After cannabis, amphetamines are the most widely used illegal drugs in the world, with about 14 to 57 million people using methamphetamine.
Based on the increasing number of drug busts for methamphetamine laboratories in the United States, it is clear that its use is on the rise. 45% percent of users are women, and according to the ongoing IDEAL (Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle) study examining the affects of meth use on child development, 6% of women used the drug while pregnant.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine (also known as meth, crystal, and ice) can be put in various forms (powder, crystal, or dissolved in ethanol) so that it can be ingested, smoked, snorted, or injected. It can be made from basic chemicals found in regular stores, but also requires the use of the somewhat restricted substance pseudoephedrine. Despite limitations on the access of this cold medicine, methamphetamine drug makers can still usually obtain it to make crystal meth.
How Does Meth Work?
This drug increases the extracellular concentration of the neurotransmitter ‘dopamine’ in reward regions of the brain, which leads to the feeling of a euphoric high. Although the rush experienced by the body is brief, the drug has a long half-life (10.7 hours) in the body, which is thought to contribute its ability to cause so much neurological damage. Methamphetamine can interact with other neurotransmitters, specifically norepinephrine and catecholamine, and this activity likely contributes to some of the neurological defects seen in regular crystal meth users.
How Can Methamphetamine Affect a Person’s Health?
Long-term meth users may experience symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances. They may also experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. The core temperature of a meth user may rise, which is thought to contribute to neurological damage.
Physical signs of use include extreme weight lost, dental problems, and skin sores. A person on methamphetamine may display violent behavior, feel paranoid, and/or hallucinate. Some people have also reported delusions, such as the feeling of insects crawling on the skin. Unfortunately, these symptoms can last for as long as a year after the user’s last use.