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Uncovering the New Rise in Meth Use: An Overlooked Epidemic
Meth use has been increasing over the last decade in the United States. Much has been made about the opioid epidemic, and with good reason. However, meth use continues to rise and seems to gain little notice or attention at times.
Often, it is meth use that accompanies the use of fentanyl, heroin, and other opioids. This educational article discusses the truth about the rise in meth use and its long-term effects.
Is someone you love using meth? Are you struggling with meth use? Our helpline is free and confidential. Call (888) 906-0952!
- Meth: The Basics
- Where Is Meth Often Found?
- How The U.S. if Fighting Against the Meth Epidemic
- How to Identify if Someone is Using Meth
- Long-term Physical, Mental, and Dental Effects
- Is Quitting Meth Difficult?
- How to Seek Help for Yourself or a Loved One
Meth: The Basics
nervous system. It goes by many names: blue, ice, crystal, and, put, Meth. Often, it will take the form of a bitter-tasting, odorless, white powder. According to the NIDA, about 1.6 million people in the U.S. reported using Methamphetamine in 2017. This accounts for about 0.6 of the total population, a level of epidemic proportions.
In the same year, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health claims:
“An estimated 964,000 people aged 12 or older (about 0.4 percent of the population) had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017—that is, they reported clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home as a result of their drug use.”
Being created from its parent drug, amphetamine, Meth was originally used for colds, coughs, nasal congestion, and bronchial inhalers. Over time, drug dealers found out how to take the pseudoephedrine from these common medicines.
As a result, millions of dollars are made each year by drug smugglers from Methamphetamine. This is due to continual use by users because of the extremely addictive properties. The NIDA says the effects of Meth are similar to amphetamine but delivered in overdrive. Making it easy to get addicted.
“Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria. However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the drug get into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. It also has longer lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread misuse.” –National Institute of Drug Abuse
With addiction to Methamphetamine on the rise and the DEA helping as much as possible, many wonder what can be done about the problem. Also, many wonder what the long-term consequences of misusing Meth include.
Back to Life: Overcoming Meth and Gambling Addiction
Where Is Meth Often Found?
Meth can be found in any state across the country. However, there are areas of the U.S. that are more affected by Meth than others.
The NIDA explains the connection between illegal smugglers and the drug problem in the U.S. in their article on Methamphetamine:
“While methamphetamine is available across the US, highest availability is in the western and midwestern regions of the US; more than 70 percent of local law enforcement agencies from the pacific and west central regions of the US report methamphetamine as the greatest drug threat in their area.” – NIDA
Geography Plays A Huge Role in Availability
There are many different conclusions the DEA has come to regarding the stark difference between meth use in the Midwest and western states in comparison to the eastern states.
One of the reasons has to do with location. Geographically, Mexico sits just south of the areas of the country most affected. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of illegal drugs, including Meth, enter the country.
“Currently, most methamphetamine in the United States is produced by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) in Mexico. This methamphetamine is highly pure, potent, and low in price. The drug can be easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications.”
How The U.S. if Fighting Against the Meth Epidemic
Despite the U.S. and Mexico working together to stop TCOs from selling Meth over the border, the problem persists. This is because of the simple technique smugglers use to make the drug itself.
“When methamphetamine is smuggled into the United States in powder or liquid form, domestic conversion laboratories transform (pseudoephedrine) into crystal methamphetamine. These laboratories do not require a significant amount of equipment, so they can be small in size and thus easily concealed, which presents challenges to law enforcement agencies. Methamphetamine pressed into a pill form intended to resemble ecstasy has also recently emerged, potentially in an effort to make methamphetamine more appealing to people who haven’t tried it before. As with other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, methamphetamine is also sometimes laced with fentanyl.”
With most Methamphetamine being cooked by TCOs in Mexico and their ability to hide it from law enforcement makes it difficult for the DEA to find stable footing.
Not to mention the sale of these drugs to younger people in clubs causes more addiction. Thus, creating demand for more of the drug.
How to Identify if Someone is Using Meth
Typically, those who use Meth consistently have an addiction or a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). A meth user with a SUD can be identified if you know what signs to look for.
Overall, noticing these signs in someone who has a Meth SUD could save their life.
Meth Use Physical Signs
- pupil dilation
- quick, jerky eye movements
- facial twitching
- increased sweating
- high body temperature
- jerky or twitchy body movements or tremors
- decreased appetite and weight loss
- tooth decay
- visibly high energy and excitement (euphoria)
- frequent scratching or picking at the hair and skin
- sores on the face and skin
- constant, rapid speech
Meth Use Behavioral Signs
- increased activity, like hyperactivity or restlessness
- impulsive or unpredictable behavior
- aggressive or violent reactions
- anxious, nervous, or irritable behavior
- suspicion of others (paranoia) or other irrational beliefs (delusions)
- seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- going with little or no sleep for days at a time
Once the effects of meth fade, they may experience a low that involves:
- extreme exhaustion
- feelings of depression
- extreme irritability
Although these signs may indicate a meth addiction or SUD, it is important to remember that these also may be signs of more common problems.
