Methamphetamine (speed) is a highly addictive stimulant drug that has a long history of legal uses, even today. Its predecessor, amphetamine, was created back in the 1800s, but in the 1930s, Japan created a much stronger chemically-modified version called methamphetamine. Methamphetamine was prescribed in the U.S. for a variety of purposes until 1971, when the growing abuse of the drug made the U.S. government declare it illegal for most uses. Making the drug illegal didn’t lower the demand, so the illicit production of methamphetamine has grown into a billion dollar industry. It is now produced in various forms by users and dealers who can’t afford or don’t have access to more expensive stimulants like cocaine.
Methamphetamine is prescribed legally in small doses to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and depression, and to aid in weight loss. Non-prescription methamphetamine is known as a “synthetic” drug, as the chemical makeup is different from the regulated drug, though the effects are the same. The most commonly known version of synthetic methamphetamine is crystal meth, named for it’s resemblance to crystal or glass, though meth can also be found in powder and pill form. Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected, and induces a powerful and immediate high.
How Does Meth Work?
Your brain contains billions of neurons, all with their own specific jobs. They communicate with each other to create feelings, movement and every other function of your brain and body using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. One of these types of neurotransmitters is called dopamine, and it is responsible for activating the reward and pleasure reactions in your brain. Meth mimics the effects of dopamine being released in your brain, which is why it is so addicting.
When someone first takes meth, they feel like they have more energy, more alert, and experience a rush of euphoria. Those euphoric effects fade quickly, however, which makes the person want to use again and again so that they can continue feeling good. This search for pleasure not only causes addiction, but also causes a decrease in the natural dopamine produced by the body, so more and more of the drug is needed to replicate the effects of the initial high.
How is Meth Made?
Because meth is illegal, there are absolutely no regulations on how it is made or what it contains. Most people have heard of the regulations on over-the-counter cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, a vital ingredient in meth. But what makes the drug almost more dangerous than the addiction is the rest of the chemicals used in its production, including:
- Acetone – found in paint thinner and nail polish remover. Extremely flammable.
- Sodium Hydroxide – known more commonly as lye, it is corrosive and can cause burns to the skin and blindness.
- Sulfuric Acid – also corrosive, and is found in drain cleaner.
- Anhydrous Ammonia – can be found in fertilizer and some household cleaners. If mixed incorrectly with other chemicals, it creates a poisonous gas.
- Lithium – an ingredient in batteries that is highly explosive and reacts violently with water.
- Hydrochloric Acid – a chemical so corrosive that it can dissolve rust from metal and if left on the skin, will eat it away. It is used to make plastic.
- Red phosphorus – commonly found on the strike strip on matchboxes, but is also used in road flares and other explosives. Highly flammable.
- Toluene – so corrosive that it can dissolve rubber, and is an ingredient in brake fluid.
Any of these chemicals are extremely toxic on their own, but when combined together, create a drug that will irreparably destroy your body and brain.
What are the Signs of Meth Addiction?
When someone you love is abusing meth, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Stays awake for prolonged periods (insomnia)
- Acts anxious, nervous or jittery
- Loss of appetite
- Increased energy
- Significant weight loss in a short time
- Change in behavior (increased aggression, risk taking)
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
Because meth is highly addictive and causes poor judgment, it is possible to overdose. An overdose of meth can cause the body to overheat, resulting in convulsions, organ failure, heart attack and death.
Withdrawal from meth can be extremely difficult, with users experiencing intense drug cravings, fatigue, anxiety, severe depression and psychosis. Medically supervised detox is the safest way to begin the journey back from meth addiction, and at Sound Recovery Solutions we offer partial hospitalization treatment, intensive outpatient treatment and outpatient treatment and alumni services. We welcome both men and women experiencing all varieties of addictions and chemical dependencies in addition to secondary co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and trauma.