What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that developed in the 20th century. Methamphetamine or more commonly known as Meth, is a derivative of amphetamine, and it is more potent than amphetamine. A more significant amount of Meth than the same amount of amphetamine is absorbed into the brain; additionally, Meth affects the central nervous system. Meth produces a rapid high and a sense of well-being. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1.6 million people developed a methamphetamine disorder. Because of its highly addictive qualities, it’s classified as a Scheduled II stimulant drug. Compared to cocaine, Meth produces a longer-lasting high than cocaine. Meth high, as with other stimulants, is short-lived but remains in the body for much longer: “50% of the drug is removed from the body in 12 hours. 50% of cocaine is removed from the body in 1 hour.” It can take Meth up to 4 days to leave the body. (It can be found in a hair test up to 3 months later. Regular use of Meth will remain in the urine for at least a week.)

Legally obtained Meth is prescribed by a physician for various conditions, including ADHD and short-term weight loss. These prescriptions tend to be for doses far lower than those pills obtained illegally. Adderall effects start 45-60 minutes after swallowing the drug, and the results will not last more than 4-6 hours. 

Meth comes in powder or pill form and, when used illegally, will be swallowed or snorted. However, illegal Meth, cooked in “meth labs,” is generally found in glass-like fragments known as crystal meth. Crystal meth is smoked in a crack pipe or taken through injection. Other ways in which to consume Meth is through snorting or inserting rectally.

Illegally Produced Meth Contains:

“The most common ingredient in Meth is Pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, commonly found in cold medicine. The Pseudoephedrine or ephedrine is formulated into Meth through a cooking process. The ingredients used in making Meth can include: ether, paint thinner, Freon®, acetone, anhydrous ammonia, iodine crystals, red phosphorus, drain cleaner, battery acid, and lithium (taken from inside batteries).”

Short-term Effects:

  • Increased attention and decreased fatigue
  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria and rush
  • Increased respiration
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperthermia

How Does Meth Work On The Brain?

Meth causes the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with the reward system in the brain; it is also associated with motivation and motor function. Additionally, Meth inhibits the neurotransmitters’ ability to reuptake dopamine, which is necessary for healthy brain function. High levels of dopamine can damage the nerve terminals in the brain. Like other addictive drugs, the user grows accustomed to the drug and desires more to achieve something close to the original high. 

People using Meth regularly will employ a binge and crash pattern. As the effects of the drug begin to wear off and before it has been metabolized in the body, people try to get the high back by taking more. This pattern can lead to what is known as a run. A person on a run will continuously seek out the drug for days.

Long-term Use Symptoms

  • Anxiety 
  • Confusion 
  • Insomnia 
  • Mood disturbances  
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia 
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin)
  • Severe dental problems
  • Weight loss
  • Increased risk of contracting infectious diseases

Additionally, research in primates found a decline in mental flexibility.

Some Street Names For Meth Are:

  • Bikers Coffee
  • Black Beauties
  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Go-fast
  • Hanyak
  • LA Ice
  • Poor Man’s cocaine
  • Shards
  • Trash
  • Tweak

Combining Meth With Other Drugs

As with many other drugs that addicts use, multiple drugs are often combined with Meth. Users will take additional stimulants such as cocaine or MDMA, but then sometimes, users will use opioids, GHB, poppers, or ketamine. The effects on the body at this point can be unpredictable. Psychotic symptoms from Meth and combinations with other drugs can persist for months or years after use.

Treating Meth Addiction

Prolonged abstinence from Meth can reduce the misuse of methamphetamine by an individual addicted to the drug. Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine. The first step in treating any addiction is to go through a medical detox supervised by a medical team of addiction experts. While managing the withdrawal symptoms, the medical team may diagnose an underlying mental health disorder exacerbating the addiction.

There are treatment modalities that have proven successful in treating meth addiction. These include 3-4 months of behavioral treatment combined with behavioral therapies, individual counseling, group counseling, family education, and regular drug testing. Another treatment intervention for Meth and other stimulants is based upon an incentive approach that reinforces engaging in treatment and maintaining abstinence. 

The most commonly used and successful approach is the Matrix Model, designed for abusers of stimulants. This model combines cognitive behavioral therapies with other therapies and relearning activities that provide pleasurable experiences without drugs. This approach can also include support groups such as AA and NA. The different model mentioned above, the Contingency management model, uses rewards and incentives to help people stay in treatment and remain abstinent. This model reinforces staying sober and clean and showing up for treatment. The most common tip has monetary value to the client in treatment, such as winning a prize or a gift card. However, this type of treatment is unlawful for providers with funding from the federal government and specific health plans.

For people suffering from stimulant addiction, i.e., methamphetamine and crystal meth, a treatment program is based on behavioral therapies. If you or a loved one is suffering from meth addiction or addiction to other stimulants, you can get help today. Call now and have all your questions answered in a professional, confidential conversation with one of our staff. We can help you find the path to recovery today.