Breaking Down The Serious Effects of Meth On Users’ Bodies
Methamphetamine is categorized among stimulant drugs and it is highly addictive at that, not to mention it can have a long-term effect on the body. Crystal meth has adverse effects on the central nervous system and there is no known legal use of this substance. It is a synthetic substance used for therapeutic reasons to a limited extent thanks to the onset of more efficient prescription stimulants. It is also used for severe obesity and intractable ADHD, but only very rarely. Some people have also taken it to alleviate symptoms of depression and lose weight. Illicit methamphetamine has posed a dangerous and sizeable drug epidemic in America over the past twenty years and it is not surprising considering this substance gives users such an intense, rapid euphoria that lasts briefly enough to keep them hooked. This gives rise to binges that last for days and an even stronger addiction promoted further by increased tolerance of the substance by its users as they continue to increase their intake with time. The use of methamphetamine may have reduced slightly over the past few years but it is still a huge public health issue. More than 500,000 Americans in 2013 reported having used illegal methamphetamine within a month with the DEA having seized a little over 1000 kilos of meth every year from 1997 in America.
Crystal meth, which is the illegal version of methamphetamine, usually comes as a rock-like crystal typically colored semi-transparent blue or white. It is made using pseudoephedrine, an ingredient commonly found in cold medicines to help reduce congestion. Crystal meth is perpetually illegal and is developed for no other reason aside from substance abuse.
Usually crystal meth is heated and thereafter smoked within a glass pipe. It can also be injected or the user can crush it up to snort the drug but smoking ensures faster delivery of meth into one’s bloodstream. This encourages the drug’s addictive nature even further. Crystal meth also has the potential to cause significant damage to one’s health in numerous ways. Its effects can affect various primary organ systems all while resulting in long-term bodily harm. Needle sharing among crystal meth addicts also poses its own dangers to the individuals. Meth users also risk suffering from Parkinson’s disease, immune suppression, liver damage, stroke, and heart disease with all the said conditions having potential fatality. To make it worse, even after a chronic meth user quits abusing the drug, it can still have permanent effects on the person’s health.
People using meth are typically looking to obtain the long-lasting immediate euphoria that makes the drug so notorious. Smoking methamphetamine causes rapid movement of the vapor from the lungs and into the bloodstream. When it is in the blood it will travel very quickly to the brain and since it acts like a stimulant all through the body and the brain, it produces an instant high. This is followed by increased alertness and energy levels, both of which may last for almost 12 hours. Meth affects the brain in such a way that as the user looks for his/her next high, they will neglect things like personal well-being, maintenance, grooming, and hygiene. The user will stop attending to his/her oral hygiene, as it will not be a priority to them. Considering meth also leads to the development of delusions of one’s well-being causing the user to stop taking care of him or herself. Meth also causes elevated feelings of attractiveness and sexuality so the user will engage in risky, excessive sexual behavior. Using meth will also cause increased energy and stamina which leads to prolonged sexual activity. This, in turn, can increase the possibility and risk of transmission of STIs. Increased libido in meth users causes them to engage in sexual activity with multiple partners, most of who are equally promiscuous and engaging in needle sharing for drug use with unclean needles.
Even though most of the short-term effects of meth use may exhibit immediately, they only pave the way for an unhealthy lifestyle. Blood pressure and brain activity will be affected after initial use and they will continue worsening over a long period of using crystal meth
Additional desired effects of using methamphetamine include:
- Feelings of improved ability to solve problems and improved intellect not to mention increased feelings of confidence
- Increased motivation to attain one’s goals
- An initial intense rush that can last for about 30 minutes
Unfortunately, these desired effects can rapidly pave way for the unpleasant effects of meth to set in. Short-term heavy meth use can bring about violent and erratic behavior in the user. After the euphoria wears off, the meth user will have an intense crash also known as a come down leaving him or her very tired. He or she will possibly grind the teeth contributing to meth mouth, which will be discussed ahead. The crash that users experience typically involves a very dry mouth contributing to tooth decay. This is because ingestion of methamphetamines does not allow them to be naturally rinsed from the mouth with the production of saliva.
Once the crystal meth stops yielding a high for the user, he or she goes into a phase referred to as tweaking during which the person can feel intense despair and cravings. The psychotic symptoms of meth use typically exhibit at this juncture and the users find themselves dealing with disrupted perceptions of reality not to mention delusions. Most meth users usually start looking for treatment programs to check into once this disturbing development starts to kick in. The days following a ‘tweaking’ episode for an active meth user typically involve more than sleep once the loss of appetite and long-term insomnia ends. After crashing like this, the meth user will have a period whereby he or she will become fatigued, thirsty, and hungry because of the effect the substance has on the body. This period may go on for almost two weeks and it can also be accompanied clinical depression.
