On Addictive Addiction, we cover a lot of addictive drugs and behaviors. We want to help you to understand addiction, to recognize when you may have a problem, and to realize that addiction is treatable. Let’s talk about meth addiction.
One of the most addictive substances known is meth. There are over 24 million meth abusers in the United States alone, and meth addiction is not uncommon among those abusers. So what is meth, and how do you recognize a meth addiction?
What Does Crystal Meth Do to You?
Meth was discovered in the late 1800s, and is a derivative of its parent, the amphetamine. Despite the dangers of methamphetamines, amphetamines do have medical applications. They’re sometimes used to treat disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma and narcolepsy.
Meth, though, is a variation of medical amphetamines. Both crystal meth and medical amphetamines can be addictive and can be abused, but street users typically use meth rather than medical amphetamines. That having been clarified, we’ll look at crystal meth for the purposes of this article.
Meth users will experience intense and almost immediate effects. Meth is a stimulant of the central nervous system, and causes the brain to produce large amounts of dopamine. Dopamine affects the “pleasure center” of the brain. In other words, meth gives users a sense of euphoria.
Physical reactions to meth include an increased heart rate and increased blood pressure. It will allow users to feel more awake and will give them a burst of energy which can last for hours. Meth users will often feel warm, and their rate of breathing will increase. Users often report that their appetite decreases, or disappears entirely.
What is Crystal Meth?
What is crystal meth? While there are medical uses for amphetamines, there are no legal uses for crystal meth. It’s been around a long time, though. Amphetamines were first discovered and manufactured in Germany in 1887, but in 1919 the Japanese discovered that there was a cheaper and easier way to create a similar drug. The meth that they created was water soluble and, therefore, injectable.
Who Invented Meth?
Meth was used in World War II to keep soldiers awake. Japanese Kamikaze pilots were given meth prior to suicide missions. Then, in the 1950s, meth was prescribed by doctors as a weight loss supplement. The drug was also used by blue collar employees, for example, truck drivers. They’d use the drug to keep alert, and the injectable form of the drug became more common. Ultimately, meth became a drug which was used recreationally, and in 1970 it was made illegal in the United States.
What Does Meth Do to Your Body?
There’s no doubt; meth does some serious damage to your brain. But the drug also has lasting effects on your body as well. We mentioned that meth was used in the 1950s as a prescription weight loss drug. The substance does curb the appetite, but if the goal of the user is a healthy appearance, meth is not the answer.
To begin, methamphetamines will cause muscle degradation. The “extreme diet” that meth users participate in dose not provide the body with enough nutrients to survive. As a result, the body will burn the calories from fat reserves, which is why the drug was effective as a weight loss aid. Unfortunately, after these fat stores have been used, the body will then turn to muscle.
Meth addiction will cause other cosmetic issues as well. Skin will turn sallow and dull as a result of decreased blood flow and damaged blood vessels. Similarly, the liver and kidneys will be damaged and skin may appear yellow. Meth users frequently grind their teeth, which results in broken or missing teeth.
There are internal effects to consider as well. Meth will cause loss of coordination and jerky movements, convulsions, excessive sweating, blood clotting and stroke and damage to the lungs.
A common side effect of meth use is the meth sore. These are also called meth mites, crank sores, speed bumps or bugs. They’re caused by dehydration of the skin, and also by a chemical imbalance of the meth user. The combination of these effects causes the user to believe that there are bugs crawling under the skin. He in turn begins to scratch compulsively, and may even use scissors, sticks or blades to remove the hallucinatory bugs.
In short, the meth mites or meth sores are caused by increased blood flow to the skin. The chemicals in the meth are released through the user’s sweat and when it evaporates, it is acidic. The acid damages the skin’s natural protective layer, which ultimately makes the skin uncontrollably itchy.
What Does Meth Do to Your Brain?
Many drugs affect the dopamine levels in your brain. Heroin and cocaine, for example, can create a euphoria by causing the brain to produce large amounts of insulin. Meth is one such drug. When a user takes meth, this hormone will be released and an almost sudden rush is experienced.
Meth, however, has lasting effects on the brain. Cognitive impairment, permanent damage to brain cells, lasting psychosis and depression are some of the long-term effects of methamphetamines on the brain, and the things that people with meth addiction need to be concerned about.
Meth can also cause behavioral changes and anyone suffering from meth addiction may experience extremes of these. Crystal meth abuse can cause a person to become easily angered or irritable. It can also cause severe depression when the body withdraws. Meth addiction can cause obsessive compulsive behaviors, as the brain’s inhibitors are blocked. That is to say, your brain can’t tell your body when to stop.
