A highly addictive neurotoxic stimulant, crystal meth is a substance that carries devastating consequences. Among the most popular street drugs across the U.S. – approximately 1.2 million Americans used meth within the last year and 440,000 within the last month – the power of crystal meth has given it the moniker “the most dangerous drug on earth.”
Concocted from a volatile mix of household chemicals like drain cleaner and synthetic ephedrine, crystal meth provides an intense and extremely pleasant high. One use is all it takes to develop both psychological and physical dependency, trapping even responsible, mature adults into a crippling cycle of addiction. Like many drugs, users often sample meth as a seemingly harmless way to party, but this is a perilous mistake. As a stimulant that strongly affects the brain, meth releases up to ten times the standard amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes happiness and euphoria. It also increases adrenaline production, leaving users feeling energized and on top of the world. During this period, users are impulsive, irrational, and uninterested in food or sleep.
A little bit goes a long way as well; a quarter gram can provide a high lasting 12 hours or more, versus two hours for the same sized dose of cocaine. This leads to a binging pattern in which users take continuous doses for days on end.
Signs of Crystal Meth Addiction
When users begin taking crystal meth, most never foresee the possibility of addiction. “It won’t happen to me,” they think. “Addiction is only for other people.” However, crystal meth addiction can happen to anyone, and a single dose is truly all it takes. If you or a loved one show some or all these signs, meth addiction might be a reality.
Excessive Periods of Wakefulness
Due to the increase in energy derived from meth use, substance abusers can stay up for days without sleep while taking dose after dose of meth. During this time, users will feel hyper, adrenaline-filled, and completely uninterested in sleep. In fact, it’s often impossible to sleep while on meth. As such, many users are jittery, anxious, and uncoordinated due to lack of sleep. They may let sleep interfere with normal activities after a binge, like nodding off at work or sleeping through obligations.
Loss of Appetite
Like sleep, appetite is greatly diminished when taking meth. The intense flood of dopamine can override traditional feelings of hunger, leading to a disinterest in regular meals. Many meth users don’t eat on a normal schedule and often fail to consume adequate calories while using drugs. This phenomenon also has other consequences, like a weakened immune system, risk of nutrient-related diseases like scurvy, and rapid weight loss, including loss of muscle.
As use increases, many crystal meth users begin to pull away from traditional activities and social groups, choosing drugs over interactions with non-users. When drugs become an overwhelming priority, substance abusers put securing drugs above all others, quitting sports team, dropping out of school, leaving church groups, and turning away from family. Many users will go days or weeks without speaking to other people, choosing to focus on keeping the high going.
Hyperactive, Obsessive Behavior
Meth use often comes with hyperactive, OCD-like behavior during drug binges. This can manifest in different ways for different users but can include increased motivation to tackle challenging tasks, like organizing personal possessions or taking apart electronics just for the chance to put them back together again. Some users will stay awake for days sorting trash and recycling, tearing up all tiles or carpeting in their homes, and cleaning obsessively.
Unpleasant Physical Changes
Due to the strong presence of caustic chemicals in conjunction with the side effects of a meth high, meth users often undergo significant physical changes. Meth can cause the destruction of tissue and blood vessels, ruining the body’s ability to heal itself and prematurely aging users. Meth mouth, or damaged, rotten, or discolored teeth, is also common and is caused by the drying out of the salivary glands in conjunction with neglected hygiene. The hallucinogenic effects can also cause users to feel like there are bugs crawling under their skin, leading to obsessive picking that can cause scabs and infection.
Secretive, Withdrawn Behavior
Drug users of all kinds are often guilty of secretive, withdrawn behavior, and meth users are no different. Many users realize that regular use is looked down upon and thus attempt to hide binges. This can mean ceasing communication with family members, failing to disclose whereabouts, spending days or weeks indoors without leaving, and sneaking away during work hours and family events. In some cases, users begin to neglect parenting obligations, putting their children in danger.
Lying and Theft
For addicts stuck within a pattern of abuse, the only priority that matters is obtaining more drugs. Many substance abusers will go to great ends to accomplish this, lying to loved ones, stealing valuables, and selling possessions to make enough money to buy more drugs. Normal deterrents, like a criminal record or time spent in jail, aren’t enough; addicts will go to virtually any means necessary to feed their habit, resorting to unethical or dangerous behavior in the hopes of an easy score.
Inability to Maintain Obligations
Once meth takes hold, nothing else matters. While newer users will attempt to maintain a normal job for the financial benefits, performance is negatively affected by a lack of sleep and proper nutrition. Meth users skip work frequently, fall asleep in the office, or are unable to focus on tasks. This can lead to termination, which often turns into a cycle that can result in eviction and homelessness. Younger users generally quit school, dropping out in favor of drugs.
The grips of crystal meth addiction are nearly impossible to defeat without assistance. If you or someone you love shows any of these signs, the time to get help is now. The Outpatient Treatment Center is prepared to offer the resources you need, providing dedicated support that can help users to overcome the perils of abuse and addiction. Call today at (844) 211-7944 to speak to a member of our confidential intake team.