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Crystal methamphetamine, which is also commonly referred to as meth or crystal meth, is an illicit synthetic substance. However, crystal meth is just one form of the amphetamine drug - and it appears as a crystalline substance that abusers take by snorting, injection through a needle, or swallowing.

Today, the abuse of this drug is quite prevalent in the United States. In 2009, for instance, NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reported that 1.2 million Americans aged 12 and above had abused the substance at least once in 2008.

Additionally, statistics from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) released in 2011 showed that close to 12 million Americans reported that they had used the drug for non-medical purposes at least once in their lives.

Around the globe, amphetamine and crystal meth abuse are problems that affect more than 25 million people. Read on to learn more about this drug, its effects, withdrawal, and more:

Understanding Meth

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant drug that comes with long lasting harmful effects on the human body. As a synthetic drug, it has relatively limited medical uses particularly after the advent more efficacious and safe prescription stimulants. However, medications that are related to the drug methamphetamine might be indicated - albeit rarely - for severe obesity and intractable ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

On the other hand, the illicit crystal meth is a form of amphetamine that appears as a rock-like crystal which is typically semi-transparent blue or white in color. It is an illegal substance and has no other uses apart from abuse.

In most cases, users heat the drug before smoking it through a glass pipe. Others crush the crystals up before injecting or snorting it. In particular, smoking meth speeds up the delivery of the drug into the bloodstream, thereby promoting its addictive nature.

Most people who abuse meth do so to achieve the sense of intense confidence, euphoria, and happiness it causes. In other users, it can also provide a boost of energy while reducing the appetite of the user. Although the feeling of intoxication arising from meth use lasts for 6 to 8 hours, they may also persist for as long as a day or even longer.

That said, meth is an illegal street drug that is similar in many ways to other intoxicating and mind altering substances like cocaine. It is also known by a variety of names, including speed and crank.

As a potent stimulant, meth has variously been associated with many far-reaching health problems and consequences. For instance, it can cause damage to the heart and brain, memory loss, and aggressive behavior - among many others.

When you take the drug, it may use all of the resources available to your body. After that, you may develop tolerance and start taking more of it to quench your cravings and achieve the desired effects that you are looking for. Eventually, your body might develop physical dependence to the substance. In fact, meth has such a strong potential for addiction that most users become addicted the first time they try it. This is because the drug works by increasing the levels of dopamine produced by the brain, a feeling that you might want to continue replicating over and over again.

Other street names for crystal meth include:

  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Ice
  • Meth
  • Speed

Meth Effects

Methamphetamine is like any other stimulant drugs in the sense that it works by raising the levels of different neurotransmitters inside the brain- including but not limited to serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

By so doing, it also increases the activity of such neurotransmitters inside the brain. This causes it to deliver a powerful albeit temporary boost in mood, energy, happiness, and euphoria.

Consider the following effects of meth use/abuse:

a) Short Term Effects

In the short term, using methamphetamine can lead to the following effects:

  • Faster heart rate
  • Heavy sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature, which can sometimes get to dangerous levels
  • Increased energy
  • Increased mania
  • Insomnia
  • Jaw clenching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive focus on performing repetitive tasks/actions
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors

b) Long Term Effects

On the other hand, meth can also cause a wide range of far-reaching and long term effects on your brain and mind. In experimental animals - as well as in long term users of the drug - brain damage that is similar to that occurring in patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's has been observed.

Using meth can additionally lead to other detrimental mental and physical effects. Some of the most common of these include:

  • Anxiety
  • Birth defects, especially when women use it during pregnancy
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Deterioration of teeth, also known as meth mouth
  • Hallucinations
  • Infections of the skin
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Lung damage
  • Neurotoxicity, or damage to the cells of the brain
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Sores
  • Strokes
  • Sudden death

Abusing crystal meth severely might also cause some users to show the outward signs of premature aging. This is because the drug works to destroy blood vessels and tissue while hampering your body's natural ability to heal itself. Other users might develop acne or their skin might start taking on a dull look while losing its natural elasticity.

On the other hand, meth might cause your teeth to start cracking and decaying, leading to a condition that is commonly referred to as meth mouth. However, perhaps the most serious of all the long term side effects arising from crystal meth abuse is sudden death arising from stroke or cardiac arrest.

How Meth Addiction Works

Addiction to meth usually starts from the first time you try it and progresses through several stages, including:

a) The Rush

This refers to the initial response you will feel when you inject or smoke methamphetamine. It is typically characterized by heightened metabolism and a racing heartbeat. Your pulse and blood pressure might also soar.

However, the rush from meth is quite long and lasts for about 30 minutes - which is completely different from the rush arising from crack cocaine that lasts for 2 to 5 minutes.

b) The High

After the initial rush, you will get high on meth - a state that is sometimes referred to as the shoulder of the drug. During this high, you will often feel aggressively smarter than others in the room. As a result, you might become argumentative and start interrupting others and finishing their sentences.

