Methamphetamine. Like heroin, meth is a drug that is illegal in some areas of the world. Meth is a highly addictive drug.

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1 Methamphetamine Introduction Methamphetamine is a very addictive stimulant drug. People who use it can form a strong addiction. Addiction is when a drug user can t stop taking a drug, even when he or she wants to. Methamphetamine is also known as meth. It can be smoked, injected, inhaled or taken by mouth. No matter how it is taken, meth is dangerous. It can cause heart problems, memory loss and severe mental disorders. This reference summary explains methamphetamine. It talks about meth abuse, its effects on the body and the health complications it can cause. It also discusses recovery and treatment. Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction Drug abuse is when a person takes an illegal drug or takes medicine for reasons other than illness. People may start abusing drugs for many reasons. There are certain drugs that are more commonly abused. These drugs may be: Illegal in some areas of the world, such as heroin. Legal for adults only in some areas of the world, such as alcohol and tobacco. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines, such as painkillers or cough and cold medicines. Like heroin, meth is a drug that is illegal in some areas of the world. Meth is a highly addictive drug. Last reviewed: 07/25/2013 1

2 Meth is a white powder. Sometimes it is made into a white pill or a clear or white shiny rock called a crystal. It can be taken in many different ways, including: By mouth. In a vein. In the nose. Smoked. Meth addiction happens when a drug user feels that he or she needs meth and can t stop taking it, even when they want to. The urge to take meth is too strong to control, even if you know it is harming you. For people with a meth addiction, the addiction is the most important thing in their lives. Almost everything a person with a meth addiction does is to support their addiction. For example, a person with a meth addiction may steal money in order to buy more meth. When people start taking meth, they don t plan to get addicted. Drug users believe they can control how much and how often they take a drug. Addiction happens because drugs change the brain and how it works. These brain changes may last a long time and can cause: Memory loss. Mood swings. Trouble thinking and making decisions. It is important to understand that addiction is a disease, just like diabetes and cancer are diseases. Addiction is not simply a weakness. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. It is also important to know that drug addiction is different than drug dependence. Drug dependence is when someone becomes physically dependent on a drug. Without the drug they will become sick. Drug addiction is a mental disease that can lead to physical drug dependence. Not all drugs that can lead to addiction cause dependence. For instance, someone may be addicted to alcohol but not need it physically. Likewise, not all drug dependencies come from addiction. A person may be on a prescribed medication that they cannot stop taking abruptly without getting sick. 2

3 Effects Meth changes how the brain works. It affects the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical. It creates feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Some brain cells, or neurons, use dopamine to communicate with one another. Dopamine is released by a neuron in response to a pleasure signal, such as when a person smells good food. Normally, the dopamine goes back into the cell that released it. This shuts off the communication with other neurons. But meth stops the dopamine from returning to the cell. It also causes more dopamine to be released. Dopamine then builds up in the brain. The extra dopamine causes the effects of meth. It causes an initial stimulating rush. After the rush, a person who has taken meth typically enters a state of high agitation. This may lead to violent and dangerous behavior. "Tweaking" is the term used to describe this agitated state. When people tweak, they are at great risk of being a danger to themselves and others. Meth abuse and addiction can also cause: Depression. Irritability and nervousness. Long periods of time without eating or sleeping. Loss of money. Neglecting responsibilities. Skin sores. Unreasonable fear and suspicion. Wide mood swings. Withdrawal from family and friends. Meth highs can last from 8 to 24 hours. Heavy users may stay awake for several days. The drug can be detected in a urine drug screen up to 48 hours after use. 3

