathing and heartbeat. Sometimes the heartbeat can become irregular.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Decrease in appetite.
The rush phase only lasts a few hours, at most. Because the rush is so extreme, it is followed by withdrawal. This is what occurs during the second stage:
Phase 2: Crash
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness.
- Intense anxiety.
- Decreased energy level.
- Aches and pains in the body.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Drug cravings.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
The severity of these symptoms depends on how much the person has used. They also depend on how frequently the person uses meth. The more of the drug is used, or the more often it is used, the worse the symptoms are.
Because of the way crystal meth creates extreme dopamine rushes, it is very addictive. Many users report craving the drug after only using it a single time. When they have cravings, they typically use more. By doing this, they create a binge and crash pattern wherein the user constantly needs to use in order to avoid the intense discomfort of quitting. The end result is crystal meth addiction.
Signs of Meth Addiction
Crystal meth is extremely damaging to the body. When someone uses it for prolonged periods of time, the damage becomes obvious. There are several clear signs that show someone has crystal meth addiction. The most obvious ones are:
- The constant need to use crystal meth.
- Agitation when they are unable to get the drug.
- Extreme weight loss.
- Itchy skin. With this comes intense scratching. Over time, this leads to sores.
- Sleeping problems.
- Damage to the teeth.
- Memory loss.
- Intense depression and anxiety.
Because of the highly toxic nature of crystal meth, sometimes these symptoms last for more than a year. In fact, some symptoms may become permanent. Crystal meth addiction has also shown to cause lasting changes in the way the brain functions. When this happens, a person may show changes in personality. They may become depressed or anxious. More importantly, they may become violent towards themselves or others.
In addition to the mental symptoms, a person may develop physical tics or habits. These are beyond their control. They are the result of damage to various regions of the brain.
Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth addiction can be deadly. Even when it isn’t, it can quickly ruin lives. Not only does the addiction affect the user, but their behavior may injure the people around them.
Due to the large amounts of damage done to the body and brain during crystal meth use, it is very difficult to quit. Often the user will need Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT). When they first stop, being in a residential treatment program can help get over the early problems associated with the mental and physical crash. A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) can also assist them. After they have been sober for a period of time, it’s useful to attend an intensive outpatient (IOP) or Outpatient (OP) program. Staying in a sober living house can likewise provide structure for recovery. Attending therapy and support group meetings also makes sobriety easier.
A person quitting crystal meth is in a fight for their life. They require medical supervision on some level to help manage the harm done during their addiction. If you or someone you know is trying to quit crystal meth, you need help. Reach out to us and we can find a treatment that will make the process easier. Don’t wait until you become another statistic of this deadly drug. Call for help and let us guide you to health and wellness before it’s too late.