What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (meth) is a stimulant that has a similar chemical structure to amphetamine. Regular methamphetamine is a pill or powder, while crystal methamphetamine takes the form of glass fragments or shiny blue-white “rocks” of different sizes. Meth is taken orally, smoked, injected, or snorted. To increase its effect, users smoke or inject it, or take higher doses of the drug more frequently.

How common is methamphetamine use?

According to SAMHSA (2014) 569,000 Americans used methamphetamine in the past month and hospital emergency room visits related to the use of methamphetamine rose from about 68,000 in 2007 to about 103,000 in 2011.

More than 60% of these visits involved the use of methamphetamine with at least one other substance.

What are the health effects of methamphetamines?

Long-term use of meth has many damaging effects. Chronic meth abusers experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, aggression, visual and auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions.

The physiological effects of methamphetamine are generally similar to those of cocaine: increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and body temperature, and an increased respiratory rate. The psychological effects of methamphetamine, again similar to cocaine, include an increased sense of well-being or euphoria, increased alertness and energy, and decreased food intake and sleep. Methamphetamine has a substantially longer half-life in the body than cocaine (which quickly metabolizes), thus leading to more intense and protracted withdrawal.

Chronic methamphetamine users may have episodes of violent behavior, paranoia, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia. Heavy users show progressive social and occupational deterioration. Research has shown that prolonged methamphetamine use may modify behavior and change the brain in fundamental and long-lasting ways. With time and successful treatment and recovery, the negative effects of methamphetamine on the brain can be diminished or completely reversed.

Management

Management of meth-amphetamines and crystal meth dependence is mainly supportive. Your physician might prescribed medications to control symptoms such as agitation, anger, irritability, sleeping difficulty and hallucinations. Such medications are intended for short period only and can be stopped easily within a few days to weeks.

Individuals who are coming off of meth-amphetamines might feel tired, low energy and low motivations for days up to several weeks after stopping meth use. This symptoms usually go away and require no medications. However, occasionally patients might experience symptoms severe enough that require medical attention. An addiction physician need to assess individual prior to initiation of any treatment.

Important note:

This document is prepared by the “Mental Health for All” team. The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider properly licensed to practise medicine or general healthcare in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet, or fitness program. Information obtained on the Website is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment.

References

  • https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
  • https://archives.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/manual4.pdf
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