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Side Effects of Meth

Methamphetamine is an extremely potent and addictive stimulant drug. It is commonly referred to as meth, crystal meth, crank, and many other street names. It can be sold in many forms but the most common include a white powder or small shards of broken glass with a slight blue tint. Meth can also be consumed in a number of different ways including ingestion in pill form, insufflation (snorting), smoking, or intravenous (IV) use.

Identifying the drug is easy enough but identifying an addiction can be a little more tricky. Meth is used recreationally for its stimulant effects. People who have experimented with the drug describe its effects as euphoric. It has also been described as creating a feeling of invulnerability or strong confidence in its users. Some people even use it to dull or block out painful emotions or memories.

What Meth Addiction Does to the Brain and Body

When a person uses meth, the drug immediately begins to hijack the brain’s natural chemical reward system. When you do something that inspires joy or satisfaction, it’s marked by a chemical response in the brain that tells you to feel content or satisfied. This is due to a chemical called dopamine. 

Dopamine is what’s known as a neurotransmitter, providing communication between parts of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, motivation, memory, attention, and even the regulation of body movements. Dopamine plays a very important role in the natural ebb and flow of your brain chemistry, and low levels of dopamine may cause negative effects on mood, motivation, and memory.

When meth is ingested, it begins to hijack the brain’s natural regulation systems by forcing it to produce an unnaturally high amount of dopamine. This rapid release of dopamine is what’s responsible for feelings of energy, invulnerability, and euphoria in users. The onslaught of dopamine is so intense that no natural human experience can compare, leading to users chasing the drug, often disregarding family, career, and school to use.

Meth is an incredibly powerful drug with profound effects on the brain and body. Because of this, there are many short-term and long-term effects of methamphetamine use. Being able to identify these effects can be the first step in helping you or a loved one with substance use disorder.

If you’ve noticed some of the following symptoms in yourself or a loved one, the meth treatment programs at Serenity Lane can help.

Short-term Consequences of Methamphetamine Addiction

The first time a person uses meth, they are not likely to experience many of the negative side effects associated with long-term use. Methamphetamine use releases very high levels of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain which “teaches” the brain to repeat the pleasurable activity of taking the drug. This initial energy and euphoria hides something far more sinister as the drug begins to lay the foundations of addiction in the brain.

Some other short-term side effects may include:

  • Hyperactivity and Heightened Awareness:

Methamphetamines were once prescribed as an alertness aid in the past for their ability to increase focus in users. A user may also feel that the drug increases their productivity in spades, leading to justifying their use of the drug. 

  • Aggressive Behavior

Meth use has also been linked to aggressive or violent behavior in its users. Studies by the National Institute of Health have shown that this increase in aggressive behavior may be due to the paranoia-inducing effects of the drug. A user is much more likely to perceive their environment as hostile or threatening, leading to an increase in aggressive behavior.

  • Appetite Loss:

Like some other stimulants, meth has been linked to a severe decrease in appetite. It is not uncommon for a user to go multiple days without eating while in the throes of a meth binge. This can lead to rapid and sudden weight loss, another sign of addiction to look out for.

  • Hypertension and Heartbeat Abnormalities

Increased blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack has been associated with the stimulant effects of meth use.

  • Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature and is typically caused by the failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms. As we know, meth can override some of the body’s natural systems, causing many complications. Hyperthermia may be the most severe of the short-term effects as it can lead to heat stroke and death if not properly attended to.

  • Dehydration

Many meth users experience dehydration as a short-term effect for a number of reasons. One reason is that the brain and body are overrun by so many stimulants that the person may not even think about drinking water. Another reason, as mentioned above, is the hyperthermia may cause a person to sweat profusely, leading to dehydration.

Long-term Symptoms of Meth Abuse, Addiction, and Withdrawal

Many of the long-term effects are continuations, and the ultimate results of, the short-term effects mentioned above. As is the case with many drugs, tolerance to meth’s pleasurable effects begins to develop when taken repeatedly. Users often begin to use the drug in higher doses, higher frequency, or in a different method of ingestion (ex. going from smoking meth to intravenous use) in order to achieve the same level of effect. Chronic users will develop difficulty in deriving natural pleasure from anything that doesn’t involve taking the drug. These cravings and chemical dependencies are the foundation for long-term addiction.

Some other long-term effects of meth use may include:

  • Psychosis

Psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations are all common in long-term users. One common type of hallucination is the feeling of invisible bugs under the skin of users. The user will pick at their skin, forming telltale lesions and scars that put the user at an increased risk of infection.

Another common type of psychosis includes the repetition of tasks such as obsessive cleaning. A meth user may take things apart and put them back together repeatedly in an obsessive manner. 

  • Changes in Brain Function

Long-term use can have some very severe effects on the structure and function of the brain. This can lead to deficits in thinking and motor function, increased distractability, mood disturbances, memory loss, and aggressive or violent behavior. 

  • Severe Dental Problems (“Meth Mouth”)

Dental problems, commonly referred to as “meth mouth,” can occur in long-term users for a number of reasons. For one, the user may be so focused on other outside stimulation that dental hygiene becomes a non-priority, leading to tooth decay.

Users also suffer from dry mouth. The mouth counts on the flow of saliva to wash away the harmful bacteria that causes tooth decay. When there is little or no saliva, the bacteria begins to wreak havoc on the teeth and gums, causing “meth mouth.”

  • Weight Loss

As mentioned above, long-term users will see a continuation of lack of appetite, leading to extreme weight loss. A long-term user may be a gaunt shadow of their pre-meth self. Many of these “before-and-after” type photos remain an affective anti-meth use campaign.

Chronic long-term use also results in decreased blood circulation, increased blood pressure, and weakened veins. As a result of these issues, a meth user is much more likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke.

Long-term and high-dose crystal meth use is associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing all of the negative side effects of the drug. The sooner a meth user decides to stop using, the better the outcome will be. 

The first step in kicking the habit of addiction is detox. Serenity Lane has detox programs that provide compassionate, around-the-clock care to give you the best chance of recovery. We highly recommend you use our detox program because meth withdrawals are notoriously intense.

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FAQs about Meth Addiction

  • What are the effects of meth?

Users will experience a whole host of effects from the drug. The desirable effects include increased attentiveness and energy as well as extreme euphoria. Along with these effects are the negative effects of extreme paranoia, insomnia, loss of appetite, tooth decay, aggression, hypertension, hyperthermia, and dehydration.

  • How long do side effects last after doing meth?

The “high” from meth use can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on dose and administration method. Some of the side effects such as insomnia and loss of appetite will subside when the drug wears off but other side effects can do permanent damage to the brain and body. Side effects such as extreme weight loss and tooth decay do not subside when the drug wears off.

  • How long do the side effects of meth happen?

The side effects of meth can be experienced for as long as the person is a chronic user. As a person falls deeper into addiction, many of the side effects begin to intensify. The sooner a person stops using meth, the sooner they are able to possibly reverse any damage caused by the drug.

If you or a loved one is battling with methamphetamine addiction, Serenity Lane’s staff of compassionate and informed healthcare professionals is here to help. We start by evaluating your personal needs and formulating an individualized treatment plan.

Call us at 800-543-9905 today for a no-cost, confidential evaluation with one of our trained professionals to determine which approach to treatment is right for you.

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