Once the drug of choice for the rural poor, methamphetamine has quickly reached across the divide and does not discriminate. People of all races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds are choosing to use this drug. Meth is easily sourced and has high rates of use throughout the Midwestern United States despite the potentially damaging effects of meth withdrawal.
In their 2018 Report, the US government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that nearly 2 million Americans over 12 years old had used meth in the previous 12 months. Methamphetamine use is most common in people aged 26 to 45 with the average meth user around 23 years old.
Today, we’ll be exploring the rigors of meth withdrawal. For someone to present withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamines, they must first be dependent on the drug. How does this happen, though? What is meth, and why are so many people choosing to use it?
What Is Meth?
In the late 19th century, amphetamines were made in Germany and they were useful for respiratory issues. In the early 20th century, Japan improved upon this compound and created methamphetamine.
During World War II, governments on both sides of the fight issued methamphetamine to their troops to keep their energy up and keep them awake.
Meth is a synthetic stimulant drug that is highly addictive. It is classified by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II Stimulant. Meth can be found in different forms, such as a powder or a pill; but can commonly be found looking like pieces of clear crystal or shiny rocks that are blue/white in color.
Meth is manufactured using ephedrine or pseudoephedrine that is found in over the counter cough medicines. Additional chemicals like sulfuric acid, anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorus, sodium metal, hydrochloric acid, toluene, mercury, and iodine are used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Meth labs are known to explode from the accumulation of hazardous vapors from all these toxic chemical compounds.
In 2005, in an effort to the manufacture and use of meth, the US Congress passed a law intended to highly regulate the sale of these ingredients. While this reduced the number of “meth labs” within the United States by nearly 80%, it pushed operations further south.
Now, most of the methamphetamine used in the United States is manufactured in Mexico. The powder or liquid form of the meth is then illegally trafficked across the US/Mexico border and is easily converted to crystal methamphetamine.
The Many Names Of Meth
As with almost all street drugs, methamphetamine can be found under many names. Some of the street names for meth are:
How Does Meth Work?
When methamphetamine hits the brain, it causes the brain to release dopamine and adrenaline in unnaturally high amounts. The combination of these two brain chemicals has a profound effect on the limbic system in the brain. This system is the one ties to emotion and memory. The brain loves the feeling it gets from the release of these chemicals – and it remembers the feeling vividly.
There are a few different ways that people can use methamphetamine. Methamphetamine can be injected, smoked, orally ingested, or snorted. Different people have varying preferences for using meth, and these variations seem to depend on geographical area.
To quickly feel the effects of meth, users choose to inject or smoke the drug. Using meth in this way gives an individual an almost immediate “rush”. This rush is said to be pleasurable though it lasts only a few moments. This intense feeling increases the potential for addiction.
When meth is snorted or taken orally, the user will experience a high in 3-20 minutes, depending on method of use. This way of taking the drug creates an almost euphoric high, but users won’t experience the “rush” felt with other methods.
As the methamphetamine courses through the user’s bloodstream, it brings great pleasure, increases confidence, and gives an extreme boost in energy. This “meth high” is short lived, however, as the effects wear off before the blood concentration of methamphetamine falls.
People who use meth tend to “chase” their high, continually using the methamphetamine while ignoring risk of psychological and social harm.
What Are Some Signs Of Meth Use?
Meth is highly addictive, but can you tell if someone you love is using this dangerous drug? Thankfully, the answer is yes, unfortunately, by the time a user is displaying signs and symptoms of meth use – they may already be addicted to the drug.
Be on the lookout for the following physical and psychological signs associated with the use of methamphetamines.
- Abnormal sleeping patterns
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme weight loss
- Dilated Pupils
- Erratic Eye Movement
- Rotten teeth
- Sores and burns on the skin
- High temperature
- Outbursts of violence
- Inability to retain information
- Rapid mood swings
- Behavior that is unpredictable
Other Things To Look For
When someone is using drugs, they tend to do it in secret. They think that they can hide it from family and friends, but they usually wind up creating friction in their relationships. All the time and effort the user gives to chasing their high makes them lose out on the things they used to do. Be sure to look for any major changes in behavior.
Perhaps your loved one has ditched their regular group of friends for a new crowd. While not always concerning, if you suspect drug use you should be on high alert.
Make sure you keep your eye peeled for drug paraphernalia, as well. Look for pipes and tubes that people use to snort and smoke their meth. Syringes and spoons could be signs that your loved one is “cooking” and injecting meth.
Regardless of form, methamphetamine tends to come in plastic baggies. If you notice that there are suddenly a lot of baggies around, you might want to ask some questions.
What Happens With Prolonged Meth Use?
