Published October 11, 2018
Methamphetamine (also known as meth, crystal meth, speed or crank) is an illegal recreational drug known for its properties as a stimulant. Derivatives of amphetamines are sometimes contained in prescription medications used to treat obesity and ADHD such as Adderall and Ritalin (amphetamine salts); however, meth is illegally manufactured in makeshift labs throughout the country, sometimes referred to as “‘cooking.”
Uppers, or stimulants, are not new in the United States. Various drugs containing amphetamines have been legally prescribed throughout history; particularly in diet pills and medications used to treat ADHD. In the 1950s and 1960s, diet pills (sometimes referred to as rainbow pills) were advertised showing housewives with seemingly boundless energy, happily vacuuming their living rooms in high heels in their spotless homes, and showcasing their slim figures. The diet pills were typically loaded with amphetamines; they increased energy and suppressed the appetite. The dangers of ingesting large quantities of amphetamines were largely unknown by the general public at the time, and the people taking diet pills had no idea the damage they were doing to their mental and physical health. Addiction, psychosis, depression, irritability, heart palpitations, thyroid and hormonal disorders and other serious health problems soon followed.
Amphetamines are contained in some pharmaceutical medications used to treat ADHD and sleeping disorders, such as Adderall and Ritalin. Adderall has a high rate of abuse among college students, who occasionally use the drug to study all night long, cramming before finals. Amphetamine use remains controversial when treating adults and children with ADD and ADHD; the long-term effects of amphetamine use are largely unknown, meaning more research and case studies need to be done for researchers to fully understand the safety of amphetamines.
Meth is illegally manufactured using synthetic chemicals, some of which are highly toxic. The use of meth is not limited to one particular region of the country; it is abused in virtually every state. However, some areas have been ravaged more severely than others, such as the Ozarks. The effects of meth are similar to those of cocaine, and meth is easier to manufacture and less expensive, making it even more dangerous. Meth is made using a mixture of chemicals and substances that can be legally purchased like ammonia and cough syrup. Some toxic chemicals used to manufacture meth include everything from battery acid to paint thinner. The chemicals used to cook meth are flammable and extremely volatile, which is why it is not uncommon for meth labs to explode.
Meth is highly addictive. Meth delivers short, potent bursts of energy after being injected, smoked, ingested or snorted. Increased levels of dopamine and serotonin are released in the brain, resulting in a euphoric rush. While high on meth, users typically require little to no food or sleep for extended periods of time. The effects of meth can last from six to 24 hours depending on how the drug is administered, the dosage, and the tolerance of the particular user. Meth binges are commonly followed by severe crashes. During a crash, a user will experience fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and sometimes seizures.
Meth can cause erratic, unpredictable behavior. It is linked to increased high-risk behavior such as unprotected sex, IV drug use, and criminal activity. The toxic chemicals used to manufacture meth commonly cause damage to tissue and skin as well as tooth decay.
Long-term use of meth can cause permanent damage to the central and nervous systems. Brain damage and irreversible brain damage have been reported. Meth also causes damage and stress to the heart and cardiovascular system. Malnourishment is also common among long-term users of the drug, as it suppresses the appetite. Meth is also believed to cause psychosis and panic attacks. Meth is generally known for causing premature aging and ravages the personal appearance of long-term users. Some police departments have released the notorious “Faces of Meth” mugs hot galleries as cautionary tales to the public of how meth can completely mentally and physically destroy a person.
Meth is considered a particularly difficult drug to treat. Meth addiction is typically treated through cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with a detox program. The effects of meth withdrawal are tough both mentally and physically. There is a huge dip in the brain’s serotonin and dopamine receptors, causing feelings of depression, hopelessness, irritability and sometimes, suicidal thoughts. This is compounded by other physical symptoms including extreme fatigue, restlessness, and general physical discomfort. These symptoms are halted once meth is taken again, resulting in a high relapse rate. As such, intensive recovery programs are recommended so that patients can detox in a safe, monitored environment, with the necessary help, support and counseling