Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or meth, has made a comeback on the street drug scene in recent years. With the focus on today's opiate addiction, meth addiction has been largely forgotten. But the ease of manufacturing and access to over-the-counter ingredients means easy income through home meth labs, while allowing meth to be more available in urban areas, suburbs and even rural towns across America. Legally, methamphetamine is a pharmaceutical used in a medical setting. It may be used to help patients lose weight or can treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. The common brand name is Desoxyn and is given as a tablet, but illegal meth is a different story.
Made infamous by the television show Breaking Bad, crystal meth is an illegal street drug made solely for recreational purposes. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are substituted in illegal labs as a base for the drug to mimic the pharmaceutical version thus, creating a more potent and uncontrolled version of methamphetamine. Street meth is a crystal that may be clear, white or even blue in color. It may look like broken glass or glass shards. It is smoked, injected or snorted and sometimes ingested. Because of its volatile nature and being manufactured by just about anyone willing to set up a lab, this is not the same medication used for ADHD. This version of meth is a very powerful and unpredictable drug that comes with many adverse side effects.
Like any drug, meth alters how the brain works. This particular drug stimulates a rush of the natural, feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine, through the brain. This rush is the reward that leads to addiction as the user desires to repeat the feeling over and over again. However, the brain becomes impaired as it eventually cannot experience pleasure without the drug stimulant. Meth is cheap thus, it is available to many who cannot afford other, more controlled substances. The high is unpredictable and aggressive, making this type of addiction a public health risk.
Signs of Meth Use
Some physical signs of meth use may come about quickly and are unavoidable. These include initial bouts of euphoria or sudden and overt self-confidence. The user may seem hyper-alert, displayed by rapid speech or excessive talking, and possibly profuse sweating for no apparent reason. They may have no appetite while tension caused by the drug may cause the user to grind their teeth.
Meth is often smoked in glass pipes but may be crushed into powder and snorted or injected. Pipes, syringes or cut straws with evidence of white or bluish, crystallized powder may be a sign of meth use.
Certain physical and behavioral changes are common among meth users. Signs of meth abuse include:
- Prominent mood swings
- Extreme weight loss
- Jumpy eyes
- Picking or scratching at skin & scabs
- Dilated Pupils
- Excessive talkativeness
- Tooth decay and loss of teeth
- Memory loss
- Erratic and impulsive behavior
- Repetitive behavior patterns
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Financial difficulties
- Sleep deprivation resulting in delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and/or violence
- Tardiness or absenteeism at school or work
Street Names for Meth
Knowing the street names for meth can help you identify whether someone you know may be using. Street names are often used to hide the fact that someone is using, buying or selling meth. The following is a list of names that may be used.
- Crystal Meth
- Redneck Coke
- Hot Ice
- Super Ice
- LA Ice or LA Glass
- Ice Cream
- White Cross
- Soap Dope
- Lemon Drop
The different names may refer to what the meth was made with or what other drugs it was mixed with . Some of the names refer to the way the meth is made to be used (smoking or injection).
Meth Withdrawal Symptoms
Meth withdrawal is said to have two stages. The initial stage is intense and may begin hours after last use and can last up to two weeks. The second stage is less intense and may last an additional two or three weeks. Some meth addicts go through a process known as PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which is when withdrawal symptoms like depression or anxiety last an abnormally long time (months or possibly years).
In stage one withdrawal, some meth addicts compare symptoms to a hangover. Often called the comedown (as from an extreme high), initial symptoms may include overall sadness and depression, fatigue, muscle weakness, and lack of motivation.
Other initial withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety as the body is attempting to adapt to living without the stimulant. Muscle pain and jaw pain from clenching can intensify. Headache from dehydration is common and many will have insomnia, even though they may be extremely fatigued. This could be a side effect of the drug leaving the body.
The next phase can last a couple weeks and be characterized by physical recovery as well as depression, fatigue and anxiety. Addicts often experience fatigue to a point of experiencing “hypersomnia,” which is a state of sleeping for 11 hours on average, as the body attempts to recover from the physical toll the drug has taken on the organs and especially the brain.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Treatment for meth may begin with a physical detoxification program. Meth has affected the entire body and may have caused damage to certain organs. Fortunately, these organs can often heal with the right treatment and detox program.
Inpatient medical detox is an option for those who have been addicted for some time and need medical attention. In this case the patient is cautiously weaned off the drug with medical supervision. This ensures the patient remains healthy and the organs do not go into shock or shut down. Inpatient medical care also helps the meth addict avoid a meth overdose from relapse.
Some may choose to physically detox at home or in an outpatient setting. This is possible because the physical aspect of the detox is less extreme than a heroin detox. Due to the nature of meth being a stimulant, many addicts will experience headaches along with fatigue and lethargy. Sleep during abstinence of meth is frequent and long during the early stage of recovery.
Physical recovery is important for a patient’s wellbeing, both mentally and physically. Sleep helps the body and brain recover, and good nutrition helps speed healing. If a person has experienced extreme meth mouth, then seeking a dentist for help repairing the damage is advised.
Whether inpatient or outpatient, behavioral changes and therapy is essential for recovering addicts. The drug is easy to get, and depression from withdrawal can last for weeks or months. This combination makes relapse an easy option for those without coping skills.
Therapy can be found in free 12 – Step programs as well as group or individual therapy covered by insurance, including Medicare. If depression or anxiety is an ongoing issue, then a therapist can guide the patient to a doctor for medical treatment, such as antidepressants, to help them avoid relapse.
If you or someone you know is addicted to meth, early intervention helps with success in recovery. At the same time, recovery from long term addiction is very possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with a meth addiction, help is available, reach out to an addiction treatment facility today.