Methamphetamine is manufactured in make-shift labs, which themselves are extremely dangerous. Due to the chemicals and heating elements used in making the drug, many labs explode and kill or injure many people. Often, innocent children die as a result of being exposed to these toxic environments.
“Meth” as it is often called, may be swallowed or snorted and is also known by other street names like “chalk” or “speed”. The drug can also be found in a crystallized form that resembles ice. In this form, the drug is inhaled by smoking and is called “crystal”, “ice”, “glass” and “tina”.
Early-stage of meth use is usually defined as those who use on a “casual basis” –ingesting the drug by snorting or swallowing. Casual use of the drug is seen among people who consider it a safe “boost” – in order to accomplish tasks in short order, to stay awake for long periods, or to lose weight. For these users, life may continue uninterrupted for a while. If use is truly minimal, addiction may not have occurred yet. Make no make mistake about it, however, addiction is lurking right around the corner.
Beginnings of addiction appear as the user is no longer content with the casual pick-me-up they get from meth. Swallowing or snorting the drug does not produce the highly-addictive rush that smoking or injecting brings with it. Wanting to experience the euphoria, many casual users cross the line into a full-blown addiction. The rush results in euphoria, racing heartbeat along with soaring pulse and blood pressure. Even at the very early stages of use, the drug has been known to cause stroke and cardiac arrest – resulting in death.
Meth taken in small doses can still produce damage to the central nervous system. Inability to sleep, incessant physical activity (to the point of exhaustion), decreased appetite, the body losing its ability to regulate temperature (which can result in organ damage or failure) and insomnia are just a few of many side-effects.
Binge users experience the rush, the resulting “high” and smoke or inject regularly. Meth is particularly addictive for many reasons; not the least of which is the length of time the “rush” is experienced – anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. The “high” often produces feelings of grandiosity – users can become argumentative because they are convinced they are smarter than anyone else or are superior in some other way. This period can last anywhere from 3-18 hours. It is easy to see why meth can greatly disrupt lives if only considering the fact addicts can remain “high” for 18-hours at a time. The user is forced to use more and more meth; each time the rush and high are less intense and less enjoyable. Eventually, the addict experiences no rush and no high but does experience physical and mental hyperactivity. Binges often last up to two weeks or more.
Tweaking is the stage that follows the binging and is considered the most dangerous phase by many. Tweakers experience hallucinations and deep depression (sometimes resulting in suicide) and they will do anything to escape those feelings. Most often they use more drugs or they drink alcohol to excess. Tweakers are also known to become irrational and violent with little or no advanced warning.
Crashing comes next, which will find the addict sleeping for extremely long periods, sometimes for 1-3 days.
Withdrawal from methamphetamine does not produce immediate symptoms – instead withdrawal slowly creeps in, sometimes 30 – 90 days after last using the drug. The most common symptom of withdrawal is deep, deep depression – often, depression is first felt as an inability to experience any pleasure. As depression worsens, suicide becomes a real risk for the meth addict in withdrawal. Many addicts return to using meth again in an attempt to stop these feelings and, thus, the cycle begins again.
WARNING: Meth use exposes addicts to multiple health hazards.
Studies have shown that use of methamphetamine can result in permanent damage of brain cells. Regular meth users, studied over a period of time, have exhibited symptoms much like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder. (You may have observed the effects of Parkinson’s in well-known celebrities Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali).
Recovery from meth addiction is a real possibility. Few addicts are able to stop on their own; often treatment by professionals is necessary. The good news is you can stop if you are willing to do the work it takes to regain your life.