- Written By Granite Recovery Centers
- Clinically Reviewed By Cheryl Smith MS,MLADC
- April 9, 2021
Methamphetamine use has been on the rise for the past several years, and it’s becoming increasingly easy for people to get their hands on it, where they then can become addicted. And if you believe that methamphetamines aren’t as bad as some other drugs because you’ve heard that it’s even prescribed to treat disorders like ADHD, you’re wrong. Meth is a highly addictive substance that can impair a person’s ability to function, and it can have severe or even deadly consequences.
There are several types of methamphetamines that come in different forms and go by several different names. For instance, crystal meth is a type of drug that comes in a crystal form. It’s also known as “blue” and “ice.” Methamphetamines are actually drugs that were derived from a less potent type of drug called amphetamines. Methamphetamines were developed as bronchial inhalers and nasal decongestants. They also dissolve easily in liquids such as water and alcohol.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a type of stimulant that tends to change the way that people interact with other people, and some people taking meth feel like the drug changes them into a person that they don’t want to be. Some of the milder short-term effects include decreased appetite, increased wakefulness, and increased activity. In fact, because methamphetamines have the ability to decrease appetite, some people have used certain forms of this drug as a weight loss aid, and its ability to increase wakefulness has led some people, especially students in college who are studying for exams, to use certain forms of methamphetamines as a way to stay awake to study and finish school projects.
Taking methamphetamines can also have severe consequences to the way that people function. Besides causing restlessness and jitteriness, it can cause a variety of more serious effects, including rapid heart rate, panic, delirium, and even psychosis and heart failure.
To make matters worse, some methods of using methamphetamines are more addictive than others. For instance, smoking or injecting methamphetamines causes the drug to enter the bloodstream more quickly, and the effect is almost immediate. This also makes it more likely that a person will develop an addiction and/or experience an overdose.
Snorting and ingesting are two other ways that someone can take methamphetamines. While smoking and injecting create an intense and immediate rush, snorting creates a high within three to five minutes. Ingesting takes up to 15 minutes to cause an effect.
What are the Effects of Using Methamphetamines?
The effects of methamphetamines fall away before the drugs have completely left the bloodstream. This means that people are taking more before their bodies have even gotten rid of what was already in them. In fact, many people who are using methamphetamines take them in a cyclical fashion, using the drugs for days without even sleeping or eating.
With all of the evidence that meth use can be deadly, it’s reasonable to wonder why meth use is spreading so much. First of all, one of the reasons is that it’s so easily accessible. Methamphetamines have been entering the country via drug cartels entering the Carolinas, but the spread of methamphetamines doesn’t end in just a couple of states. Because methamphetamines are in the U.S., it’s also easy to move the drugs to other parts of the country.
It’s also important to remember that methamphetamines are a type of drug that affects the dopamine centers of the brain, causing euphoria. But when the euphoric feelings wear off, people become depressed because they’re no longer getting the dopamine high, which causes the user of methamphetamines to seek more of the drug to regain the high feeling. This also causes a cyclical experience of wanting more drugs to recreate the high that was initially felt.
Seizures Related to Meth Use Are on the Rise in the South
With methamphetamine use rising in the South, most notably the Carolinas and Georgia, there’s also an increasing rate of seizures related to methamphetamine use. In fact, methamphetamines are the leading cause of drug-related seizures. Additionally, meth-induced seizures have particular features that are distinct from seizures that are caused by cocaine and other types of stimulants. Namely, methamphetamines tend to produce longer seizures, and they don’t respond well to some types of treatments, such as phenytoin pretreatments.
Another concerning fact related to methamphetamines is that their use often goes hand-in-hand with opioid use. Many meth users are also addicted to opioids, and the rise in prescription opioid use was also accompanied by the rise in the use of illicit fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamines. So, while the opioid crisis is arguably more well-known, meth has been a problem in the U.S. for even longer than opioids.
