The Dangers of Methamphetamine Abuse
Many people have heard the terms “meth” or “crystal meth.” Despite its common use in movies and television, methamphetamine is one of the most dangerous and illicit substance addictions. Since its chemical components are so corrosive, the drug’s effect on the user are incredibly damaging.
Αs a highly addictive substance that creates an intense, short-lived high, methamphetamine interacts with some of the brain’s most powerful chemicals. Meth stimulates serotonin and dopamine, giving the user a euphoric high. After a user experiences this intense high, the onset of addiction is often immediate and the person will continue to use the drug to keep from coming down from the euphoria.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction
Meth abuse is a dangerous undertaking. And although there are many individuals who turn to methamphetamine as an escape or disconnection from life, there are just as many people who are high-functioning in society. Since the drug can produce feelings of pleasure and productivity in early usage, the reasons for meth addiction are often more complicated than simple escapism.
Since meth affects numerous bodily systems, including the skin, teeth, cardiovascular system, and kidneys, its destructive work is often externally apparent. A methamphetamine addiction is difficult to hide because of these external effects, like teeth deterioration and open sores on the skin. Other apparent symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Hyper and unusually active
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Gaunt appearance, especially the face
- Unexplained sweating
- Nervous or anxious behavior
- Unexplained headaches
- Racing heart
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Bad breath or extremely dry mouth
Long-term Effects of Meth Abuse and Addiction
If you think a loved one may be abusing meth, it is important to observe the person’s behavior and not just their physical appearance. While abusing meth, these behavioral signs are often present:
- Disruptions with work or family relationships
- Difference in school performance, which can be neglected or obsessive
- Paranoia or irritability
- Signs of malnutrition and muscular atrophy
- Increased physical activity
- Unpredictable behavior
- Contraction of HIV or Hepatitis C by unclean needle use
- Legal problems
In addition to the damaging physical effects of meth abuse, users will likely experience a deterioration of mental and psychological health. Conditions such as chronic depression and anxiety, as well as memory problems and psychosis, are not uncommon. And because methamphetamine is composed of such harsh and corrosive chemicals, users often show early signs of aging well beyond their years.
Paranoia and Meth Mouth
Meth abuse causes the user to experience paranoia and, in some cases, vivid hallucinations. Over longer periods of time, meth users have also reported unpleasant physical sensations that they describe as the feeling of “bugs crawling beneath the skin.” With these sensations, coupled with paranoia and faulty thinking, users will compulsively pick and scratch at their skin.
And since substance addiction often causes users to stop taking care of themselves, the picking and scratching may lead to open sores, which eventually become infected. If left untreated, many active meth users will have numerous scabs and open wounds on their faces, arms, and legs. In the long-term, infected skin sores can cause other negative health consequences, such as staph infections and more severe cases, MERSA or septicemia.
When users abuse meth over long periods of time, the harsh agents in the substance erode both the soft and hard tissues of the mouth. The acids quickly destroy the user’s tooth enamel, which leads to rapid decay. Furthermore, the person’s gums often bleed and separate from the tooth, and can result in the loss of the tooth altogether.
As you can see, methamphetamine addiction is very serious and can cause long-term, adverse health effects. But the sooner a person seeks treatment, the less likely they are to experience life-long problems related to meth use.
High Risk of Overdose
Meth is also more deadly than other substances because, in many situations, a user doesn’t realize the dose they are using. A person can easily overdose in any manner of use—ingestion, smoking, injection, or smoking.
Sign and symptoms of meth overdose are important to know since many users may be unaware of their dosage. Signs of overdose may include:
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Confusion and agitation
- Sweating and overheating
- Stomach pains
- Chest pain
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
All in all, methamphetamine can cause dangerous overheating and can even induce a heart attack, convulsions, stroke, and eventually, death.
Recovering from Meth Addiction
Despite the seriousness of meth addiction, recovery is always possible. The earlier a user can get into treatment, the better. In a rehabilitation or treatment facility, users can detox in a safe and monitored environment under the careful supervision of medical staff. Since methamphetamine withdrawals are severe and can cause depression and psychosis, it is not recommended that users detox at home. In a medical facility, supervisors can administer pharmacological treatments to help mitigate the effects of methamphetamine withdrawal. This ultimately lowers the risks of relapse in the future, too.
After detox, those in recovery can receive the care they need from trained counselors and other therapies to address underlying conditions that led to meth abuse in the first place. In therapy, whether individual or in a group, counselors help individuals cope with life stressors and traumatic events with practicing emotional resilience and positive reinforcement. When equipped with these new skills and strategies, those in recovery are less likely to relapse and can begin to rebuild their lives without the debilitating effects of methamphetamine.
Envisioning a New Future
Addiction to methamphetamine is a pernicious, stubborn substance use disorder and especially hard to recognize when a person makes an effort to hide their abuse. But fortunately for friends and family of the one affected, there are a number of signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for, which can indicate early signs of methamphetamine addiction.
If you are interested in the services offered by Pinnacle Recovery, please click here.