Meth Effects

Meth Effects, Short-Term, Long-Term, Permanent Effects, Intoxication & Dual Diagnosis Treatment

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive illegal stimulant that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is commonly known as meth or crystal meth. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol. An estimated 0.6% (or about 1.5 million people) had a meth addiction in the past 12 months. In 2019, approximately 16,167 people died from an overdose involving psychoactive drugs with abuse potential other than cocaine (primarily methamphetamine). 

Meth is swallowed, snorted, injected, or smoked. To intensify the effects, users often take higher doses of the drug, take it more frequently, or change their method of intake. It is also combined with fentanyl, also known as speedballing which increases the risk of overdose and can be fatal

Meth has been classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [1] as a Schedule II controlled substance, making it legally available only through prescription. Medically it may be used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term component of weight-loss treatments. However, these uses are limited, and it is rarely prescribed. Also, the prescribed doses are far lower than those typically misused. The FDA-approved brand-name medication is Desoxyn. 

Meth Effects
Meth effects on the brain are widespread and severe. One of the dangerous risks of meth use is an increased chance of stroke

Short term Meth Effects

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant, even in small doses, can increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite. Meth effects can also include various cardiovascular problems, including irregular heartbeat, rapid heart rate, and increased blood pressure. In addition, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and convulsions may arise with meth overdose, and if not treated immediately, can result in death.

Methamphetamine is a kind of amphetamine. The two have similar molecular structures similar mechanisms of how they work. Although there are several similarities between amphetamine vs methamphetamine, there are also some key differences. Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that doctors can prescribe to treat various medical conditions. In contrast, methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is often abused and sold illegally on the streets. Methamphetamine is more potent than amphetamines. At similar doses, much more of it gets into your brain.

The exact mechanism whereby illegal stimulants like meth produce euphoria (the pleasurable high) are still poorly understood. But along with euphoria, meth use releases very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward circuit, which “teaches” the brain to repeat the pleasurable activity of abusing the illegal drug. Dopamine is involved in motivation and motor function. Its release in the reward circuit is a defining characteristic of addictive drugs. The release of dopamine produced by meth is also thought to contribute to the harmful meth effects on nerve terminals in the brain.

Short-term meth effects may include:

  • Increased attention and decreased fatigue
  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria and rush
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia

Long term Meth Effects

The long-term meth effects can be more severe than those of some other illicit stimulant drugs, and some of the meth effects can be irreversible. One of the adverse consequences of meth abuse is developing an addiction to the drug. Individuals who become addicted to meth will continue compulsive drug seeking and drug use despite negative meth effects due to brain changes that alter the person’s reward system.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Just like any other form of drug addiction, people who repeatedly use meth eventually develop a tolerance to the drug, needing a higher dose to get the same meth effect, and they experience meth withdrawal symptoms when the drug leaves their system. 

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety: Research suggests that approximately 30% of people going through meth withdrawal experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder
  • Depression: People often experience a period of depressed mood as they withdraw from methamphetamines. This often lessens after a few weeks but may continue for a more extended period for some people.
  • Fatigue: While meth often causes people to feel energized and hyperactive, withdrawal from the substance can cause severe sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Intense cravings: As with many other addictive substances, people frequently experience strong drug cravings as they go through withdrawal.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [1] research has shown that the brains of individuals who abuse meth long-term are rewired to the point that they may find it hard to experience any pleasure other than that given by the drug. This change may provoke even further drug use.

In addition to being addicted to meth, individuals who use this drug for a long time may show symptoms that can include significant confusion, anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. A person struggling with meth addiction also may exhibit several psychotic features, including visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions—for instance, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin, also known as skin picking disorder

Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or even years after quitting using the drug. Stress has been shown to cause spontaneous recurrence of meth psychosis in people who use the drug and have previously experienced psychosis. Many have especially suffered the repercussions of meth abuse, leading to tooth loss and decay (meth mouth). 

Meth Effects – Permanent Damage of Meth

Methamphetamine addiction doesn’t just affect users in the short term. Meth use also has lasting and permanent consequences that can change the rest of the user’s life. Thankfully, seeking treatment for meth addiction as soon as possible after an addiction develops can help the individual avoid these lasting consequences. But unfortunately, the truth is that the longer meth is used, the more likely and more severe these consequences will be.  The consequences of meth addiction affect all aspects of the body, including the mind, body, and appearance. To learn more about the permanent meth effects, keep reading. 