Dependency on Meth
Consistent meth use may lead to insomnia, paranoia, and insomnia with additional homicidal or suicidal thoughts in some meth users. Meth use rapidly leads to the development of compulsive behaviors that are typically linked to addiction since the drug gets to the brain very quickly to produce an intense high and increased physical energy all of which last for hours on end. This dopamine rush can lead to severe mental alterations not to mention the side effects that result from the release of all that dopamine within the brain may even lead to physical harm.
Once meth is in the body, it sends a signal to the brain to release large amounts of dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure or reward. Scientists believe that the increased dopamine activity within the brain is what is largely responsible for the development of addiction to specific substances or drugs. The positive feelings caused by dopamine are believed to be so powerful with an equally intense feeling of reward, that it is capable of reinforcing the behavior responsible for its initial release. Once a meth user’s tolerance for the substance starts increasing, he, or she will start needing larger amounts in order to achieve the desired level of euphoria. The person will take continuously increasing amounts of the substance, which will put them at risk of overdosing and feeding the body’s meth dependency.
With time, after consistent stimulant intoxication for a significant period, the activity of dopamine receptors in meth users’ brains becomes seriously damaged. This can lead to perceptions of reduced pleasure and happiness and it can even result in long-term impairment of cognitive abilities.
Crystal meth has a severe and widespread effect on the user’s brain. Meth especially poses a highly dangerous risk, which is the enhanced chance of stroke. During a stroke, blood flow is typically restricted to a certain region of the brain, which can cause tissue death and possibly irreversible brain damage. This degree of brain damage can result in cognitive impairment, speech loss, paralysis (partial or total), memory loss, and possibly death. Methamphetamine can also strongly affect the brain’s neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine. The euphoric feeling that results when someone takes crystal meth can be attributed to the exaggerated release of the said neurotransmitters, thus, depleting the brain’s neurotransmitter supply. Overstimulation of the brain cells that release serotonin and dopamine, due to meth use, can cause them to be destroyed leading to reduced dopamine levels and challenges experiencing pleasure. This, in turn, can cause depression, another type of brain damage caused by meth abuse. Aside from losing these crucial neurons, chronic usage of methamphetamines can lead to the development of abnormalities within the region of the midbrain known as the substantia nigra area. This increases the risk for developing Parkinson’s disease by more than threefold in meth users. The risk can be almost 5 times greater for women. Parkinson’s affects the individual’s ability to control bodily muscle movements.
The effects of meth on the brain can additionally result in the development of psychosis not to mention symptoms like paranoia and hallucinations, close to schizophrenic symptoms. Even though the said symptoms might go away up to 6 months giving up meth use, some recovering meth users may find the symptoms persisting long term with a possible relapse of the psychotic symptoms even after abstaining for a long period.
Chronic usage of methamphetamine causes numerous effects on the body’s musculoskeletal system. These effects may range from slightly benign to dangerous. The milder effects of meth include an increased hyper reflexive state or increased deep tendon reflexes. Serious effects resulting from frequent meth use include repetitive troublesome movements and involuntary muscle tremors/twitching. The cause of these effects on muscles can possibly be attributed to meth’s direct toxic activity on the muscle cells, not to mention a combination of trauma to musculature, increased muscle tremors, dehydration, and elevated body temperature.
Even though the exact cause of these effects is not well known, meth abuse has also been connected to the development of a serious condition known as rhabdomyolysis. This health condition results in the rapid deterioration of one’s muscle tissue after which, there is possible toxic release of the damaged cell contents within the bloodstream. Rhabdomyolysis caused by meth use causes irreversible kidney failure if not treated early, intense serum electrolyte fluctuations, and overall muscle pain.
Meth is well known for having adverse effects on chronic users’ oral health. In fact, is causes such extensive damage that the term ‘meth-mouth’ has been used to describe meth-induced oral decay and a combination of factors that also cause this damage. Using meth can cause a decline in the body’s ability to fight off cavity inducing bacteria, lack of saliva, and a dry mouth. Meth use can also lead users to grind their teeth compulsively causing them to eventually wear down. Meth users typically experience tooth loss, cracked teeth, and severe tooth decay caused additionally by their neglect of regular oral hygiene and proper nutrition because they are constantly high. Oral damage in meth users also extends to the gums, which experience extensive recession and erosion.
As mentioned before, methamphetamine is a stimulant, which means it has stimulatory effects on its users resulting in elevated heart rates. Chronic, excessive meth use can also lead to heart palpitations with time. Heart palpitations usually occur as a strong pounding feeling felt in the neck or the chest. Meth users also experience arrhythmia, which is a condition in which one has an irregular heartbeat. Arrhythmia usually feels like a missed heartbeat and in serious cases, it can result in cardiac arrest, collapsing, or lightheadedness. Overusing meth may also raise one’s blood pressure and this consistent high blood pressure may lead to damage of the arteries leading to their hardening and restriction of blood flow to several organs. Unfortunately, these symptoms often go unnoticed even while all this damage is happening and the individual might not know of the havoc being wreaked on the body until it is too late.