Such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, skin conditions, or dental issues.
It may not be wise to assume your friend or a family member has a SUD in these cases. However, knowing the signs is better than not knowing.
Long-term Physical, Mental, and Dental Effects
The long-term effects of Meth can be broken down into three categories: physical, mental, and dental.
There are always noticeable characteristics of Meth abuse that everyone can see. These include:
- Hair loss
- Skin lesions
- Meth mouth
These come as a result of chronic Methamphetamine abuse. Nevertheless, there are more that may go unnoticed, such as the neurological effects. According to the NIDA
“Methamphetamine misuse also has been shown to have negative effects on non-neural brain cells called microglia. These cells support brain health by defending the brain against infectious agents and removing damaged neurons. Too much activity of the microglial cells, however, can assault healthy neurons. A study using brain imaging found more than double the levels of microglial cells in people who previously misused methamphetamine compared to people with no history of methamphetamine misuse, which could explain some of the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine.” – NIDA
With these cells being too active and attacking neurons, it is understandable how there would also be mental effects.
Overall, many mental effects go along with prolonged meth use and addiction. This is due to the dependence on the drug for normal brain function. Meth rewires your brain to be less efficient when you are not under its influence, thus causing negative effects. The effects include:
- Intense cravings
- Visual and auditory Hallucinations
Along with these, the speed and accuracy at which your brain operates may also be reduced.
“Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated alterations in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning. Studies in chronic methamphetamine users have also revealed severe structural and functional changes in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals.”
Meth is bad for the human body and brain. The physical and mental effects of long-term abuse are enough to keep anyone from using. Notwithstanding, there are even more undesired effects to consider.
- Blackened Teeth
- Stained Teeth
- Rotting Gums
This creates a big problem for dentists and meth user. The only solution after this is to remove all teeth from the user’s mouth. In a study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, “meth mouth” statistics are staggering.
An examination of the mouths of 571 methamphetamine users showed:
- 96% had cavities
- 58% had untreated tooth decay
- 31% had six or more missing teeth
As far as these facts go, they are important information to remember. Participating in meth use can ruin your physical, mental, and dental health. If you suffer from meth addiction, is there are way out. The short answer is: Yes. Detox is available at many different treatment centers.
Is Quitting Meth Difficult?
Methamphetamine withdrawal and detoxification are known to be difficult but not impossible. Compared to other addictive substances, it is average in terms of pain. However, this strongly depends on how severe the addiction was. Generally, there is a timeline for Meth detox that includes four different time stages.
- First 2 days: This stage is the first and is known as “the crash.” This is when the user experiences a sharp decline in mood, emotion, and cognitive ability. They may also experience sweating and abdominal cramping.
- 3 – 10 days: The symptoms of withdrawal peak during this period. Typically, recovering users will experience severe depression, anxiety, and extreme fatigue. Also, lasting muscle aches and shaking are common during this period, as well as drug cravings.
- 14 – 20 days: Meth withdrawal symptoms can last for long periods but usually go away within 2-3 weeks of stopping the use. By this time, the physical symptoms will begin showing improvement. Nonetheless, the drug cravings will still be there. Also, depression and fatigue are still likely to exist.
- 30+ days: This is when the worst of the detox symptoms are over, and the remaining symptoms begin to stop. Anxiety and depression may still be present for the next couple of months.
Methamphetamine is nothing to be taken lightly. This schedule II drug should only be used in cases of Narcolepsy and ADHD. Furthermore, recreational use of Meth can cause a severe addiction that will ruin health physically and mentally.
If you or a loved one is struggling to conquer a meth addiction, call the number provided. It’s never too late to begin again.
Ready to seek help? Have questions about addiction treatment for a loved one? Give us a call at (888) 906-0952
Sources of Information
Related Educational Content and Guides
Addiction to Meth and Fentanyl [Guide to Recovery]
10 Ways to Get Your Life Back After Quitting Meth
Using Meth For Weight Loss [The Brutal Truth]
Losing Control With Meth [What You Need to Know]
Crystal Meth Inpatient Rehab Treatment Program
Complications of Meth and Heroin Use In Treatment
Amphetamine Vs. Methamphetamine
Seeking Rehab for a Meth Addiction
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