In past 30 years, the production of methamphetamine and abuse exploded across the country. Once California was the epicenter of methamphetamine production in the United States, however rural areas in the South and Midwest have become major meth producer. In fact, many rural counties consider meth production and use is their number one drug problem. Despite public health programs to inhibit meth use, the substance remains in high demand.
Methamphetamine is a drug which acts as a stimulant of the central nervous system. A structural variant of the chemical is sold over-the-counter in the form of nasal decongestant, although in this way it cannot pass into the brain to produce a high. One of the main reasons why the drug is so popular is that its production is relatively straightforward, involving many commercially available components. However, the manufacture of meth requires the use of flammable and toxic substances, which usually and frequently cause explosions during production.
How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?
Many substances are not able to cross into the brain because of the blood-brain barrier, which keeps the toxins out. However, methamphetamine is fat-soluble, and it can easily pass into the brain to exert its effects. The major effect of methamphetamine in the brain is to stimulate the release of dopamine. Dopamine is nothing but a neurotransmitter, which means it affects chemical signaling between brain cells. This brain chemical is involved in the neural reward system, the experience of pleasure, motivation, and production of movement.
When the methamphetamine enters the brain, it causes neurons to release dopamine and prevents the excess dopamine from being recycled. This process stimulates the brain cells in major reward centers, thereby creating an intense high or feeling of euphoria. Since meth affects the brain’s reward centers, it becomes highly addictive. This is the reason why drug users crave more and more of the substance to get the same high. Over time, the brain becomes rewired and causes addiction, which is characterized by incessant drug taking behaviors. Chronic methamphetamine use can even cause major changes in the structure and in the function of brain areas associated with memory and emotional processing.
Effects of Methamphetamine Use
Methamphetamine users normally take the drug by smoking, injecting, or snorting it. No matter what the route of entry is, meth causes severe physical and mental side effects. Trying methamphetamine even once can have profound effects on an individual’s health.
Because meth stimulates the central nervous system, it can even lead to manic levels of decreased appetite, physical activity, high blood pressure, increased wakefulness and insomnia, rapid breathing, heart rate variability, and high body temperature. These side effects are often moderate to severe, significantly affecting an individual’s day-to-day life. Meth users can even go days without eating or sleep because of the drug’s effects.
Over time, methamphetamine use ravages a person’s body.
Common effects include:
- extreme weight loss
- major tooth decay and tooth loss (often called “meth mouth”)
- violent behavior
- mental fogginess or confusion
- severe anxiety
- extreme mood swings
The use of meth makes it increasingly difficult for an individual to carry on normal social relationships with family and friends. The addicted person often becomes socially isolated and only interact with other methamphetamine users. Children who grow up in the homes of meth users are frequently abused and neglected.
Because meth has such profound effects on the brain, it even permanently affects mental abilities. Chronic users also experience psychotic symptoms such as auditory hallucinations, delusions, visual hallucinations, and paranoia.
Deadly Effects of Methamphetamine
Even the short-term use of meth can be deadly. Methamphetamine use may permanently damage an individual’s cardiovascular system, leading to fatal heart attacks or strokes. Using the drug can also cause severe malnutrition and weight loss that leaves the individual vulnerable to deadly infections. Over time, most of the body’s organ systems are compromised, including the kidneys, liver, and lungs. People who inject meth often die from hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and other fatal blood-borne illnesses.
While in the throes of a meth-induced high, individual often engage in violent and risky behaviors that end in death. Meth users have wandered into the cold and died of hypothermia, gotten in fatal fights, and even jumped off of tall buildings because of drug-induced thoughts and behaviors. Risky sexual behaviors can lead to deadly sexually transmitted diseases.
We Can Help
There is no safe amount of its use. After just one use of this powerful drug, many people experience signs of addiction. Just a few weeks and months of meth use can profoundly change the way a person looks, thinks, and behaves. Among all of the drugs of abuse, meth addiction is often the most difficult to overcome. It is also the most deadly one. Anyone suffering from meth addiction must immediately seek help from a rehab facility. Only with professional support and guidance, one can win this deadly addiction.