What is methamphetamine and how do entire towns become addicted to it?

Crystal Meth: How addictive is methamphetamine really?

Meth, as you may be aware is a potent stimulant. On scales that measure the addictive nature of various drugs, methamphetamine is considered to be more addicting than cocaine. One thing that makes this synthetic stimulant so incredibly addictive is how easily it crosses from the circulation into the brain. This is known as crossing the blood-brain barrier. Methamphetamine does this very well, and once it is in the brain, it works on the central nervous system to promote wakefulness and a feeling of well being. Once a user starts using meth, it is hard to stop taking it. Users have been known to stay awake for days and even weeks, using methamphetamine around the clock.

Where did methamphetamine originate?

While meth was first synthesized in Japan in the late 19th century, it gained popularity during World War II, as the brand, Pervitin. It was used during the war by soldiers to increase alertness, wakefulness, and aggression. Later, methamphetamine was found to have limited usefulness in the medical treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). It is also used for weight loss as the brand name, Desoxyn.

What are the side effects of meth?

There are some serious potential side effects of methamphetamine. These include high blood pressure, dry mouth, talkativeness and an increase in body temperature. Possible complications include heart arrhythmias and heart attack, hyperthermia, and stroke. There is also the risk of long-term brain damage relating to serotonin-producing neurons in the brain.

How do users take meth?

Methamphetamine is produced as a bitter-tasting tablet which can be swallowed. Other ways methamphetamine users will take the drug is to snort it, smoke it, and even inject it. Unlike cocaine, methamphetamine is active when taken orally, so many users simply swallow a tablet or even meth powder. Injecting the drug is particularly dangerous and has the highest risk for overdose death. Smoking meth is also very dangerous and is sometimes referred to as, “chasing the white dragon”.

Is it true that entire towns are addicted to meth?

There have been waves of heavy methamphetamine use across the US, particularly on the West Coast and Midwest regions. At times, the use of the drug has reached epidemic proportions. There are concerns that we may be returning to this high level of use. There have been communities where meth abuse was so rampant that it appeared that the entire town was hooked on meth. People who abuse meth long-term can develop a characteristic look, including “meth mouth” and the look of being both alert and very fatigued simultaneously. Some people describe these affected small towns as appearing have the streets full of zombies. In fact, these methamphetamine addicts are real people who have the potential to overcome meth addiction and lead productive and fulfilling lives.

How is meth addiction treated?

 Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help as it can with other forms of drug addiction. Recovery fellowships can also make a big difference. While it is definitely helpful to see your doctor about amphetamine addiction, there is not a specific medication that can reduce meth cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Can a person who is addicted to methamphetamine and opioids at the same time take Suboxone for opioid addiction?

When it comes to opioid addiction, the risk of overdose and death is very high. This is due to toxic heroin and pills on the streets that contain imported fentanyl analogs. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to provide medical treatment for opioid addiction. While it is ideal for the patient to stop all street drugs at the same time when beginning medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction, even if the patient is not able to stop taking stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamine, or methamphetamine, right away, they should still be allowed to continue with MAT. Therefore, Suboxone can be given to a patient who is addicted to both opioids and meth in order to get them off of the far more deadly opioids as soon as possible.

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