Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerful stimulant. It’s known for its ability to quickly make its users addicted, many of whom seek the intense euphoria it promises. In the US, 0.7% of Americans reported meth use in the previous year. Of these, 184,000 are first-time users. This is according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The allure of meth lies in its immediate effects. However, the long-term consequences of meth addiction are severe and life-altering. In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into these consequences and how meth addiction can be overcome.

addiction

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

What is Methamphetamine?

Meth was created in 1887 by Romanian chemist Lazar Edeleanu and later developed into a more potent form by Japanese chemist Akira Ogata in 1919. Widely used during World War II to enhance soldiers’ endurance, its recreational use grew post-war. Despite its medical use (for instance, in treating narcolepsy), meth has severe health risks and potential for abuse. Now, it’s a tightly regulated Schedule II controlled substance.

But what makes meth dangerous? 

When ingested, meth increases the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which leads to its stimulating effects. This surge in dopamine is associated with heightened energy levels, increased alertness, and a sense of euphoria. Nonetheless, it also disrupts normal brain communication. This leads to addictive behaviors and other serious mental health issues over time. 

Immediate Effects of Meth Use

Before discussing the drug’s long-term effects, knowing its immediate, short-term effects is important. When you undertake substance use, with meth specifically, you may experience the following:

  • increased alertness
  • increased energy
  • decreased appetite
  • elevated body temperature
  • rapid heart rate
  • potential for euphoria

Note that one particularly risky method of using meth is “hot railing,” where the crystalline powder is heated until it vaporizes and then inhaled through a tube. This method produces an intense, immediate high and carries significant risks. It could damage damage the nasal passages, cause respiratory problems, and increase the likelihood of overdose due to the potency of the vaporized drug. 

substance use

Source: Canva

Physical Effects of Long-term Meth Use

Long-term meth use can impact various body systems. Here are the most common physical effects of the drug.

Neurological Impact

Chronic use can cause significant alterations in brain structure and function. For instance, it may cause reduced gray matter in certain areas, leading to cognitive deficits such as impaired memory and decision-making. You may also often experience emotional instability, with increased risks of anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Cardiovascular Problems

Long-term meth use also increases the risk of cardiovascular issues. These can range from hypertension and irregular heartbeats to more severe conditions like heart attacks and heart disease. 

Dental Health

One of the most visually striking effects of substance use is “meth mouth,” characterized by severe tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. This condition results from a combination of drug-induced dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, and cravings for sugary drinks.

Skin and Appearance

If you’re one of those chronic meth users, you may develop skin sores and acne due to a combination of poor hygiene, malnutrition, and the compulsive picking of the skin. Prolonged meth exposure can also cause premature aging and a haggard appearance.

Weight Loss and Malnutrition

As stated above, meth can suppress your appetite. In the long run, it can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition. This can exacerbate other health issues, as the body lacks the necessary nutrients to function properly and maintain immune defenses.

side effects

Source: Oregon Trail Recovery

Psychological and Behavioral Effects

Addiction to meth lies in the drug’s powerful impact on the brain’s reward system. 

Meth dramatically increases the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, leading to the intense high that users seek. Over time, the brain starts to rely on meth to stimulate dopamine production, making it extremely difficult to experience pleasure from any other source. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and psychological cravings can be intense. Managing such symptoms requires comprehensive treatment and support to break the cycle of addiction.

Apart from these withdrawal symptoms, you’d also have to potentially battle mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and particularly psychosis. Meth-induced psychosis can manifest as paranoia, hallucinations, and delusional thinking. All of these may persist even after drug use stops. Additionally, the side effects of chronic meth use include significant mood disturbances and behavioral changes. 

Social and Economic Impact

Long-term meth use can have a devastating impact beyond just your physical and mental health. When you focus on obtaining and using meth, you may start neglecting personal relationships. Unfortunately, this situation can lead to strained or broken connections with family and friends. This isolation can also exacerbate the above mentioned effects.

Using meth can also affect your job performance and reliability. The physical and cognitive impairments caused by the drug can result in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and, ultimately, job loss. This loss of stable employment is a direct pathway to financial instability.

Sadly, the combination of broken relationships, unemployment, and financial distress can get you trapped in a vicious cycle of increased dependency on meth.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

While recovery from methampetamine use is challenging, it’s possible with the right support and interventions. 

The process will begin with detoxification. This essential step is a way for you to cleanse your body of the drug while under medical supervision. This process can manage withdrawal symptoms safely and effectively, and it sets a foundation for further treatment.

Following detox, behavioral therapies play a pivotal role in recovery. Approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI) can help you understand the patterns behind their drug use. These techniques can also help you develop coping strategies to handle cravings and make significant behavioral changes to support your long-term sobriety.

Support groups are another essential component of the recovery process. Programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a community of peers who share similar experiences and challenges. 

Together, these treatment approaches not only address the physical aspect of meth addiction but also significantly impact your mental health.

brain damage

Source: Freepik

Overcome Meth with Oregon Trail Recovery

Methamphetamine use has severe risks. And these risks range from physical and neurological damage to social and economic consequences. However, recovery is achievable with effective interventions like detoxification, behavioral therapies, and support from recovery groups. 

Are you or someone you know struggling with this drug? Help is within your reach. At Oregon Trail Recovery, we offer a supportive environment and comprehensive treatment programs tailored to individual needs. Overcome meth, begin your path to recovery, and reach out to us today.