Meth is the abbreviation of methamphetamine, which is a powerful central nervous system stimulant. The substance is used primarily as a recreational drug, although it does have some limited medical uses for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which is the same category as other highly addictive drugs like cocaine and oxycodone (OxyContin).
The drug is sold illegally as a white powder that can be sniffed or injected directly into the veins. Alternatively, meth can also be sold in crystalline form that can be smoked, injected, eaten or snorted.
It is commonly used for the stimulant effects users experience. Effects include a rush of euphoria, followed by a false sense of happiness and well-being that is often accompanied by hyperactivity. Users may also feel a false sense of increased confidence.
Methamphetamine is a strong neurotoxin capable of causing permanent damage to the dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Research shows that long-term abusers experience changes in the brain’s structure and function resulting in brain damage.
Some common street names include speed, ice, amp, crystal, crank, chalk and Tina Clouds or Tina. Crystal meth is commonly known as crystal, ice or glass.
Meth is crystalline in nature, usually broken up into small crystals or ground into powder and sold in small bags on the street. It has some rare medical use in cases of extreme obesity, ADD and narcolepsy, where it is prescribed under the trade name Desoxyn. This prescription form of the drug comes in a tablet form.
Meth is an amphetamine central nervous stimulant. While most central nervous stimulants are benign, the potency of the drug causes a physical dependence to form very quickly.
Even though it is considered one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs, meth is listed as a Schedule II drug. This is primarily because it has legitimate medical use, even though the applications are limited to extreme cases of certain conditions.
Prescription Desoxyn is taken orally as a tablet. The illegal street meth is most commonly injected or smoked. It can be snorted, but this is less common as it is not as potent this way.
This drug provides a very long-lasting feeling of energy and euphoria. Users will sometimes stay awake for days at a time before crashing out.
It usually disrupts the sleep patterns of users by keeping them awake for longer than is normal. They may also experience confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, panic and sudden outbursts of anger or violence.
Long-term use carries many serious health consequences. Users often appear to be prematurely aged. They may also have decayed teeth from a combination of grinding them while high and the meth causing dry mouth.
Meth use can also damage the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain. Damage to the brain usually affects memory, mood and higher reasoning functions.
Aside from the health issues, it is also possible to fatally overdose on this drug. The enhanced sense of energy while high also means that users can push their body to dangerous extremes, especially if they already have underlying health problems.
In crystal form, it is less subject to “cutting” than other street drugs. The powdered form can more easily be adulterated, however. Toxic chemical residue from the cooking process is also more likely to be left over in the powdered form.
A 2011 survey published in the American Journal of Addiction found that 65% of meth-using respondents regularly mixed it with other hard drugs. About half of these were mixing it with marijuana, however, which was classified as a “hard drug” in this survey.
Smaller amounts of users mixed it with the sedative gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, cocaine and ecstasy, or heroin and Viagra. Most mixing of meth is done either to even out the stimulant effects, or as part of a subculture made up of mostly gay men that take it to enhance sexual encounters. Mixing of meth with any stimulant increases the inherent health risks of meth, and mixing it with a depressant can mask the effects of the depressant and contribute to an overdose.
Meth is extremely addictive, and along with heroin is considered the most dangerous of the illicit street drugs. The danger lies in the fact that tolerance builds extremely quickly, which means addictions form even faster than with other types of street stimulants.
The Drug Policy Alliance reports that about 1.3 million people use meth each year, and there are roughly 320,000 meth addicts in the United States. Meth use is involved in around 90,000 emergency room visits each year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Since meth is one of the most potent and addictive drugs, a period of detox followed by inpatient treatment is usually required. The length of an inpatient stay will vary depending on how severe the addiction is, but generally lasts for at least 30 days and commonly ranges up to 90 days.
Once a meth addict feels they have enough control to transition to outpatient treatment, they usually find it very helpful to continue with peer group meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous. Meth has the highest relapse rates of any drug, but those that can abstain for four years have a very good chance of being clean for life.
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