If you are at all a fan of the show Breaking Bad, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this drug. Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is one of the most potent drugs on the illicit drug market today. If you are ever in an area that is less than fortunate, chances are you may have seen individuals who struggle with active meth-use. In the hit, drama-filled TBS show, you can see glimpses of what this illicit substance can do to a person, but the story mostly surrounds a dramatized story of a drug lord, Walter White. The show has its fair share of on-screen drug use and depicting it can do to an individual, but we’re here to go deeper. Today, we’re going to discuss just how life-threatening this drug can be and what addiction to meth looks like.
What is Meth?
There are countless classes of drugs, but the one we will be discussing is in the stimulant category. A stimulant is a substance that raises physiological and/or central nervous system activity in the body. These types of drugs can be pleasurable and invigorating for users, creating a euphoria as they have never experienced before. Meth falls right into this class of drugs. Originally, this drug was used as a medicine to aid with weight loss. Before 1970, when it officially became an illicit substance because of widespread abuse, meth was readily available as prescribed medicine. The drug was used in tablet and injectable forms. Eventually, when attention to the widespread abuse came more prominent, the FDA classified the substance as a Schedule II drug. Today, there is only one form of meth that is still prescribed mostly for severe ADHD and people struggling with obesity, Desoxyn. Even though this substance has been put under the ‘illicit substances’ category, people are still abusing it.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who have become dependent on meth and have created an addiction for themselves. For those who abuse this substance, it is most often in the form of powder or crystals. Though there are two different forms of meth, their effects are the same. These powders/crystals are melted down and injected or smoked by the user. Some users even snort the substance to get effects quicker than they would while injecting/smoking the substance. For most people that use this substance, they acquire it through illegal street dealers who illegally make them. Because it is not made in a medical lab, it becomes that much more dangerous because you have no idea what’s in it. Some dealers will go as far as to cut the batches with other illicit substances to create a greater high for users in an effort to coax them to come back for more. Dealers will cut the substance with opioids, antidepressants, painkillers, and other prescribed medications. Mixing meth with other powerful medications can lead to a greater chance of overdose, especially if the person does not have a high tolerance.
How Does It Work?
Meth, as we mentioned previously, is a Schedule II stimulant drug. It has significant effects on the central nervous system, creating an intense euphoric “rush” for users. It directly affects the brain’s reward system, releasing a surplus of dopamine in the user’s brain. When this sudden rush of dopamine hits the brain, a user feels rewarded and happy. This is what it means to be “high”. Active users will also experience such effects as:
Some people may think to themselves, “Those don’t sound so bad!”, but these are only the short-term effects. Long-term meth abuse can lead to negative side-effects, such as:
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Mood Changes (Irritation, Agitation, Depression, Aggression, Confusion, etc.)
- Meth Mouth/Tooth Decay (caused by poor hygiene and smoking meth)
- Skin Sores/Lesions (caused by uncontrollable itching)
- HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis (dirty needle use)
- Irregular Heart Rate/Blood Pressure
- Nasal Cavity Damage/Nose Bleeds (caused by snorting meth)
Long-term abuse of this substance can lead to some dangerous consequences, some that may even wind you up in the hospital. Because this drug has such a huge impact on the reward system, it is no wonder that people can get addicted so easily. Long-term meth abuse can manipulate the reward system into thinking it needs meth in order to feel any sense of happiness. The intense euphoria that meth creates for users affects the normal amounts of dopamine released in the brain. When dopamine is released through meth use, it is released in amounts far greater than normal. This causes users to feel unsatisfied with normal amounts of dopamine that is released through things like eating, sex, doing physical activity, etc. The euphoria/happiness they get from these kinds of activities starts to feel unsatisfactory, thus leading to active meth abuse.
Facts/Statistics on Meth
There is no one demographic that abuses this substance, but most often we see poorer demographics using it. Meth is a drug that is most often abused by poorer demographics because it is relatively cheap and can carry the euphoric high for 8-24 hrs. You may see people out on the street who are likely meth users. Statistics show that at least 6% of people in the U.S. (ages 12 or older) have tried meth at least once. That’s about 19,632,000 individuals who are susceptible to meth addiction. The scary thing is that meth, even if only used once, can become addictive. The substance is so powerful that just trying it one time can lead to an uncontrollable addiction. In 2014, statistics show that for every 100,000 people, there were approximately 53 individuals who were seeking addiction recovery services for their addiction to meth.
Addiction to meth is much more serious than a show like Breaking Bad makes it out to seem. Meth can ruin your physiological and mental health, as well as any part of your life. People who struggle with meth addiction often start to see important parts of their lives fall apart like relationships, work, etc. If you or someone you know is struggling with this disorder, contact your local rehabilitation center today. There are resources and people out there who can help.