Methamphetamine, also known as ‘Meth,’ is a highly addictive drug which leaves the user susceptible to several health risks. Meth is a stimulant drug which, with prolonged use, can affect the brain, general behaviour, mood and emotional responses. An addiction to Meth tends to be formed quickly and with repeated use, there are health consequences.
METH ABUSE: THE RISK OF ADDICTION
The drug induces feelings of euphoria and pleasure, which leads to the user taking increased doses of the stimulant to re-live the moment. As the user takes more of the drug, tolerance levels become higher, thus leading to an addiction.
There are typically three levels of Meth addiction:
- There is the low-intensity level, in which Meth users swallow (that is, engage in oral administration of the drug) or snort the substance.
- Meth addicts tend to smoke or inject the substance into their blood stream.
- Long-term Meth users repeatedly take the drug to avoid the withdrawal effects and to maintain the pleasurable feelings the drug brings about.
Meth addiction may result in anxiety, insomnia, confusion, general mood disturbances and the exhibition of psychotic behaviour. There may be feelings of paranoia and delusions, as well as hallucinations. Meth can also result in physical symptoms, such as weight loss and dental problems.
THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF METH ABUSE
When Meth is used over a prolonged period of time, there are effects on the brain as well as physical and behavioural changes. Addicts tend to withdraw from friends and family and seem incapable of functioning without the drug.
EFFECTS OF METH ON THE BRAIN
Studies have shown that Methamphetamine addiction has an extreme effect on the structure of some areas of the brain. This results in an impairment of areas linked to memory, leading to emotional and cognitive problems. As such, the user may experience a reduction in sensitivity to pleasure, a reduction in motor skills and difficulty in verbal learning.
Meth addiction leads to a decrease in the release of Dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter has control over decision making, self-control and feelings of reward. When produced at reduced levels, symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s disease set in. Feelings of aggression, anxiety, insomnia, memory loss, paranoia, delusions, visionary and auditory hallucinations are some symptoms exhibited by addicts.
Although prolonged abstinence can lead to a significant recovery, some Meth induced changes on the brain can last for a long time or lead to irreversible damage.
EFFECTS OF METH ON THE BODY
Over time, Meth users experience a loss of appetite, which leads to extreme weight loss. Hair loss and deterioration in dental health or ‘’meth mouth’’ also occur. It is not uncommon for Meth addicts to experience problems with their organs; such as the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. They are susceptible to breathing problems, damaged blood vessels, high blood pressure, stroke, tremors or convulsions, hypothermia and ultimately, death.
Meth use is particularly harmful to a foetus in the case of a pregnant woman. The consequences could be life threatening and could lead to brain abnormalities, deformities, learning disabilities in babies, foetal disruption, irritability, lethargy, premature delivery and miscarriage.
Given the adverse effects of Meth use, some of which are permanent, steps should be taken to reduce addiction and completely cut off use.