Methamphetamine, (meth), is an odorless, white and bitter-tasting crystalline powder that can dissolve quickly in liquid substances. It is illegal and mostly taken in the form of snorting, smoking or injecting it into the bloodstream. Once ingested, meth produces an almost immediate high that is often described as an “intense rush” and can last anywhere from 6 to 24 hours. Meth is also highly addictive and works by causing the body to release high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine which is majorly involved in motor functions, motivation, and pleasure. As with many stimulants, once the high wears off, the body starts to exhibit signs of withdrawal, leaving the user experiencing an uncomfortable “crash”. The repetitive, cyclical nature of getting high followed by withdrawal often leads to eventual abuse of the drug, which ultimately takes a toll on the body. Like any drug that is abused, the body undergoes effects resulting from having a drug in its system that should not be there.
Many side effects accompany the high meth users experience. The side effects that a user experiences can vary depending on a number of factors, including the dosage amount, the duration of drug use, and the genetic makeup of the individual taking it. However, most users will exhibit some of the most common responses to the drug to some extent. Short-term effects include things such as nausea, tremors, mood disturbances, increased blood pressure, and weight loss. Long-term effects include things like dental problems (from not brushing or taking care of teeth), skin sores from intense itching, aggravation or anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and induced psychosis. The skin of a meth user is often highly irritated as it is common for them to have delusions that there are insects crawling under their skin. This causes users to intensely scratch their skin and break or rip open scabs all over their body in order to attempt to get the bugs out. Meth users also overall have a hard time maintaining proper hygiene (such as washing their skin or showering or changing into clean clothes) as they are preoccupied with either wanting to get high or being high.
Meth is an especially dangerous drug to become addicted to because overdose is highly likely. As the body begins to build a tolerance to the dosage level, higher dosages are needed in order to achieve a high. This reduces the middle ground between the user experiencing a high and the possibility of an accidental overdose. It is also common for users to try to maintain their high by taking more of the drug before it wears off. This means that larger levels of meth are still present in the body’s blood system when a user decides to take another hit, which also plays a role in how overdose occurs.
The overall consequences of meth abuse are terrible. Seeking medical or professional help for someone that you know who might be addicted to meth is vital, and you may be saving their life. If you are unsure whether a loved one you know is using meth, looking at their skin and exhibition of the other aforementioned common side effects may help give you clues. Data from a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), found that over 12 million people in the U.S. have tried meth at least once and that approximately 1.2 million of those people used meth within the year leading up to the survey. Consequences from meth are devastating not only for the individual and their family but the community at large. Seeking help might be paramount in helping everyone involved stay safe.