Similarly, the meth high might cause delusional effects that could result in you becoming intensively and unnecessarily focused on insignificant tasks - such as repeatedly cleaning the same object for a couple of hours.

c) The Binge

While binging on meth, you will use it uncontrollably. You will have intense urges to maintain your high and start injecting and/or smoking more meth. This stage typically lasts for 3 to 15 days.

Over the course of the binge, you might become hyperactive - both physically and psychologically. Every time you inject or smoke more of the substance, you will experience another rush - albeit a bit smaller. Eventually, you won't feel any rush or high.

d) Tweaking

Tweaking is the most dangerous experience for most meth abusers. During this phase of your addiction, which appears at the very end of your binge when the drug no longer provides you with a rush or high, you will have a difficult time relieving the horrible experiences of drug craving and emptiness.

You might also lose your sense of identity and start itching intensely. Additionally, you are highly likely to become convinced that there are bugs crawling right under your skin - even though this is hardly the case.

In the same way, you might have difficulty sleeping for several days at a time. This means that you might be in a complete psychotic state and you will be existing in your own world - hearing and seeing things that others can't perceive.

Additionally, your hallucinations will be so vivid that you will think that they are real. You may also feel completely disconnected and disassociated from reality, which could cause you to become dangerous and hostile to yourself and others around you. During this stage, therefore, the risk of self-mutilation and harm will be quite high.

In the same way, tweaking might cause you to despair and feel intense cravings. All these effects could compel you to finally seek treatment for your addiction. You may also begin your journey to sobriety and abstinence by enrolling into an inpatient mental health center from where you will be transferred to a facility that provides detox and rehabilitation services.

After the period marked by loss of appetite and intense insomnia comes to an end, you may do little more than sleep for long hours - particularly in the days following tweaking. Once this crash is over, you will feel intense thirst, hunger, and fatigue as a result of the effects of meth. Tweaking typically lasts for about 2 weeks and might be accompanied by the onset of clinically significant depression.

e) The Crash

After tweaking, you might experience a crash where your body completely shuts down. At this point, you will have difficulty coping with the effects of meth since they may completely overwhelm your body. It is at this stage that you will sleep for long hours.

Additionally, even the most violent abusers might become close to lifeless while undergoing a crash, which lasts for 1 to 3 days.

f) Hangover

Once the crash is over, you will slide into a deteriorated, exhausted, starved, and dehydrated state. Ordinarily, this stage may last from 2 to 14 days and could give rise to enforced addiction since you will think that the only real solution open to you is to continue taking more methamphetamine.

g) Withdrawal

Last but not least, 30 to 90 days may pass after your last abuse of meth before you realize that you are undergoing withdrawal. For starters, you will become depressed, lose your energy, and be unable to experience pleasure of any kind.

After that, you may experience intense cravings for more of the drug and eventually become suicidal. In most cases, abusers will relapse because withdrawal from meth is extremely difficult and painful - which is why 93% of those undergoing treatment and rehabilitation tending to go back to abusing the drug.

As you can see, none of the perceived benefits of abusing dangerous drugs like meth are worth the risk that you will develop deadly tolerance, dependence, and addiction to it.

Meth Withdrawal

When you stop abusing meth, you may experience a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms as your body and brain adjust to not having the drug in the system. Some of these withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of severe depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Intense drug craving
  • Itchy eyes
  • Loss of energy
  • Sleep difficulties, which could range from severe insomnia to oversleeping

Since meth withdrawal is so uncomfortable, many users tend to relapse in a bid to alleviate the resulting symptoms. However, the best solution is to enroll in a medically supervised detoxification program to ensure that your symptoms are managed so that you do not relapse.

Meth Overdose

Meth carries a great risk of overdose because you may take too much of it too often. It is often accompanied by a variety of health effects, signs, and symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart attack
  • Paranoia
  • Raised body temperature
  • Stimulant psychosis, or a psychotic break

Meth Abuse And Addiction Treatment

Currently, no medications are used to treatment meth dependence and addiction. As such, most rehabilitation facility will heavily rely on behavioral therapies, such as the Matric Model (which combines peer support, drug testing, counseling, education, and behavioral therapy) as well as Contingency Management (that will provide incentives for you to stop abusing the drug). These therapies are provided both through outpatient and inpatient/residential treatment programs, the choice of which will depend on your particular needs, preferences, and finances.

Overall, the best solution to fight your addiction and get on the road to full, long-term sobriety and abstinence is to check into a detox, treatment, and rehabilitation facility. The earlier you do so, the easier it will be for you to manage your addiction and overcome it.

Find Resources

If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you look for professional help as soon as you possibly can. However, you might not know where to start or the options that are open to you. Similarly, you may have little to no idea about the differences between the different treatment facilities and the programs they have in store for their patients.

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