Crystal Meth Abuse and Addiction
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug that is similar in structure to amphetamine. Due to its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled. Although methamphetamine can be prescribed by a doctor, its medical uses are limited, and the doses that are prescribed are much lower than those typically abused. Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country comes from foreign or domestic superlabs, although it can also be made in small, illegal laboratories, where its production endangers the people in the labs, neighbors, and the environment.
- What Is Methamphetamine
- Signs Of Meth Use
- Symptoms Of Meth Us
- Treatment Options For Meth Users
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. It’s made from various forms of amphetamine — a common stimulant found in various over-the-counter medications. Methamphetamine is listed in the same drug class as cocaine, operating as both a stimulant and anorectic (appetite suppressant). Originally prescribed as a decongestant, anti-depressant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms. A large section of society abused these products for their stimulant effects.The history of meth is a rising and falling one. After wide popularity as a pharmaceutical in the 1960s, it became classified as a schedule II substance under the Controlled Substance Act in 1971 and addiction to the drug significantly decreased. Resurging in the 1980s, meth became popular again as a street drug. Methamphetamine has remained popular in these same circumstances up to this day. Currently, there is only one prescription methamphetamine drug, Desoxyn, on the market. It is used to treat obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The vast majority of methamphetamine distribution comes from illegal laboratories and import.
The average person can produce the drug in as little as six to eight hours with fairly minimal equipment. The key ingredient is typically ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, both stimulants found in some cold and flu medications. It’s possible to extract the stimulant from these drugs using household chemicals such as drain cleaner, battery acid and antifreeze. The product is “cooked” in a “laboratory” — commonly trailers or residential homes — and made into a consumable form. Meth labs are notoriously dangerous because the byproducts of this process — gas and spillage — are toxic and combustible.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the largest producers and exporters of U.S.-consumed methamphetamine. They are able to produce much larger amounts of the drug than their stateside competitors, and ship it over the border at regular intervals. Their primary markets are the Western and Midwestern states.
Methamphetamine has most recently been noted for its major appearances in popular culture. Most famously, the drug took a starring role in the popular AMC television show “Breaking Bad.” The program follows the actions of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, who joins up with a former student, Jesse, to make and sell crystal meth. It portrays the drug in an exclusively negative light and show creator Vince Gilligan has said he made meth a central part of the storyline because it was the “worst way [he] could think of for Walter White to make money.” Other notable appearances of methamphetamine in popular culture include Val Kilmer’s role as a meth addict in the movie “The Salton Sea,” and the popular song “You and Your Crystal Meth” by the Drive-By Truckers.
Methamphetamine commonly comes in two forms: meth and crystal meth. Both are known by a wide variety of street names.
Common street names for meth include:
- Mexican crack
Common slang terms for crystal meth are:
- Stove top
Methamphetamine deeply affects a user’s brain and body. These effects are often visible in a number of areas of a meth addict’s life. One of the first signs of methamphetamine abuse is a sudden loss of interest in other areas of life. Hobbies, relationships and career goals will all take a back seat to meth and obtaining their next high. Methamphetamine alters how meth addicts think and feel, and makes it so that procuring the next dose of the drug takes precedence above all else.It is not uncommon for frequent users of the drug to display these behavioral signs of meth addiction:
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Neglecting relationships
- Self isolation
- Sudden shift in social groups
- Risky financial behavior, such as cashing out savings in order to buy meth
- Criminality, such as stealing money in order to buy meth
- Obsessive focus on a particular issue or task
- Forgetting important dates, times, or events
- Increased aggression or violent behavior
- Clumsiness (decreased fine motor skills)
- Distracted behavior in social situations
- Risky sexual behavior
- Erratic sleep patterns, such as insomnia and hypersomnia
- Hyperactivity and high energy
- Extreme loss of appetite (eating little or not at all for several days)
- Displaying a tic or twitch — a small, repetitive behavior, such as pulling hair or picking at a particular spot on the skin
Meth addicts may also have these pieces of paraphernalia in their home, car or personal space:
- An unusually large amount of aluminum foil, particularly with burn or scorch marks (used in smoking crystal meth)
- A water pipe or other pipe, especially with burn or scorch marks (used in smoking crystal meth)
- Burned spoons
- Rolled up slips of paper, rolled up dollar bills, empty pen cases, or straws (used to snort meth)
- Pieces of glass or mirrors, or razor blades (used to snort meth)
- Needles or syringes (used to inject meth)
- New shoelaces or rubber tubing (used as a tourniquet if injecting the drug intravenously)
While it is true that methamphetamine addicts are most likely to be young, white men, anyone can become addicted to the drug at any time. If you notice one or more of these signs presenting in the life of a loved one, they may well have a methamphetamine addiction. Knowing how someone acts on meth is a good first step in getting a meth addict the help that they need. Addiction is a disease and, as with any other disease, an afflicted person will need to see a medical professional as soon as possible.
Meth addiction can cause a variety of physical and psychological reactions. Some people consider these adverse effects an allergic reaction to crystal meth, but they are, by and large, ordinary effects of a methamphetamine addiction. Every inch of the body and brain are adversely influenced by the drug, and there are many easily identifiable symptoms which loved ones can be on the lookout for.The following are common physical symptoms of meth addiction:
- Sudden and/or severe weight loss
- Extreme perspiration
- Irregular breathing patterns
- Sores that are slow to heal
- Dilated pupils
- Burns, particularly on the lips or fingers
- Track marks on the arms
- Blackened, rotting teeth (also known as “meth mouth”)
- Broken teeth (the result of meth-induced tooth grinding)
- Bad breath
- Premature aging of the skin
The following are common psychological symptoms of meth addiction:
- Agitation or fidgeting
- Mood swings
- Belief that there are insects crawling under skin
Beyond these common symptoms, some methamphetamine users experience severe and immediately life-threatening issues such as seizures, heart attacks and liver failure. If any of these occur, it is imperative to get the affected person to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.
Treatment Options For Meth Users
What Treatment Options Exist?
Currently, the most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction are comprehensive cognitive-behavioral interventions. For example, the Matrix Model—a behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing, and encouragement for nondrug-related activities—has been shown to be effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.7 Contingency management interventions, which provide tangible incentives in exchange for engaging in treatment and maintaining abstinence, have also been shown to be effective.8 There are no medications at this time approved to treat methamphetamine addiction; however, this is an active area of research for NIDA.