4 Health Complications Meth can cause many health problems. Chronic meth abuse changes how the brain functions. Meth reduces motor skills and impairs verbal learning. It also damages the parts of the brain associated with emotion and memory. Because meth increases heart rate and blood pressure, it can permanently damage blood vessels in the brain. This can lead to mental impairment and problems thinking clearly. People who abuse meth may become anxious, confused and violent. They may develop serious psychological effects, such as paranoia and seeing or hearing things that are not present. Some people who abuse meth experience delusions. They may believe things that are not true. For example, the person may feel like insects are crawling under his or her skin. Another health complication of meth abuse is heart problems. Meth raises the blood pressure and makes the heart beat faster. This can cause a heart attack or a stroke, and either can lead to sudden death. This can happen even if the person has not been using meth for very long. Some health complications depend on how the meth is taken. If it is snorted through the nose, meth can cause a clogged or runny nose. If meth is injected, it can leave marks where the needle went in. Sharing needles also can cause more serious complications, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It kills or damages the body's immune system cells. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the most advanced stage of infection with HIV. HIV/AIDS can be spread by sharing drug needles. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can lead to scarring, called cirrhosis, or to cancer. Hepatitis is also spread by sharing drug needles and through unprotected sex. 4

5 Meth can lead to risky sexual behavior. People who are high on meth may forget to use condoms. HIV/AIDS, for example, can also be spread through unprotected sex. Other risks of meth abuse include: Constipation or diarrhea. Fluid buildup in the lungs. Seizures. Severe dental problems, called meth mouth. Stroke. Weight loss and malnutrition. Meth is highly addictive. If use is stopped, the person usually has strong cravings for the drug. Recovery & Treatment Recovery from meth addiction is possible. A person can become sober if they receive treatment. Treatment programs that provide education and therapy sessions are available. These sessions may be done individually, in a group setting or with family members. Treatment can also be done in different settings. Outpatient programs let people come and go to receive treatment. Inpatient programs let people stay as residents in facility to receive treatment. Counseling can be done one-on-one or with family members. It can help you cope with cravings and provide strategies for avoiding relapse. Relapsing is when a person quits a drug but starts using again. People recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way. Self-help groups are also a key part of treatment for many people. These groups focus on how drug addiction is a disease that requires ongoing treatment. It can also connect you to people who are in similar situations. A health care provider or counselor can help determine which type of treatment is best for each person. Concerned family members can also get in contact with a health care provider or counselor to try to help a loved one that is addicted to drugs. 5

6 Meth recovery is a process with stages. The first stage is known as the withdrawal stage. It lasts for approximately fifteen days after the last use of meth. Meth withdrawal can cause: Abdominal cramps. Breathing troubles. Diarrhea or vomiting. Fatigue. Headache. Increased appetite. Meth withdrawal can also cause severe depression. People experiencing withdrawal from meth are at risk of committing suicide. The second stage of meth recovery is known as the honeymoon stage. It lasts from day 16 to day 45 after the last use of meth. During this period: Cravings for meth lessen. Energy increases. Mood improves. Some people in the honeymoon stage of meth recovery are at risk to return to drug and alcohol abuse. They may discontinue treatment activities. The third stage of meth recovery is known as the wall. It typically lasts from day 46 to day 120 after the last use of the drug. The wall stage is viewed as the major hurdle in recovery. People in this stage experience: Concentration problems. Insomnia. Irritability. Little pleasure in daily activities. Loss of sex drive. Low energy. The fourth stage of meth recovery is called the adjustment stage. It typically lasts from day 121 to day

7 A person who has made it past the wall stage usually feels a great sense of well-being and accomplishment. The adjustment stage is when a recovering meth user begins to fully adjust to positive lifestyle and relationship changes. The resolution stage is the final stage of meth recovery. After six months of sobriety, a recovered person may be able to maintain a balanced lifestyle, develop new interests and avoid relapse. Summary Methamphetamine, or meth, is a very addictive stimulant drug. People who use it can form a strong addiction. Addiction is when a drug user can t stop taking a drug, even when he or she wants to. Meth can be smoked, injected, inhaled or taken by mouth. No matter how it is taken, meth is dangerous. It can cause heart problems, memory loss and severe mental disorders. After an initial rush, a person who has taken meth typically enters a state of high agitation. This may lead to violent and dangerous behavior. "Tweaking" is the term used to describe this agitated state. When people tweak, they are at great risk of being a danger to themselves and others. Recovery from meth addiction is possible. A person can become sober with treatment. 7

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