Meth EffectsMeth Damages the Brain Permanently

For 20 years, scientific evidence has shown that long-term use of meth depletes dopamine supplies by damaging dopamine receptors in the brain. Studies indicate that this brain damage can be permanent. Long-term meth users may develop life-long problems with memory and verbal skills. They may even develop Parkinson’s disease, an incurable nervous disorder with trembling hands and extreme muscle stiffness symptoms.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [4], animal studies show as much as 50 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged after long-term exposure to relatively low levels of methamphetamine. In other animal studies, a single high dose of the drug has been shown to damage nerve endings in the dopamine-containing regions of the brain. The nerve endings do not die but do not grow back to their original sizes. Researchers also have found that serotonin (another neurotransmitter) and norepinephrine-containing nerve cells may be damaged as extensively.

Meth EffectsMeth Damages the Heart Permanently

Long-term use of meth can cause irreversible harm to the heart. These heart problems are the third most common reason meth users seek medical attention. Chronic use of meth can lead to severe heart conditions, including heart failure. In addition, research has found that regular meth use may be linked to blood vessel spasms, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle tissue death, and fibrous tissue formation in the heart.

People who use meth have reported chest pain, abnormal heartbeats, and shortness of breath. In addition, heart attacks, sudden death, and aortic dissection have also occurred. Aortic dissection is a tear in a large artery next to the heart. Coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy are also common among people who use meth. Coronary heart disease happens when plaque builds up in the arteries next to the heart. Cardiomyopathy refers to several types of heart disease that cause the heart to enlarge or become rigid.

Methamphetamine Intoxication Effects 

Methamphetamine Intoxication is a group of symptoms caused by illicit or medicinal use of methamphetamines with predominant sympathomimetic clinical effects. Methamphetamine intoxication looks different in each person, but users often seem agitated, aggressive, or very high energy. It isn’t possible to tell which drug a person is using based on symptoms alone, but here are some signs of meth intoxication effects. 

  • High energy 
  • Increased attention. They might hyper-focus on seemingly irrelevant or random details. 
  • Excessive talking. They might not recognize normal social cues, causing them to talk for long periods of time or to ignore signs that people are bored. 
  • Aggression 
  • Euphoria and intense feelings of pleasure 
  • Increased interest in sex 
  • Less need to sleep 
  • Psychosis. They may have delusions, hallucinations, unusual beliefs, or seem disconnected from reality. 
  • Low appetite 
  • Rapid heart rate or breathing 
  • A high body temperature. They may sweat or complain of being hot. 
Meth Effects
Meth Effects are harmful to all major body organs, and some health damages are irreversible.

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

Treatment for meth addiction needs a combination of therapies and services that include treatment for trauma experiences, mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety, and physical health.

Effective clinical interventions for individuals with methamphetamine use disorder focus on timely access to structured treatment and incentive-based therapies. Proven treatment interventions include:

Motivational Interviewing

  • It is a counseling style that helps individuals overcome feelings of ambivalence and enhances motivation to change substance use behaviors.

Contingency Management

  • This is a type of behavioral therapy that uses positive reinforcements to encourage desired behaviors.

Community Reinforcement Approach

  • This is a treatment approach that identifies behaviors that reinforce stimulant use and makes a substance-free lifestyle more rewarding than one that includes drugs and alcohol.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that assists individuals in understanding their current problems, challenges, and experiences to change their behaviors and patterns of thinking.

Meth Addiction and Co-occurring Disorders

Having a mental health disorder, or mental illness, is common among individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol, meth in particular. This is known as having co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. Living with mental illness and a substance use disorder can affect the treatment and addiction recovery process. The most effective treatment for people with both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder (SUD) is dual diagnosis treatment.

Research to date has shown that depressive disorders and symptoms are frequently associated with meth abuse [5]. In addition, individuals who chronically abuse meth develop severe recurrent psychotic symptoms commonly termed meth psychosis. These symptoms are often associated with high levels of psychiatric hospitalization and serious social dysfunction.

Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of specialty treatment offered in some mental health and addiction rehab programs for people who have a substance use disorder and one or more mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis is an integrated treatment approach that addresses all disorders a person may have, including mental illness, developmental disorders, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Our treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the program of recovery. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and alcohol-related past. The needs of each client are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. Our supportive environment is designed accordingly to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our clients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

At We Level Up NJ, we find that when clients are living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, with their struggle in battling meth effects, they can truly focus on what matters most: their recovery.

Meth Effects
Without meth addiction treatment, the long-term effects of meth can be deadly.
Sources:

[1] [4] NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse

[2] DEA – https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Methamphetamine-2020_0.pdf

[3] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/meth

[5] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3058719/