Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerful stimulant that increases energy, alertness and physical activity, as well as decreases appetite. Methamphetamine is sometimes prescribed by physicians to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy. This prescription medication is often abused; but for the most part, methamphetamine is manufactured and used illegally. People abuse this drug because it increases attention and focus, and also promotes euphoria.
These feelings of euphoria, as well as other pleasurable feelings that occur from use, are believed to occur because of the rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a naturally produced chemical in the brain that controls feelings of pleasure, motor function and motivation. When meth is introduced to the brain, there’s a wave of dopamine, which causes a heightened state of those feelings and functions. The brain then associates the drug with positive feelings, and therefore begins to crave the drug. The cravings for the continued substance abuse are considered addiction.
When meth is used on a regular basis, the brain begins to rely on the drug for the production of dopamine, causing the natural production to cease. When meth use is stopped, the pleasurable feelings also stop and the brain has to readjust to function normally again.
Meth use has numerous side effects, health risks, and the potential to affect social and intimate relationships. People are rarely aware of the risks before they start using, because the intentions are never to abuse the drug or to become addicted. Abuse and addiction happen, though, and can occur rather quickly. Before even realizing it, the person is hooked. Some meth users admit that they became addicted after just one use.
Short-term Effects of Meth Use
The effects of meth may be short-term and stop when the drug use ceases; or they may be long-term and have lasting effects, sometimes life-long. People should be aware of the side effects and health risks that meth introduces. Some of the short-term effects of meth may include:
-Increased attention and focus
-Decreased fatigue and appetite
-Increased wakefulness and physical activity
-Irregular heart rate
-High blood pressure
-Rapid heart rate
-Hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature)
Long-term Effects of Meth Use
Meth use can also have long-term effects on the user. Some of the long-term effects of meth use may include:
-Paranoia or psychosis
-Decreased thinking and motor skills
-Aggressive or violent behavior
-Homicidal or suicidal thoughts
-Changes in brain function
-Dental problems such as severe tooth decay
-Brain damage similar to Alzheimer’s disease
-Stroke or heart attack
Since meth use often results in addiction, the user can experience withdrawal symptoms when reducing or stopping its use. Some of these symptoms may include:
-Nausea or vomiting
-Irritability or aggression
-Loss of energy
-Extreme drug craving
-Fear and nervousness
-Shaking or tremors
The long- and short-term effects of meth use are just the beginning of the problem. Meth use may also result in the loss of employment, family or friends and financial problems. Addiction to meth can ruin lives before anyone even realizes how serious the problem is. Hotlines are available to help those struggling with drug abuse. Feel free to call 800-447-9081 if you or someone you know is struggling.