The Immune System
Using meth may also affect how the bodily systems function in subtle ways and it can possibly suppress one’s immune system. This, in turn, decreases the body’s ability to resist disease-causing fungi, viruses, and bacteria and fight them off. This leaves the meth user in question constantly vulnerable to certain illnesses. Meth users also tend to share their needles and this dangerous behavior can lead to the spread of HIV, which is the virus responsible for AIDS. This virus will break down the immune system’s cells with time leaving the meth user even more at risk of contracting all kinds of diseases.
The Gastrointestinal System and the Liver
Meth users typically use needles to inject this drug into the body. Additionally, they may share needles with other meth users because it is difficult and expensive to buy new needles whenever they want to use meth. This needle-sharing practice among meth users may lead to the spread of blood-borne diseases among users with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C being the most common conditions transmitted between users. Hepatitis is a medical condition that leads to liver inflammation and continuing liver damage with time. The condition can also cause damage to the nervous system, bleeding, cirrhosis, and jaundice.
As mentioned before, meth use can cause the blood vessels to constrict and this can restrict bowel blood flow, which can possibly result in death of the bowel tissue. Additionally, this may result in peritonitis, a possibly fatal abdominal cavity infection that can result in septic shock not to mention the development of perforations within the intestinal wall.
Meth is a very strong stimulant and as such, it can suppress one’s appetite, which explains why in the past it was utilized as a diet pill. The substance, however, is not merely a diet aid as meth users typically experience serious appetite loss and they frequently neglect eating while even going for days without eating anything. Meth can also increase one’s metabolism and this means the users will also experience severe and rapid weight loss such that they may even look emaciated.
Meth can cause chronic users to compulsively pick at the skin due to the feeling of bugs crawling underneath the skin, delusions, and psychosis. This repetitive and continuous scratching of the face and arms by meth users can cause them to develop multiple open sores, which can also develop infections. Meth users also appear to age rapidly and this is because they will develop a leathery skin texture, reduced skin elasticity, and severe acne. All the named factors may cause them to have an unhealthy looking complexion in general.
Abusing meth can have various effects on the respiratory system and the lungs. The stimulatory effect elicited by methamphetamine use results in faster breathing by the user possibly causing fainting and lightheadedness. Users who smoke the substance may cause bleeding in their alveoli essentially leading them to cough up blood. The alveoli are the responsible for blood-supply gas exchange in the lungs. Further, meth use is linked to pulmonary hypertension caused by destruction of the tiny pulmonary blood vessels not to mention pulmonary edema. Some meth users also prefer to snort the substance and this causes them to cough violently and develop respiratory trauma including pneumomediastinum or air release into the body from the lungs, and pneumothorax or a collapsed lung. Inhaling meth causes its impurities to become deposited within the lungs leading to the development of granulomas and eventually causing interstitial lung disease.
Meth Effects on Pregnancy
As we have seen, the effects of meth can be severe and swift, which is especially true for pregnant women who indulge. Meth can result in premature birth and the baby could end up suffering from birth defects such as heart abnormalities or a cleft palate. Babies born to mothers who used meth during the pregnancy are typically born quite small because of a lack of prenatal care and nutrition all through gestation. The substance is usually also remains in the user’s breast milk, which makes it a risk to nurse the baby. According to research, some of the risks suggested for pregnant meth users and their unborn children include:
- Neural and cardiac abnormalities
- Increased levels of aggression
- Increased depression and anxiety during childhood
- Poor attention spans
Effects of Meth Overdose
The risk of users overdosing is probably one of the most notable short-term problems of methamphetamine abuse. This is especially true for users who will binge on the drug while experiencing a tweaking episode. A meth overdose typically happens when users take a large amount of the substance during one sitting and this essentially poisons the body. In most situations, there will be fatal consequences for acute meth overdose but there are numerous signs for loved ones to observe for so they can identify a meth overdose when it is still early. This ensures that there is still some hope for the user’s recovery. The symptoms of a meth overdose include:
- Kidney failure
- High body temperature
- Heart attack
- Irregular heartbeat
- Extreme anxiety
- Chest pain
- Irregular breathing
If a meth user overdoses on the substance, then this is a definite indication of a significant meth abuse problem and after such an event, it is imperative that the user looks for recovery treatment options.
Once the user checks into a recovery treatment program, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms during the initial period of their stay. Withdrawal from methamphetamine usually involves symptoms like:
- An increased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping ranging from severe insomnia to oversleeping
- A loss of energy
- Intense cravings for the drug
- Itchy eyes
- Feelings of depression
Withdrawal from the substance is usually very uncomfortable and it can lead to user to relapse in order to try to ease the symptoms. Being in a detox program with medical supervision is a surefire way to manage the symptoms and it can help to keep one from relapsing.