Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Methamphetamine Use


Methamphetamine, also known as Chalk, Crank, Croak, Crypto, Crystal, Fire, Glass, Meth, Tweek, or White Cross, is a central nervous system stimulant. It increases energy, awareness, and alertness. In high doses, it causes a feeling of euphoria. Methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, but this is rare, as its medical uses are limited. Most “street meth” is chemically concocted in small, illegal laboratories.

Meth is a crystalline, white, odorless powder. It dissolves easily in water. Methamphetamine can be taken orally, snorted, smoked or injected.

Methamphetamine acts on dopamine receptors in the brain. It stimulates the receptor to release a rush of dopamine which stimulates brain cells, increasing mood and energy. Dopamine is closely related to the reward centers in the brain, which is why meth use has such a high incidence of dependence and addiction.  Methamphetamine has also been shown to have a neurotoxic effect on dopamine neurons over time, inducing Parkinson’s-like symptoms in long term users.

Clandestine meth labs produce much of the illegal methamphetamine available on the street for sale. These labs can operate in homes, trailers, barns, etc. Methamphetamine can be synthesized fairly easily from a variety of chemicals available for over-the-counter sale. The manufacture of methamphetamine can be dangerous, however, because it involves the use of flammable or corrosive chemicals. Meth production also leaves behind a residue of toxic waste, which is hazardous to people living in or near a lab. Six pounds of toxic residue is generated for every pound of meth produced.

Since 1989, five federal and dozens of state laws have been passed to try to control the production of meth in the US. One of these laws prohibits pseudoephedrine-containing products (like Sudafed) from being sold on the counters. Pseudoephedrine is one of the ingredients in meth, and it now is kept behind the pharmacy counter. Purchasers are only allowed to buy small quantities of products containing pseudoephedrine, and they must show ID to be allowed to buy them.

Methamphetamine can cause serious long-term health problems. Chronic use can cause paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behavior, and delusions of parasites or insects crawling under the skin. Meth users often scratch at their skin obsessively. Long term users often notice a quick degeneration of their teeth. This condition is known as “meth mouth.” Experts believe that this condition is caused by a combination of “dry mouth” caused by the drug, poor oral hygiene, and grinding of teeth often observed in meth addicts. Meth users often experience a decrease in sleep and appetite. The subsequent weight loss, lack of sleep, picking at skin, and “meth mouth” causes the rapid deterioration in physical appearance that is often observed in meth addicts.

Methamphetamine addiction is one of the most difficult forms of addictions to treat. Most chronic users experience heavy withdrawal symptoms when meth use is abruptly stopped. Several drugs are used to treat withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but their success rate is low. Because of the neurotoxicity caused by meth on dopamine neurons, post-acute withdrawal (withdrawal lasting for weeks or months) is common.