Crystal meth is short for crystal methamphetamine. It is just one form of the drug methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine is a white crystalline drug that people take by snorting it (inhaling through the nose), smoking it or injecting it with a needle. Some even take it orally, but all develop a strong desire to continue using it because the drug creates a false sense of happiness and well-being—a rush (strong feeling) of confidence, hyperactiveness and energy. One also experiences decreased appetite. These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours.
The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, methamphetamine begins to destroy the user’s life.
THE STAGES OF THE METH “EXPERIENCE”
1) The Rush—A rush is the initial response the abuser feels when smoking or injecting methamphetamine. During the rush, the abuser’s heartbeat races and metabolism,1 blood pressure and pulse soar. Unlike the rush associated with crack cocaine, which lasts for approximately two to five minutes, the methamphetamine rush can continue for up to thirty minutes.
2) The High—The rush is followed by a high, sometimes called “the shoulder.” During the high, the abuser often feels aggressively smarter and becomes argumentative, often interrupting other people and finishing their sentences. The delusional effects can result in a user becoming intensely focused on an insignificant item, such as repeatedly cleaning the same window for several hours. The high can last four to sixteen hours.
3) The Binge—A binge is uncontrolled use of a drug or alcohol. It refers to the abuser’s urge to maintain the high by smoking or injecting more methamphetamine. The binge can last three to fifteen days. During the binge, the abuser becomes hyperactive both mentally and physically. Each time the abuser smokes or injects more of the drug, he experiences another but smaller rush until, finally, there is no rush and no high.
4) Tweaking—A methamphetamine abuser is most dangerous when experiencing a phase of the addiction called “tweaking”—a condition reached at the end of a drug binge when methamphetamine no longer provides a rush or a high. Unable to relieve the horrible feelings of emptiness and craving, an abuser loses his sense of identity. Intense itching is common and a user can become convinced that bugs are crawling under his skin. Unable to sleep for days at a time, the abuser is often in a completely psychotic state and he exists in his own world, seeing and hearing things that no one else can perceive. His hallucinations are so vivid that they seem real and, disconnected from reality, he can become hostile and dangerous to himself and others. The potential for self-mutilation is high.
5) The Crash—To a binge abuser, the crash happens when the body shuts down, unable to cope with the drug effects overwhelming it; this results in a long period of sleep for the person. Even the meanest, most violent abuser becomes almost lifeless during the crash. The crash can last one to three days.
6) Meth Hangover—After the crash, the abuser returns in a deteriorated state, starved, dehydrated and utterly exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. This stage ordinarily lasts from two to fourteen days. This leads to enforced addiction, as the “solution” to these feelings is to take more meth.
7) Withdrawal—Often thirty to ninety days can pass after the last drug use before the abuser realizes that he is in withdrawal. First, he becomes depressed, loses his energy and the ability to experience pleasure. Then the craving for more methamphetamine hits, and the abuser often becomes suicidal. Since meth withdrawal is extremely painful and difficult, most abusers revert; thus, 93% of those in traditional treatment return to abusing methamphetamine.
HOW METHAMPHETAMINE AFFECTS PEOPLE’S LIVES
When people take methamphetamine, it takes over their lives in varying degrees. There are three categories of abuse.
LOW-INTENSITY METH ABUSE:
Low-intensity abusers swallow or snort methamphetamine. They want the extra stimulation methamphetamine provides so they can stay awake long enough to finish a task or a job, or they want the appetite-suppressant effect to lose weight. They are one step away from becoming “binge” (meaning uncontrolled use of a substance) abusers.
BINGE METH ABUSE:
Binge abusers smoke or inject methamphetamine with a needle. This allows them to receive a more intense dose of the drug and experience a stronger “rush” that is psychologically addictive. They are on the verge of moving into high-intensity abuse.
HIGH-INTENSITY METH ABUSE:
The high-intensity abusers are the addicts, often called “speed freaks.” Their whole existence focuses on preventing the crash, that painful letdown after the drug high. In order to achieve the desired “rush” from the drug, they must take more and more of it. But as with other drugs, each successive meth high is less than the one before, urging the meth addict into a dark and deadly spiral of addiction.
THE DEADLY EFFECTS OF METH
The short-term and long-term impact of the individual
When taken, meth and crystal meth create a false sense of well-being and energy, and so a person will tend to push his body faster and further than it is meant to go. Thus, drug users can experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drugs wear off.
Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability.
Other serious effects can include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia.1 In some cases, use can cause convulsions that lead to death.
In the long term, meth use can cause irreversible harm: increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat that can, in turn, cause cardiovascular2 collapse or death; and liver, kidney and lung damage.
Users may suffer brain damage, including memory loss and an increasing inability to grasp abstract thoughts. Those who recover are usually subject to memory gaps and extreme mood swings.
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature
- Dilation of pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
- Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability
- Panic and psychosis
- Convulsions, seizures and death from high doses
- Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks, strokes and death
- Liver, kidney and lung damage
- Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed
- Respiratory (breathing) problems if smoked
- Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected
- Malnutrition, weight loss
- Severe tooth decay
- Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
- Strong psychological dependence
- Damage to the brain similar to Alzheimer’s disease,3 stroke and epilepsy