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Warning Signs, Symptoms and Side effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

Warning Signs, Symptoms and Side effects of Methamphetamine Abuse

According to an estimation by United Nations, in 2013, a 500 metric tons of methamphetamine were produced in the world. Almost 10% of world production (42 metric tons) ends up in the US. Having in mind the devastating health and social effects of meth abuse and the number of addicts in the US, the significance of addressing Methamphetamine addiction issues becomes clear. Looking for signs and symptoms of meth addiction in a loved one can help you to get them the treatment they need.

How to recognize methamphetamine addiction?

Meth addiction is a menace that affects every aspect of an addict’s life. It may end up changing the whole personality of a person. As the addiction progresses, certain behavioral signs become obvious that can help to detect an addiction:

  • Lack of interest in everyday activities
  • Declined performance at school and office
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Suspicious activities
  • Change in social circle
  • Financial problems
  • Declined moral values
  • Forgetting important things to do
  • Aggression and violent behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Dental problems, rotten teeth (termed as meth mouth)
  • Deteriorated motor skills
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Carelessness towards family and relationships
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Loss of appetite

Side effects of meth abuse:

Side effects of a drug are effects that are unwanted when a drug is taken for a certain reason. For example, apart from desirable euphoric high, meth produces a number of unpleasant physical and mental symptoms.

Physical side effects:

In medical practise, methamphetamine is used for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and occasionally, for the therapy of eating disorders.  Because of its neurotoxicity and addictiveness it is used only if the other therapy protocols weren’t efficient. Typical doses are 10 mg/day or up to 40 mg daily, and a course of greater than six weeks is not recommended. Common abused doses are 100-1000 mg/day, and up to 5000 mg/day in chronic binge use.

  • Loss of appetite: Due to this effect, meth is still used in the treatment of obesity in some patients.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns: Meth abusers, due to significant increase in energy levels, have difficulties falling asleep, which leads to a sleep deprivation.
  • Dilation response of pupils: Due to sympathetic system activation, pupils are widely dilated. This effect is especially visible during the euphoric high phase.
  • Tachycardia, increased blood pressure and increased body temperature
  • Skin problems: Sore skin due to repetitive scratching as the patients feel like something is crawling under his skin
  • Nausea, vomiting,
  • Convulsions, seizures or death from high doses.

Mental effects include:

  • Bizarre and sometimes violent behavior: Repetitive meaningless movements are the characteristic of meth addicts. Not so common effect is aggression. It is usually combined with paranoid behavior.
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations: feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin is most common type of hallucination experienced. It is so convincing, that sometimes open wounds on the skin appear because of scratching.
  • Iirritability

Some abusers develop a lot of these, some don’t, and the severity of side effects may also vary.

Long term health effects of meth abuse

Over time, all meth abusers develop serious health conditions and some of them can be life threatening.

Long term effects include:

  • Liver, kidney and lung damage: Due to the high amounts of meth taken, kidneys, liver and lungs become seriously damaged which may even lead to a failure of these organs.
  • Destruction of the nasal septum if sniffed: Meth is a vasoconstrictor and it was used as a nasal decongestant. By constricting blood vessels in the nose, the inflow of nutrients and oxygen in this area is reduced which causes nasal septum necrosis, infections and, at some point, the destruction of the entire nasal septum.
  • Infectious diseases: Immune system suppression and promiscuous behavior due to the lack of social inhibition leads to high risk of contraction of STDs (HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis, etc.).
  • Abscesses (on the spot of injection): Due to immune system suppression and contaminated needles abusers use, abscesses are quite common.
  • Breathing problems if smoked: By irritating the epithelium of the airways and constricting airways, meth causes breathing problems.
  • Malnutrition: This is the reason meth abusers experience a severe hair loss, simply, the body cannot support itself. Malnutrition can be so severe that it threatens the life of the abuser.
  • Disorientation, apathy, confusion, exhaustion.
  • Strong psychological dependence: After the addiction is established, everything abuser do have only one goal- to get more meth.
  • Damage to the brain similar to Alzheimer’s disease: This may lead to a memory loss.
  • Stroke and epilepsy.
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain, heart attacks, strokes and death.
  • Severe tooth decay (meth mouth).

Planning an intervention for meth addiction

Meth addicts rarely realize the severity of the problem and rarely seeks medical help on their own. They are not aware of the mental changes they are going through. Depression, paranoia, confusion, depersonalization, aggression, irritability and other mental disorders render them disable to rationally perceive the difficulty of their situation. The first step towards recovery is to contact a rehab center professional who will assess the condition of the patient and recommend a treatment program. Families of meth addicts are often unaware of the complexity of the situation or try to resolve the problem within the walls of their home, or simply, are ashamed to ask for help. The single most important thing to do is to contact rehab center and let professionals do the intervention.