Finally, meth abusers are defeating their own purpose. Continued use of methamphetamines will eventually cause a user to be unable to experience pleasure at all.
The sensation of bugs beneath the skin is called formication, and it’s just one example of a bigger problem called meth psychosis. Meth psychosis is caused by long term use of the drug, and it causes the meth user to experience delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and obsessive behaviors.
Meth psychosis usually begins to fade as the drug wears off. However, crystal meth has lasting effects on the brain. There are meth users who do not recover from meth psychosis, or those who will experience this psychosis at random times even when not high.
How to Tell if Someone is High on Meth
You’ve probably seen movies or television shows where a person has gotten high on meth. These people will be running around with bursts of energy, talkative and are showing other dramatized signs of a high. But how do you tell if someone is high on meth in real life?
There are a few signs that someone is high on meth, but other drugs will have a similar effect. Someone who is high on meth will have an increased heart rate and dilated pupils. Their breathing may be rapid or shallow. They may appear anxious, distressed or nervous.
Look for other signs, such as tooth grinding and repetitive actions. The user may also be irritable or easily angered. Meth users may also experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to note that just because a person is experiencing one (or all) of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that he is high on meth.
How to Spot a Meth Addict
If you suspect that someone you know has been using meth and suffering from meth addiction, there are a few signs to watch out for. To begin, he will lose his appetite over the long term. You may also notice some weight loss. He will have insomnia, or will not sleep for long periods of time. He may appear nervous or anxious, or may become prone to angry outbursts.
Depression and fatigue will set in as part of the withdrawal process. Paranoia and anxiety may result as well. Finally, respiratory issues and heart rate elevation may be signs of meth addiction.
What is Meth Made of?
Meth is commonly made in small batches at the home of the “cook.” The drug contains many ingredients which are used in everyday households. These ingredients can include battery acid, gasoline additives, drain cleaners, acetone and over the counter medication like Sudafed. The lab itself will use materials like Epsom salts, paint thinner and brake cleaner.
The purpose of this site isn’t to teach you how to make meth. Instead, we’ll just cover the basics of what meth is made of.
Generally, a cook will use cold medicine tablets like ephedrine, ground down into powder form. The ephedrine must be separated from the other ingredients in the tablet, so a solvent is used to do this. Hydriotic acid and red phosphorus are then mixed with the pure ephedrine.
Once the chemicals are combined, the red phosphorus is then filtered out and set aside, and the mixture which remains is neutralized with lye. A substance is added which will turn the meth to a liquid, and hydrogen chloride gas is added to the mixture. This forms a crystal-like salt. This salt is filtered, and the result is methamphetamine.
Street Names for Meth
You’ll hear meth referred to by several names by users. Most are a reference to the effect the drug has, or the appearance of the drug. The most common street names for meth are:
- Crystal meth
Meth Side Effects
We’ve covered some of the side effects of meth in previous sections, but there are a few more facts you should know about the drug. We’ve gotten a few questions about methamphetamines and sexual health, as well as about the dangers of meth labs.
How is Meth Ingested?
In its earlier years, methamphetamines were frequently injected. In recreational use today, the drug can be snorted (inhaled), taken orally, smoked or injected. None of these methods is particularly more common than another, though a lot does depend on regional preference and the context of use.
What Does Meth Smell Like?
Pure forms of meth will have little smell, or a very mild chemical smell.
The smell of meth as it burns will vary depending on the purity of the drug. Some users have described it as a sweet smell, others have compared the smell to a burning oven. Still others have claimed that meth does not smell at all. It certainly does not have the powerful scent you get from marijuana.
What Does Meth Look Like?
Methamphetamine usually takes the form of a white powder that’s crystalline in texture. Crystal meth comes in chunky white or clear crystals.
Why Do Meth Labs Explode
The chemicals used to create crystal meth are extremely flammable. Some may ignite if mixed improperly, and others may explode under conditions of high heat. Friction and other external factors may also create a risk of explosion.
Meth labs are also dangerous in that the chemicals used are caustic to the body and the respiratory system. Exposure, especially prolonged exposure, can cause serious side effects.
Does Meth Make You Horny?
A side effect of crystal meth is that it can cause compulsive behaviors. It does create feelings of sexual arousal, and sometimes these can manifest as aggressive sexual behaviors.
Meth and Erectile Dysfunction
Similar to the effects of alcohol and other substances, crystal meth addiction can cause men to experience difficulty getting and maintaining an erection.