Crystal Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine, or “crystal meth,” is an illicit street drug that is typically manufactured in small home laboratories. The drug is chemically similar to amphetamines, and is inexpensive to make or purchase on the street. Meth is widespread across the United States, and government officials have uncovered meth labs in all 50 states.

Crystal meth is extraordinarily addictive. Often, it only takes one use for a person to become addicted. People of all ages and backgrounds can become addicted to crystal meth.

What is Crystal Meth?

Methamphetamine is made using common household items, over the counter drugs and other readily available ingredients. It is often “cooked” in home kitchens, basements and cars throughout the country. In the U.S., it is especially prevalent in the Midwest. It’s highly dangerous to have a “meth lab” in a home, and if the drug is cooked incorrectly, the gas produced can be fatal.

The Biology of Crystal Meth Addiction

Methamphetamine produces a strong addiction reaction in the body and brain. Effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased desire for physical activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wakefulness.

Crystal meth increases dopamine levels in the brain, and interacts with neurotransmitters in a special way. After the first use, an addicts’ brain chemistry is altered, and the brain no longer feels pleasure in the same way.

After the effects of crystal meth wear off, addicts may become irritable and depressed. Their focus is often totally devoted to obtaining more of the drug and maintaining the high. Many addicts completely lose their appetite; in fact, one of the major causes of death from methamphetamines is starvation.

Methamphetamine use also carries other risks, including the potential for heart failure, seizures or hallucinations. Many meth users are also at higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, due to needle sharing and the potential for risky sexual behavior. Serious dental issues, commonly referred to as “meth mouth,” are also a concern.

Crystal Meth Addiction Risk Factors

People who have not been educated about the dangers of methamphetamines are at risk of becoming addicted to the drug, as are students, professionals and others looking for a boost of energy and focus.

Other risk factors include:

  • A family history of addiction
  • A history of illicit drug use
  • Marital status (the unmarried are at higher risk)
  • Age (many meth users are under the age of 40).

Crystal Meth Addiction Warning Signs

A variety of warning signs signal crystal meth addiction. Those who are fighting an addiction to meth will often appear to have boundless energy and little need for sleep. They may be paranoid, agitated or talk in a bizarre manner. Methamphetamine addicts are also prone to fits of rage and may exhibit violent behavior. If you suspect a loved one may be using crystal meth, it may be dangerous to approach them about this issue without a counselor, doctor, or police officer present.

Crystal Meth Addiction Treatments

If someone with an addiction to meth attempts to stop using the drug, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hyperventilation
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Nausea
  • Shaking.

Professional drug detox programs may be helpful, so that users can break their addiction in a structured environment. There are no medications for meth addiction or meth withdrawal. Treatment is, therefore, entirely cognitive.

How to Seek Help

If you suspect that someone near you is cooking meth, call 911 immediately. Do not approach the lab, as the chemical reactions are very dangerous.

If you suspect that a loved one is using meth, especially if they have become violent, call 911. Do not confront them about their addiction, as it could trigger an outburst.

If you need help breaking your own addiction to meth, there are a variety of resources available. The DEA offers a treatment resource locator at http://dasis3.samhsa.gov/.

Resources

KCI: The Anti-Meth Site. (2010). Methamphetamine FAQ. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from http://www.kci.org/meth_info/faq_meth.htm

KCI: The Anti-Meth Site. (2010). What is methamphetamine? Retrieved August 6, 2010, from http://www.kci.org/meth_info/sites/meth_psycho.htm

KCI: The Anti-Meth Site. (2010). Meth facts. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from http://www.kci.org/meth_info/sites/meth_facts2.htm

The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). NIDA info facts: Methamphetamine. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/methamphetamine.html

Drugabuse.gov. (2010). Methamphetamine. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/PDF/RRMetham.pdf