Your teenager may not respond to scare tactics about the health dangers of methamphetamine use. You might get a blank stare if you tell him that meth is highly addictive, or that it may contain hazardous chemicals like drain cleaner, battery acid or lantern fuel. He might roll his eyes when you try discuss the ramifications of the meth epidemic in our country. He may yawn when you tell him that over 40,000 deaths occur in the United States each year due to meth-related overdose, accidents, homicides or suicides.
Perhaps no other drug is as physically ravaging, and pictures of methamphetamine addicts may be a strong deterrent.
What Is Methamphetamine, and What Does It Do?
Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a man-made, highly addictive stimulant. It’s usually mixed with other toxic chemicals to intensify its effects. Meth stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter present in the brain. Dopamine plays an active role in cognitive thinking, motor ability, emotional life and the experience of pleasure.
Meth, either taken orally, snorted, smoked or injected, quickly produces a pleasant “rush,” or a feeling of extreme confidence and well-being. The user has a sudden boost of energy and feels like he’s capable of anything. He might seem euphoric and eager to engage in conversation.
However, once the drug wears off, he’s in for a big letdown. He’s likely to be depressed, anxious or confused, or especially tired but unable to sleep. He may become hostile or even violent.
Hoping to feel the way he felt before, he’ll seek more meth, use it more frequently or increase his doses. Soon, his body builds tolerance and he finds himself addicted. Many meth users say they’ve never again achieved the intensity of that very first high — but they keep trying.
Heavy meth use can result in paranoia, psychotic episodes, hallucinations or delusions. Long-term brain damage may occur, including memory loss, impaired learning and verbal skills, and a decline in motor function.
What Are Meth’s Physical Effects?
• Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
• Irregular heart rate
• Breathing problems
• Chronic insomnia
• Severe weight loss
• HIV or hepatitis B or C due to shared needles or unsafe sex
• Premature aging
• Severe tooth decay and gum disease
• Scarring of the skin due to obsessive picking or scratching
More than just about anything, teenagers are preoccupied with physical appearance. That’s why before and after pictures of methamphetamine users might help them resist the temptation to use.
The images are staggering. Young people who once had glowing skin and dazzling smiles appear far older than they are. Many look skeletal after heavy weight loss due to the energy meth burns. A condition called formication, the delusion that insects are crawling beneath the skin, compels users to pick and scratch, especially at their faces; open, oozing wounds or scars result. Meth use causes acne, as well.
Probably the worst damage to appearance is chronic tooth decay. “Meth mouth,” as it’s called, is a consequence of decreased saliva, loss of blood circulation to tissues in the mouth and harsh chemical additives that erode tooth enamel. As pictures of methamphetamine addicts attest, the teeth eventually rot, break and become lost.