Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive, dangerous drugs out there. Unlike opioids, meth has no legitimate use and contains highly toxic substances that wreak havoc on the body. All meth uses pseudoephedrine; a common nasal decongestant regularly used by millions of Americans. The other ingredients vary, but they are all toxic and include substances like lye, drain cleaner, acetone, sulfuric acid, and anhydrous ammonia, all chemicals that can seriously injure or kill people on their own. When combined, they are even more deadly.
Meth affects the central nervous system and provides an intense and extremely enjoyable high. The drug is readily available in most communities. While much of the meth supply comes from Mexico, the United States has thousands of small labs throughout cities and rural areas, mainly where the law enforcement presence is light. Although it is dangerous to make, almost anyone with a recipe can produce meth is quantity. As a result, it negatively affects millions of citizens each year. In 2017, around a million people had a significant meth use problem. Millions of others used it in varying degrees. Because meth is so dangerous to consume, finding effective treatment is essential.
Meth is easy to buy and simple to use. It can be smoked, injected, snorted, or taken orally, depending on its form and the user’s preference. Nicknames for meth include ice, crystal, crank, tweak and poor man’s cocaine. It comes in powder form, crystals or pills and is easy to get and cheap to purchase.
Meth produces an incredible rush of dopamine to the brain, often causing users to become instantly hooked. Over time, they develop a tolerance for the drug and have to take more and more to get the desired effect. Higher doses are more likely to cause permanent damage.
Although pseudoephedrine sales are closely watched by the government, it is still relatively easy to buy, albeit in small doses. These cold medications have been moved behind the pharmacy counter and require ID and a buyer’s signature before purchase. However, meth manufacturers still manage to get their hands on enough pseudoephedrine for their needs.
Meth is particularly destructive to the body since it is mostly made of poisons. In short order, it can cause brain damage, paranoia, rotting teeth, stroke, open sores, and pimples. Users may suffer from extreme hallucinations and soaring body temperature. Meth addicts can become confused and violent as well as uninhibited. They are at an increased risk of AIDS since they tend to have unprotected sex while high. The drug can cause psychosis in users and can permanently alter brain chemistry. A user never fully recovers from the drug.
Meth addicts are easy to spot due to their quickly deteriorating physical appearance. A short time on meth can make a person look decades older and quite ill. Meth users frequently withdraw from family and friends and commit crimes to support their habit. Meth is one of the most harmful illegal substances available because it is made almost entirely with toxic substances and is so quickly debilitating.
Meth addicts are more comfortable to spot than some other drug users due to the visible physical changes. They may have little interest in food and lose a significant amount of weight quite quickly. They tend to neglect their physical appearance and basic hygiene and may regularly pick at their hair and skin. Meth addicts can go for days and sometimes weeks without sleep, and may visibly twitch. They have dilated pupils and tend to talk regularly when they are high. They often appear highly agitated and sound disoriented. When they are under the influence of meth, they are not capable of disguising their symptoms.
Unlike some other drug addictions, prescription medications do not help users kick their meth problem. When it comes to meth, behavioral therapies are the most effective. Some centers have success with cognitive-behavior treatment that trains patients to recognize triggering situations, which are those times when they will be most tempted to take the drug. For instance, they may be triggered by specific family interactions, money stresses, or contact with an active meth user. Once patients recognize these situations, they can use learned coping mechanisms to avoid meth use.
Positive reinforcement also seems to help addicts recovery. Small awards such as money and gift cards for abstaining helps some patients. Negative consequences also have their place in treatment. Regular drug testing motivates many addicts to stay meth-free. Treatment will include any healthy motivator for sticking to the recovery plan.
Researchers are working on more sophisticated treatment options for methamphetamine, such as vaccines and brain stimulation techniques. The medical community is also trying to develop medications to help meth users conquer their addiction, but currently, there are no government-approved pharmaceuticals for this purpose. Until researchers find new treatments, behavioral therapy is the meth addict’s best hope of recovery.
Meth addicts face a challenging detox and recovery period, but they can learn to manage without the drug and return to society as a useful and productive citizen. To maintain their recovery, addicts need to embrace long-term follow-up treatment. Many recovery facilities offer this service, and some have alumni groups. Attending Narcotics Anonymous is also helpful to many as it uses the effective 12-step method. Patients need a supportive community in order to avoid relapse, particularly in areas of high meth production and use. Since many meth users suffer permanent changes to their brain chemistry and function, they are particularly vulnerable to relapse. As all experts stress, addiction is a life-long condition.