Methamphetamine Use Disorder

What It Is

Methamphetamine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that directly affects the central nervous system. The common illegal form of this stimulant is crystal methamphetamine, which appears like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. 

It is taken in forms such as:

  • Smoking
  • Swallowing in pill form
  • Snorting
  • Injecting a powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol

It is common for individuals to often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern due to the euphoric high from the drug which both starts and fades quickly. In some cases, people take the drug in a form of binging known as a “run”, which means they give up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

 Methamphetamine increases the brain’s natural amount of chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a key component in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to increase levels of dopamine at a rapid pace in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Like cocaine or amphetamines, taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in a lot of similar short-term health effects such as:

  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature

Injecting methamphetamines via shared needles causes a high risk for contraction of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B & C. These diseases are transmitted through either blood or bodily fluid contact and can remain on drug equipment that is shared between users. Methamphetamine usage can alter judgement and decision-making which leads to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection. 

Use of methamphetamine can worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to the nervous system’s cells and increased cognitive problems in individuals who use methamphetamine than it does in those who have HIV and don’t use the drug. Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

 Long-term use has many other negative consequences, including:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Addiction
  • Severe dental problems
  • Intense itching, leading to skin sores
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in brain structure and function
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia – extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • Hallucinations – sensations and images that appear real though they aren’t

Complications from Methamphetamine Use Disorder

Continued methamphetamine use disorder causes changes in the brain’s dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and verbal learning. It’s been proven that for individuals who have used methamphetamine over a long period of time, severe changes also affect areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory. This might be the reason for observable cognitive and emotional problems in those that misuse the drug.

Although as time passes without use the brain changes may reverse, other changes from methamphetamine may not be recoverable even after an extended amount of time passes. A study suggests that people who once used methamphetamine have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system that impairs movement. Severe complications from methamphetamine use disorder can lead to overdose, coma, or death.

At My Hope For Tomorrow we are dedicated to providing you or a loved one with long-lasting recovery so that life can be enjoyed again and free from substance use disorder.

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Don’t let Methamphetamine use disorder ruin your life, the caring and compassionate clinical team at My Hope For Tomorrow are here for you to rediscover life free from addiction.