Crystal meth is an intensely addictive drug that has a stimulant effect on the user’s central nervous system. Created in underground labs across the country and around the world, its ingredients are easily found in most households and over-the-counter products, including pseudoephedrine found in cold medications, anhydrous ammonia found in agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant, and red phosphorus found in matches, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The ease with which crystal meth is produced makes it intensely difficult to control the production and distribution of the drug. For this reason, crystal meth addiction grew to epidemic proportions almost overnight, making it one of the most common drugs of choice cited by patients entering drug and alcohol treatment.
Because crystal meth addiction can take hold quickly, patients often degenerate at a horrifying pace while in the grip of the drug. Pictures that compare the physical state of patients before they started abusing crystal meth to three to six months after living with an active addiction show stark and shocking changes including intense weight loss, poor skin and reduced oral health. If crystal meth addiction is an issue for you or someone you care about, don’t allow another day to be stolen by the debilitating drug. Instead, contact us at Michael’s House to find out more about your options in treatment and the first steps that you need to take in order to get started on your own personal road to recovery. Call now.
What Is Crystal Meth?
Crystal meth is an illegal synthetic drug made in kitchens and garages across the country. Made out of common cleaning chemicals and other items from around the house, the drug is extremely dangerous. It comes in the form of a crystallized white or clear powder, and is commonly referred to as crystal, speed, crank, methamphetamine, ice, meth, glass and other slang terms. Addicts may snort it in lines like cocaine, smoke it, or dissolve it and inject it like heroin; the paraphernalia will vary depending upon the form of ingestion, according to the National Institutes of Health Medline Plus.
Crystal meth’s effects are long lasting and powerful. A single dose can remain in effect in the user’s system for up to 12 hours, though in most users, cravings kick in before that time, compelling the user to take more and more of the drug and stay up for days at a time.
Under the influence of crystal meth, users experience increased energy, higher metabolism and lower appetite, intensity of focus on detailed tasks, and euphoria during the initial stages of use. As the drug wears off, those feelings of good will turn into irritability, paranoia and depression. More powerful than amphetamines, methamphetamines are also more harmful to the central nervous system in the short and long term. For this reason, early treatment is even more important than with other drugs of addiction for an enduring recovery.
Signs of Addiction
The signs of crystal meth addiction are usually highly visible and apparent within weeks of regular abuse, even to an unobservant viewer. The most dramatic sign is extreme weight loss.
Crystal meth throws metabolism into overdrive and suppresses the user’s appetite. He or she can stay up for days on end without feeling hungry. As a result, the addict quickly loses muscle mass and weight, and is often dehydrated and malnourished. The skin shows the effects of a lack of vitamins and minerals quickly as well – most crystal meth addicts have slack skin with big circles under their eyes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, other common signs of crystal meth abuse include:
- Bruised or “picked” face with scabs
- Dried skin
- Compulsive itching of the scalp
- Rotting teeth
- Occasional violent outburst or bouts of anger
- A tendency to disassemble and reassemble or sort objects
- Large sores on the skin, most noticeably the arms
- Mouth sores
In addition to the huge physical changes, you may also notice that your loved one is not sleeping regularly, if at all, and that he or she seems to suffer from extreme mood swings and paranoia. In contrast, in between binges when the drug begins to wear off, your loved one will likely seem depressed and stay in bed for days at a time.
What Makes It So Dangerous?
Crystal meth is dangerous in ways that are different than many drugs of addiction. Though crystal meth addicts will share issues in common with others living with an active addiction (e.g., legal problems, financial problems, health issues and lowered immune system, stealing to support their habit, broken trust in family relationships, mood swings, cravings, etc.), there are some significant issues that are often specific to crystal meth addiction. Some of these include:
- Increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. According to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, those living with an active addiction to crystal meth are 76 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the rest of the population. Note: this does not apply to those who take stimulant medications at low doses for ADHD and other disorders but to those who take high amounts when abusing the drug.
- Dangers related to meth labs. Meth labs are everywhere; you can find them in urban apartments, suburban homes, rural buildings, abandoned buildings, motel rooms and cars. These labs endanger not only the people cooking meth inside them but neighbors, children at play, those who come to purchase the drug, and the environment, according to a recent public health report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Prolonged cravings. Crystal meth is unique in that users report having a relatively easy time avoiding the drug for six to nine months after rehab only to be hit hard with cravings unexpectedly. This makes long-term treatment a necessity and a strong support system crucial to avoid relapse.
- Suicide and suicide attempts. Depression is a significant issue among those “coming down” after a binge, and many report suicidal thoughts or attempts during the period after the drug wears off. Immediate treatment and 24-hour care are especially important to treat crystal meth addiction.
- Increased risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Crystal meth addicts have a higher chance of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C whether or not they inject the drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sharing contaminated needles is the primary cause but decreased inhibitions and poor judgment under the influence can lead people to decisions that ultimately result in their contraction of these viruses.
- Decreased sexual function. Though many patients report using crystal meth to enhance their sexual experience, long-term crystal meth abuse may actually decrease sexual function in men.
According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, a crystal meth overdose can come on suddenly or happen as a result of long-term abuse. Signs of an overdose include:
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- Difficulty breathing
- