Most people understand that there are consequences to the decisions that they made at some point in their life. Some of those consequences can be seen and are immediate, while others can be hidden and far off into the future. There is little doubt that drugs pose a numerous amount of consequences on a user’s life. One drug in specific, methamphetamine, takes a significantly damaging effect on both the users brain and body. One of the main well-known and dangerous consequences of methamphetamine is addiction. Addiction is often characterized by chronic, relapse prone, compulsive drug seeking and use behavior and is accompanied by molecular, biological and functional changes in the brain and body.
If methamphetamine does so much damage to the brain and body, what is its appeal? Dr. Richard Rawson, associate director of UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs explains that, “there are a whole variety of reasons to try methamphetamine, however, once they take the drug….. their reasons are pretty much the same: They like how it affects their brains.” Meth users often describe the feeling as having a sudden rush of intense pleasure followed by a euphoric high that lasts somewhere between 6 and 12 hours. This rush is created as a result of the brain releasing excessive amounts of dopamine (one of the largest releases out of most drugs), a neurotransmitter that controls pleasure. Since the release in dopamine is so high (12 times as much as the body naturally produces through pleasurable activities) it’s one of the main reasons why people tend to become addicted to it. Once the drug starts to wear off, meth users experience intense depression and could then continue use to keep from experiencing this crash. Addiction is not the only thing that is being created by the user’s life.
Brain chemistry becomes drastically changed with meth use. The reward circuit of the brain is destroyed and it becomes increasingly impossible to experience any pleasure at all. Not only are the dopamine receptors destroyed and depleted but memory, judgement and motor coordination tissues are permanently destroyed. Meth also causes the brain to release large amounts of adrenaline into the body’s bloodstream, often causing wakefulness, induced anxiety, hyperactivity and with heavy use, psychotic behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and delusions.
One former addict told The Spokesman-Review that “even five years of sobriety and I can’t go to the bathroom without propping a space heater against the door, in case someone is after me”. Although some argue that with continued sobriety the brain will heal and repair itself, there is no evidence that guarantees that specific damages can be repaired or will ever “return to normal”.
Not only is the brain drastically affected by use but so is the body. Some common physical effects of using meth include:
- Itchy skin or destroyed skin areas due to constant picking and scratching
- High body temperature and blood pressure
- Breathing difficulties
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Rapid heartbeats and palpitations or convulsions
- Heart attack
Meth users also have a significant risk of losing their teeth, known most commonly as “meth mouth”. Meth contains harsh chemicals that affect the user’s teeth (among other reasons) and often leads to tooth decay or loss.
Long term effects of meth use can include things such as:
- Significant weight loss and metabolic changes
- Psychotic behaviors
- Memory loss
- Violent behavior
- Damage to muscles or bloodstream
- Injury to brain parts and functioning
- Homicidal thoughts
- Suicide and overdose
- Internal organ damage
- Mood swings
- Loss of sex drive
Meth takes a devastating toll on the body and brain and what is even scarier is that any of the previously listed symptoms can show up from any number of times that meth is used, meaning that any of the listed symptoms could start from a single use.
Meth is a dangerous drug and the consequences of its use should not be taken lightly. Like previously mentioned, there is no way of knowing what time and what use will follow with devastating damage to the brain and body. Some could argue that any use of the substance causes damage no matter how many of them cannot be seen or measured. For those that have become addicted to meth, addiction treatment may be an option for helping stop any further consequences from taking place. The sooner meth cessation has started, the more consequences can be addressed and kept from further destruction.