The Truth About Drugs

Short-term & Long-term Side Effects of Crystal Methamphetamine on the Body – Drug-Free World

THE DEADLY EFFECTS OF METH

The hideous look of crystal meth shows on the scarred and prematurely aged faces of those who abuse it. (Photo credit: courtesy Attorney General’s Office, Taswell County, Illinois)

The hideous look of crystal meth shows on the scarred and prematurely aged faces of those who abuse it.
(Photo credit: courtesy Attorney General’s Office, Taswell County, Illinois)
The short-term and long-term impact of the individual

When taken, meth and crystal meth create a false sense of well-being and energy, and so a person will tend to push his body faster and further than it is meant to go. Thus, drug users can experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drugs wear off.

Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability.

Other serious effects can include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and *paranoia. In some cases, use can cause convulsions that lead to death.

Long-range damage

In the long term, meth use can cause irreversible harm: increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat that can, in turn, cause **cardiovascular collapse or death; and liver, kidney and lung damage.

Users may suffer brain damage, including memory loss and an increasing inability to grasp abstract thoughts. Those who recover are usually subject to memory gaps and extreme mood swings.

METH HARM

SHORT-TERM EFFECTS

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Nausea
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
  • Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
  • Panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures and death from high doses

LONG-TERM EFFECTS

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed
  • Respiratory (breathing) problems if smoked
  • Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Strong psychological dependence
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Damage to the brain similar to ***Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and epilepsy
*Paranoia: suspicion, distrust or fear of other people.
**Cardiovascular: related to both the heart and blood vessels.
***Alzheimer’s disease: a disease affecting some older people that is accompanied by memory loss.

HOW METHAMPHETAMINE AFFECTS PEOPLE’S LIVES

When people take methamphetamine, it takes over their lives in varying degrees. There are three categories of abuse.
LOW-INTENSITY METH ABUSE:
Low-intensity abusers swallow or snort methamphetamine. They want the extra stimulation methamphetamine provides so they can stay awake long enough to finish a task or a job, or they want the appetite-suppressant effect to lose weight. They are one step away from becoming “binge” (meaning uncontrolled use of a substance) abusers.
BINGE METH ABUSE:
Binge abusers smoke or inject methamphetamine with a needle. This allows them to receive a more intense dose of the drug and experience a stronger “rush” that is psychologically addictive. They are on the verge of moving into high-intensity abuse.
HIGH-INTENSITY METH ABUSE:
The high-intensity abusers are the addicts, often called “speed freaks.” Their whole existence focuses on preventing the crash, that painful letdown after the drug high. In order to achieve the desired “rush” from the drug, they must take more and more of it. But as with other drugs, each successive meth high is less than the one before, urging the meth addict into a dark and deadly spiral of addiction.

THE STAGES OF THE METH “EXPERIENCE”

1) The Rush—A rush is the initial response the abuser feels when smoking or injecting methamphetamine. During the rush, the abuser’s heartbeat races and ****metabolism, pressure and pulse soar. Unlike the rush associated with crack cocaine, which lasts for approximately two to five minutes, the methamphetamine rush can continue for up to thirty minutes.

2) The High—The rush is followed by a high, sometimes called “the shoulder.” During the high, the abuser often feels aggressively smarter and becomes argumentative, often interrupting other people and finishing their sentences. The delusional effects can result in a user becoming intensely focused on an insignificant item, such as repeatedly cleaning the same window for several hours. The high can last four to sixteen hours.

3) The Binge—A binge is uncontrolled use of a drug or alcohol. It refers to the abuser’s urge to maintain the high by smoking or injecting more methamphetamine. The binge can last three to fifteen days. During the binge, the abuser becomes hyperactive both mentally and physically. Each time the abuser smokes or injects more of the drug, he experiences another but smaller rush until, finally, there is no rush and no high.

4) Tweaking—A methamphetamine abuser is most dangerous when experiencing a phase of the addiction called “tweaking”—a condition reached at the end of a drug binge when methamphetamine no longer provides a rush or a high. Unable to relieve the horrible feelings of emptiness and craving, an abuser loses his sense of identity. Intense itching is common and a user can become convinced that bugs are crawling under his skin. Unable to sleep for days at a time, the abuser is often in a completely psychotic state and he exists in his own world, seeing and hearing things that no one else can perceive. His hallucinations are so vivid that they seem real and, disconnected from reality, he can become hostile and dangerous to himself and others. The potential for self-mutilation is high.