Moreover, prescription opioids are becoming more expensive on the streets because doctors are cutting down on giving out prescriptions for opioid medications. And now that some types of opioids are becoming more expensive on the street, users are turning to lower-cost alternatives, such as fentanyl, heroin, and meth.
Methamphetamines as the Fourth Wave of the Drug Epidemic
In recent years, the opioid fentanyl has been referred to as the third wave of the drug epidemic. But more recently, methamphetamines have been referred to as the fourth wave in the drug crisis. And leading organizations, such as the CDC, have been concerned about staying ahead of the curve because some of the treatments that are useful for people addicted to opioids aren’t as useful to those addicted to meth.
One of the major concerns about this rise in methamphetamines is the risk of overdose. Fentanyl is much more potent than some types of opioids, such as morphine. In fact, fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. And while fentanyl overdoses rose about ten times over in the last six years, meth overdoses have actually outstripped even fentanyl overdoses in about 12 states.
Moreover, in Oklahoma and Hawaii, deaths from methamphetamines are actually higher than it is for all opioids. This leads many people to think that the methamphetamine crisis is potentially even more dangerous in certain parts of the country than opioids are in many areas.
Why People Are Using Methamphetamines
You should also look at the rise in deaths associated with methamphetamines. With this rise in death from meth overdoses, we have to look at why so many people are finding more ways to overdose on methamphetamines. Ultimately, the answer to that is threefold.
One of the biggest reasons that many people are overdosing on meth is that it’s so much more readily available than it was in past decades, so people are taking more of it, and the strength of it has risen on the street. Because the strength is higher, it also carries with it the potential for people to overdose more easily, which could result in death. The second reason is that the population of meth users is getting older. As a result, their bodies are less able to take the effects of the drugs, so they’re more likely to have severe effects on their bodies. The third reason is that fentanyl is finding its way into methamphetamines, making it even more unpredictable and, ultimately, more dangerous because of the combination of drugs.
Where Methamphetamines Come From
Methamphetamines in the U.S. come primarily from Mexico, where they are manufactured at a very cheap price because the ingredients to make the drugs are inexpensive. While in past years there were more incidents of laboratories in the U.S. making methamphetamines, this number has fallen dramatically because of tighter regulations on sales of the drugs that are used to make methamphetamines. For instance, one of the ingredients to make methamphetamines is a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicine. Now, pharmacies and retail stores must keep logs on when these types of products are sold to further curb the possibility of methamphetamines being made domestically.
Why Methamphetamines Have Such Adverse Effects
Some people wonder what makes meth such a bad drug and why some people have such adverse reactions while taking it. Beyond the potentially deadly consequences of taking methamphetamines, even people who don’t die, have a seizure, or overdose on the drug can have reactions that are quite unpleasant. The bad trips don’t happen every time, but it’s possible for some people who take meth to experience frightening hallucinations and delusions, such as what’s consistent with psychotic symptoms.
Psychotic trips can result in some pretty serious consequences. Approximately 40% of people who use methamphetamine have a psychotic trip, and the symptoms can be quite unpleasant. Some of the acute symptoms include delusions, violence, and agitation. Although bad trips are experiences that usually pass once the drug has left the system, the symptoms can often be indistinguishable from those of schizophrenia.
Types of Treatment Available for Methamphetamine Use
People who begin to exhibit psychotic symptoms can get help by talking to a recovery center. Some people who need help because of psychotic episodes will need to have their history tracked to determine where the psychotic episodes are coming from. By doing an analysis of their urine or blood, treatment center workers are able to determine whether their symptoms are caused by a primary psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, or because of a particular type of drug. They might also talk to family members and friends to learn more about their history with drug use and their previous mental health.
From there, the care provider might give a course of antipsychotic medications and benzodiazepines even if it has been determined that the psychosis is caused by the use of methamphetamines. What’s most important, though, is psychosocial therapy to help prevent relapse once the person is clean from methamphetamines and other drugs.
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