Methamphetamines

Basic Facts

Methamphetamines are a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Amphetamines, a close chemical cousin, are well documented for their effects, and were even part of a basic supplies pack issued by the Army to troops who were serving in the Vietnam war. Methamphetamines are easier to produce than amphetamines and are often concocted in home laboratories using legal drugs and basic chemistry. It is a Schedule II controlled substance and although regulations have been tightened to limit access to the materials needed to make methamphetamines, rates of use and addiction remain high across the United States.

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Methamphetamines come in crystal form which is then ground into a powder. It can be injected, smoked, snorted or even taken orally, although the method which causes the most rapid onset of effects is injection. Street names for the drug include: Meth, crystal, tina, crystal meth, ice, glass, and speed. The production of meth is extremely dangerous—the chemical compounds produced and the presence of open flames lead to explosions and fires, making neighborhoods that have “meth labs” unsafe. It can be made in relatively small spaces, meaning that any dwelling is a possible site of a meth lab.

Effects of Methamphetamines

The effects of meth last from 4-8 hours, depending greatly on the size of the dose and the tolerance. Meth can be detected in a users urine for up to 48 hours or in as little as one hour after use. Tolerance to meth builds quickly, but it is hard to overstate the danger of dosage—a user with low tolerance can easily overdose, given that it is difficult to gauge the purity of the methamphetamines one is ingesting.

Effects of the drug include:

  • Euphoria
  • Mania
  • Extreme nervousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Tooth grinding
  • Incessant talking

The stimulant effects of meth lead to prolonged binge usage and extended periods of sleeplessness, ranging anywhere from 2 to 5 days. While the euphoric effects of meth are often present in lower doses, as tolerance goes up the negative effects become more pronounced. Thoughts and speech become erratic, and often delusions and paranoia set in. Repetitive actions become common and hard to control, such as the picking of one’s skin, and mood swings from mania to rage are common.

Health Risks of Methamphetamines

Prolonged use of meth can have profound effects on a persons cardiovascular health as well as their central nervous system.

High dosage and prolonged use can result in the follow negative health effects:

  • Kidney, liver, and lung damage
  • Tooth decay and tooth loss
  • Premature aging
  • Delusional paranoid mental state
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Raised blood pressure and heart rate
  • Death

Summary

The way in which methamphetamines interact with brain chemistry makes the addictive cravings for meth overpower even the most basic urges in a persons brain, such as those for food, water, and sleep. This makes meth extremely dangerous and unfortunately, leads to the death of many methamphetamine addicts in a very short amount of time. New research is being conducted into drugs that block the methamphetamine cravings in the brain so that people seeking to recover from addiction may have a fighting chance. Overall, it is an very destructive drug to both users and communities at large.