Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine is a psychoactive drug and a very potent Central Nervous System stimulant. It was discovered in 1893, just a few years after the discovery of Amphetamines. At the beginning of the WW2, German soldiers took it to “increase the level of awareness and improve performance”. Among them, it was known as “Herman Göring Pills”. Wehrmacht army stopped using it in 1940 because of side effects. In the 50’s, methamphetamine was prescribed as a diet aid and as a depression treatment. Being widely available, it was used by students, truck drivers and athletes to increase their performance.

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a very potent Central Nervous System stimulant used mainly as a recreational drug. The drug is an equal mixture of its enantiomers (levo-methamphetamine and dextro-methamphetamine). It is a white (sometimes brown, yellow-gray, orange or pink), odorless, bitter tasting crystalline powder, easily soluble in water and alcohol that can be inhaled through the nose, smoked (most commonly) or injected with a needle. Some abusers take it orally. No matter what route of administration is chosen, all of them lead to a drug addiction.
Legally available medicines in US that contain Methamphetamine are:

  • Meth
  • Speed
  • Crank
  • Tweek
  • Uppers
  • Chalk
  • Christina
  • Tina
  • Go fast
  • Cookies
  • Cotton candy
  • Dunk
  • Gak
  • Go-go juice
  • No doze
  • White cross
  • Pookie
  • Rocket fuel
  • Scooby snax
  • Wash
  • Trash
  • Garbage

Legally available medicines in US that contain Methamphetamine are:

  • Desoxyn
  • Desoxyn Gradumet

How does methamphetamine work?

Mechanism of action involves altering the levels of neurotransmitters. There are two main neurotransmitters that fan the flames of meth addictiveness: norepinephrine and dopamine. Its effects occur due to the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in synapses of the certain brain areas. The result is the change in perception of the whole sensory input from the outer world. Emotional and rational thinking processes are changed. In the early stages of the addiction, the user will perceive the effects as good, stimulating and euphoric, but as the time passes by and the addiction establishes, the euphoric response to a drug blunts and the drug is taken only to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Bringing emotions to an experience is a common effect (thinking about certain situation form the past brings the corresponding but augmented emotion that’s linked to it). Although the meth experience typically involves the sense of accomplishment, huge personal success and excitement, some abusers feel emotionally blunt. Sometimes, this “blunt effect” deepens the problem of addiction- a meth drug addict feels guilt for being an addict and increases the meth dose in order to achieve the “blunt effect”, that way relieving the sense of guilt (over time, drug experience disappear after taking the usual dose and an increase of a dose is needed to achieve drug’s effects). Physical and emotional stimulation leads to a sleep deprivation and that is when the psychological problems occur. Paranoid ideas, delusions and hallucinations take over. Common hallucination is bugs crawling on the skin. Because abusers try to get rid of these bugs, they pick them, scratch repetitively which leads to open wounds followed by scaring- “meth sores”. Meth sores are characteristic of severe meth abusers.

Recommended dosage amounts for Methamphetamine:

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.

Can Methamphetamine be addictive?

Yes, it is considered as one of the most addictive drugs available in the market. Although the strength of a drug is an arbitrary thing, some say that methamphetamine is three times as powerful as cocaine. The mechanism of its action is so powerful that it can trigger dependency after just a few uses. Psychologists reported cases of patients that became addicted after one or two uses. In 1970, the FDA released the classification of the drugs based on the risk of abuse and harm. Methamphetamine is listed as a Schedule II stimulant. Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Is it possible to overdose on Methamphetamine?

Yes, overdose is a real thing. There are two types of overdose: Acute and Chronic.

Acute overdose occurs if a person uses a large dose of methamphetamine one time and experience side effects. Common signs of an acute meth overdose include: enlarged pupils, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart attack, high body temperature, stomach pain, stroke, kidney failure, agitation, paranoia, altered mental status, rapid, slowed, or irregular heart rate. Acute overdose on methamphetamine is a life threatening condition which requires immediate medical help.

Chronic overdose refers to the accumulated effects after long-term use. Common signs of a chronic meth overdose include: anxiety, extreme mood changes, violent outbursts, tooth decay (meth mouth), skin problems, weight loss and severe sleep disturbances.

Common Methamphetamine drug combinations

According to the figures gathered by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), these are the most frequent combinations:

  • 43.7% combined the drug with marijuana.
  • 14% combined it with GHB.
  • 10.8% combined it with amyl nitrite (“poppers”).
  • 8.6% combined it with both cocaine and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly called Ecstasy.
  • 2.7% combined it with both heroin and Viagra

Most popular triple mixtures are meth and marijuana with poppers (56.9%) and GHB (37.3%).
Health effects of polydrug abuse are not thoroughly researched yet, but so far, it appears that health deterioration develops much faster in such cases.

American facts and figures on Methamphetamine abuse and addiction

  • The US government reported that in 2008, 13 million people over the age of 12 used meth and 529,000 of those were regular users.
  • In 2007, 4.5% of American high school seniors reported that they have used meth at least once in their life.
  • In 10 years (1996-2006) the number of drug treatment admissions due to methamphetamine abuse tripled- from 3% in 1996, to 9% in 2006.
  • One hit of meth (a quarter of a gram) has a street value of 25-80$ depending on the purity of the drug.
  • In 1970, the FDA made it illegal for most uses. Since then, the number of its users is increasing every year, making it one of the most popular recreational drugs on the market.