Using methamphetamine can result in many side effects in the user. Effects can be felt after just one use, and of course there will be harmful effects experienced after years of use. Let’s look at some of these now.
Short Term Effects Of Meth Use
Many users seek out meth for the seemingly beneficial effects it can have, and sadly find themselves a slave to the drug once they are addicted. Some of the short term effects from the use of meth include:
- Euphoria and Rush
- Decreased appetite
- Higher attention span
- Feeling more awake
- Excessive body temperature
- Excessive sweating
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Long Term Effects Of Meth Use
Methamphetamine use over a long period of time will also result in many negative effects – some being permanent. Some of the long term effects from prolonged meth use include:
- Permanent changes in brain function
- Loss of motor skills
- Loss of memory
- Increase in violent behavior
- Disturbances in mood
- Participating in risky sexual behavior
- Increased risk of STDs and HIV
- “Meth mouth”
- Extreme weight loss
Research has shown that methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs that there is. More powerful than cocaine, addiction to meth is an extremely difficult one to break.
As discussed earlier, meth has a profound impact on the brain. The powerful high and feelings of euphoria draw users back over and over. After time, the user’s brain and body become exceedingly dependent on the methamphetamine, and the user becomes addicted.
Prolonged use of meth will destroy the brain’s dopamine receptors, making it almost impossible for the user to feel the high the meth is giving them.
Fortunately, addiction to methamphetamine is treatable – and it starts with quitting the drug.
When someone steps in and helps a meth user see that there is a problem, or when the meth user chooses to take a step toward recovery – progress can be made. This isn’t an easy process though.
Since methamphetamine doesn’t appear to last long in the bloodstream (with a half life of around 10 hours), withdrawal can happen quickly. When a meth user stops using the substance, they are likely to experience a range of symptoms.
Just as using meth can result in a myriad of physical and psychological symptoms, so can withdrawal. There are a range of symptoms to be expected when someone is withdrawing from methamphetamines. Some of the expected symptoms are listed here.
- Pain in the joints
- Skin that is clammy to the touch
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increase in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of energy
- Eyes that are bloodshot and itchy
- Poor concentration
- Intense cravings for meth
- Feelings of anger
- Meth psychosis
Duration And Severity
There is some debate as to how long meth withdrawal takes.
Some sources state the it is different for every individual user. There are variables such as addictive tendencies and duration of use to consider, so it stands to reason that the withdrawal timeline isn’t cookie-cutter.
However, other research has shown that withdrawal from meth is fairly consistent. Withdrawal begins within the first 24 hours after meth usage has ceased. Symptoms seem to peak between 7 & 10 days, and the average length of withdrawal tends to be around 20 days.
Severity of symptoms does differ, however. The longer a person has used methamphetamine, the more sever their withdrawal symptoms will be. Other determining factors include:
- Quality of meth being used
- Mental state before and during meth use
- Physical health before and during meth use
- Other drug use (including alcohol)
Let’s look now at the different things a user will go through while withdrawing from methamphetamines.
In the first couple of days without meth, the meth user will go through a crash.
During this period of time, as the meth fully wears off, the person will experience extreme lethargy and fatigue. They will also likely be ravenous, looking for anything and everything to eat.
This is due to the energy enhancing and appetite suppressing components of the meth wearing off.
As the user’s brain and body adjust to the lack of methamphetamine, they are likely to experience many psychological symptoms.
The user will be prone to paranoia and uneasiness, and they will still be extremely tired. Some users will experience depression or suicidal thoughts.
In a 2005 report from the health journal Addiction, researchers showed that many meth users will experience depression in their withdrawal period. This is most common within the first 10 days or withdrawal, but the depression generally subsides within the first two weeks.
Many methamphetamine users - especially those who used the drug for a long period of time – will find that they experience withdrawal symptoms for far longer and at a far higher rate than others.
When a user experience sub-acute withdrawal, their symptoms will persist for weeks after others have finished. Difficulties with sleep will persist, as will the excess hunger. Some people will experience heart problems, like a slow heart rate.
Though most of the physical symptoms will begin to wear off, some people will still experience intense cravings for meth.
After about a month, most of the withdrawal symptoms have subsided and the user is on their way to recovery. However, some people will experience lingering psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression. These may be permanent.
What To Do Next
It can be dangerous to detox from methamphetamine at home. Withdrawal symptoms can be painful, and without medical advice it can be impossible to handle them. Detoxing and withdrawing while under the care of a professional is much safer.
When you or a loved one are ready to get help for the situation you are in, we are here for you. Our services include medical detox, inpatient rehab, and outpatient programs that can help patients overcome meth withdrawal. Call us today to get started on your road to recovery.