Methamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the body’s central nervous system. Commonly known as “crystal,” “speed,” “meth,” or “Tina”, methamphetamine is an off-white, odorless crystalline powder that tastes bitter and easily dissolves in water. Methamphetamine may be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed.
What are the short-term effects of methamphetamine use?
Methamphetamine increases energy and suppresses appetite. It slows digestion and increases alertness and concentration. The effects last from 6 to 12 hours or more. Depending on how much or how long one uses, one can become easily agitated, which can sometimes lead to violent behavior. Methamphetamine, like cocaine, strongly activates the reward and pleasure systems of the brain, particularly three important brain chemicals called neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. As a result, methamphetamine elevates mood, induces euphoria, increases alertness, reduces fatigue, increases energy, decreases appetite, increases movement and speech, and/or provides a sense of increased personal power. However, the drug eventually “hijacks” this reward and pleasure system. Methamphetamine increases blood pressure, heart rate and sweating, and causes anxiety, irritability, insomnia, paranoia, and sometimes even psychosis. Once the high wears off, mental and physical exhaustion set in, often with a deep depression that sometimes includes thoughts of suicide.
What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine use?
Methamphetamine causes long lasting changes in brain chemistry, particularly in the pleasure systems of the brain. These changes impact abilities such as memory, judgment, and reasoning. Other long-term effects include extreme cravings for the drug and dreams of use. These brain changes do not disappear quickly after you stop using methamphetamine and are important factors leading to relapse. However, these conditions improve with extended discontinued use of the drug through treatment. The sooner a user gets into treatment, the better, and the longer a user stays in treatment, the greater the chances that treatment will be effective.
What are some physical signs that someone is using methamphetamine?
Common signs that someone is using methamphetamine include teeth grinding, obsessive picking of the face or body, hallucinations (in what one sees and hears), euphoria, extreme energy, inability to sleep for days, dramatic weight loss, paranoia and violent behavior.
Is it possible to overdose from methamphetamine?
Yes, one can experience overdose from methamphetamine use. Death from a methamphetamine overdose is associated with kidney failure and collapse of the circulatory system. A large percentage of patients who die usually have symptoms of coma, shock, inability to urinate, and muscle twitching.
In addition, methamphetamine use can cause an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and vascular constriction. These symptoms may cause heart problems, stroke, and kidney failure.
How is methamphetamine produced?
The process for making methamphetamine is potentially explosive and produces toxic byproducts. The main ingredients used in the process are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are chemicals found in common cold and allergy medicines. Methamphetamine is manufactured using toxic chemicals such as lithium from batteries, bleach and drain cleaner, paint thinner, lye, red phosphorous and iodine crystals.
What can one expect when coming down or withdrawing from methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine withdrawal, or “crashing,” symptoms can last from days to weeks and involve loss of energy, depression, fearfulness, prolonged sleep or difficulty sleeping, shaking, nausea, sweating, hyperventilation, increased appetite, irritability and drug craving.
Why is there an association between methamphetamine and HIV?
The association between methamphetamine and HIV transmission is related to 1) the tendency of users to engage in unprotected and uninhibited sex while under the influence of methamphetamine among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (G/B/MSM) and 2) the risks associated with injection drug use for those who inject methamphetamine.
In terms of sexual transmission, many G/B/MSM who are methamphetamine users may not use condoms and may have sex with many different partners while experiencing the effects of the drug. Sexual activity on methamphetamine can be rougher and can last longer. This increases the likelihood that a condom breaks or a sexual partner experiences injury during intercourse, which in turn increases the risk of HIV infection.
Another contributing factor is that G/B/MSM who use methamphetamine have a higher rate of HIV prevalence than those who do not use methamphetamine. Different studies have found that gay men who use methamphetamine are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV. For those infected with HIV, methamphetamine use can lead to a lapse in HIV medication regimens, weight loss and vitamin depletion. Use also decreases the sleep essential to maintaining the immune system and causes a drop in T cells and NK cells.