Methamphetamine–commonly referred to as just “meth”–is one of the most harmful substances a person can take.
Psychological and physical effects of snorting, injecting, swallowing, or smoking meth wreak havoc both in an individual’s body and brain as well as their relationships. Those who interact regularly with someone suffering from a meth addiction are often secondary victims of the addiction.
Treating a SUD starts with identifying the problem. Becoming familiar with the symptoms of addiction and signs of meth use can help loved ones know how to help a SUD victim and prevent meth overdose.
Medical Application for Methamphetamine
While there are few medical applications for methamphetamine as a treatment for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and–more rarely–weight loss, meth is primarily created, sold and consumed in an illegal capacity.
Methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse. However, since it does carry a few medical applications, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has put meth under a Schedule II classification.
According to the DEA Drug Scheduling system, “Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.”
Schedule II drugs are controlled substances and illegal to obtain without a prescription.
How Meth Addiction Forms
Meth is a stimulant that “super-charges” specific areas of the brain by increasing the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Dopamine, specifically, is a strong driver in the development of an addiction.
This neurotransmitter is one of the primary chemicals responsible for “rewarding” the brain. Thus, an artificial release of dopamine encourages continued use of whatever caused the release in the first place.
The intense high that results from a surge in dopamine is what compels many to seek any means to take it again.
Even if a person begins to develop meth symptoms–like “meth face” or meth sores–the brain so strongly desires that dopamine rush that it prioritizes getting it more than health or hygiene.
Once an addiction to meth has set in, users start to develop certain physical features that progress in intensity over time. Some common physical meth symptoms include:
- Dilated pupils
- Sudden weight loss
- Skin sores
- Rapid eye movement
- Excessive sweating
- Tooth decay
- Itchy skin or rashes
The immune system takes a blow from the use of meth, and its weakened state means diseases are more likely to develop, especially those that affect the skin.
In addition to the symptoms above, there are some traits that are unique signs of meth use for those who are long-term users:
Meth Sores and Meth Face
The combination of tooth decay, facial sores, and skin damage is often labelled as “meth face.” The overall effect of dental deterioration and open wounds on the face also appears to advance aging to an unnatural degree.
Additionally, meth is water-soluble, so it can sweat out of a person’s pores, causing severe skin irritation. Meth sores often develop due to a combination of this skin irritation, lack of blood flow to the dermis to encourage healing, and poor hygiene leading to infection.
Meth mites are not a true living species of mite. They are, in fact, one of the signs of meth use that are both physical and psychological. Meth users often form continual hallucinations that bugs are crawling under their skin. This leads them to scratch the skin on the face and other parts of the body, forming open meth sores.
Short- and Long-Term Psychological Consequences of Smoking Meth
Though a meth high is extremely potent and considered desirable by consumers, the drug’s toll on the body before and after meth withdrawal is intense.
The use of meth can interfere with the brain’s regular process enough to cause permanent changes. Long-term meth use can lead to psychological trauma, which might include any or all of the following:
- Mood swings
- Violent actions
The impact of meth use lingers long after discontinued use.
Studies performed on individuals previously addicted to meth revealed that consuming this drug changes the way the brain’s pathways function.
The brain develops a chemical dependency on meth, which encourages an–not just continued, but–increasing appetite for more of the substance, often leading to meth overdose.
Injecting, inhaling, or smoking meth on a regular basis greatly increases the chances of an overdose.
Meth overdose can look similar to a meth high, but often has more intense symptoms and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Other overdose symptoms may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Intense stomach pain
- High body temperature
- Loss of consciousness
- Signs of a heart attack or stroke
How to Find Help If You See Signs of Meth Use In a Loved One
The psychological toll of smoking meth leads to a deterioration in relationships. If an individual is suffering from multiple psychotic symptoms at the same time, they are likely to become progressively more difficult to be around–let alone get help for.
The earlier signs of meth use can be detected, the better chance someone has to prevent further damage, overdose, or even death.