5) The Crash—To a binge abuser, the crash happens when the body shuts down, unable to cope with the drug effects overwhelming it; this results in a long period of sleep for the person. Even the meanest, most violent abuser becomes almost lifeless during the crash. The crash can last one to three days.

6) Meth Hangover—After the crash, the abuser returns in a deteriorated state, starved, dehydrated and utterly exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. This stage ordinarily lasts from two to fourteen days. This leads to enforced addiction, as the “solution” to these feelings is to take more meth.

7) Withdrawal—Often thirty to ninety days can pass after the last drug use before the abuser realizes that he is in withdrawal. First, he becomes depressed, loses his energy and the ability to experience pleasure. Then the craving for more methamphetamine hits, and the abuser often becomes suicidal. Since meth withdrawal is extremely painful and difficult, most abusers revert; thus, 93% of those in traditional treatment return to abusing methamphetamine.

****Metabolism: the processes in the body that convert food into energy.

HISTORY OF METHAMPHETAMINE

Kamikaze pilots were given methamphetamine before their suicide missions.

Kamikaze pilots were given methamphetamine before their suicide missions.

Methamphetamine is not a new drug, although it has become more powerful in recent years as techniques for its manufacture have evolved.

Amphetamine was first made in 1887 in Germany and methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was developed in Japan in 1919. The crystalline powder was soluble in water, making it a perfect candidate for injection.

Methamphetamine went into wide use during World War II, when both sides used it to keep troops awake. High doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots before their suicide missions. And after the war, methamphetamine abuse by injection reached epidemic proportions when supplies stored for military use became available to the Japanese public.

In the 1950s, methamphetamine was prescribed as a diet aid and to fight depression. Easily available, it was used as a nonmedical stimulant by college students, truck drivers and athletes and abuse of the drug spread.

This pattern changed markedly in the 1960s with the increased availability of injectable methamphetamine, worsening the abuse.

Then, in 1970, the US government made it illegal for most uses. After that, American motorcycle gangs controlled most of the production and distribution of the drug. Most users at the time lived in rural communities and could not afford the more expensive cocaine.

In the 1990s, Mexican drug trafficking organizations set up large laboratories in California. While these massive labs are able to generate fifty pounds of the substance in a single weekend, smaller private labs have sprung up in kitchens and apartments, earning the drug one of its names, “stove top.” From there it spread across the United States and into Europe, through the Czech Republic. Today, most of the drug available in Asia is produced in Thailand, Myanmar and China.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DRUGS

The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

Drugs are essentially poisons. The amount taken determines the effect.

A small amount acts as a stimulant (speeds you up). A greater amount acts as a sedative (slows you down). An even larger amount poisons and can kill.

This is true of any drug. Only the amount needed to achieve the effect differs.

But many drugs have another liability: they directly affect the mind. They can distort the user’s perception of what is happening around him or her. As a result, the person’s actions may be odd, irrational, inappropriate and even destructive.

Drugs block off all sensations, the desirable ones with the unwanted. So, while providing short-term help in the relief of pain, they also wipe out ability and alertness and muddy one’s thinking.

Medicines are drugs that are intended to speed up or slow down or change something about the way your body is working, to try to make it work better. Sometimes they are necessary. But they are still drugs: they act as stimulants or sedatives, and too much can kill you. So if you do not use medicines as they are supposed to be used, they can be as dangerous as illegal drugs.

The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

WHY DO PEOPLE TAKE DRUGS?

People take drugs because they want to change something in their lives.

Here are some of the reasons young people have given for taking drugs:

  • To fit in
  • To escape or relax
  • To relieve boredom
  • To seem grown up
  • To rebel
  • To experiment

They think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem.

Difficult as it may be to face one’s problems, the consequences of drug use are always worse than the problem one is trying to solve with them. The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

MAKE SURE OTHERS GET THE FACTS

These pages of drugfreeworld.org are based on the content of our thirteen easy-to-read booklets in The Truth About Drugs series.

These booklets are free and can be ordered as a set or individually. You can give them to friends, family and others who should know the facts they contain.

Source: Watch Truth About Drugs Documentary Video & Learn About Substance Addiction. Get The Facts About Painkillers, Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth & Other Illegal Drugs.

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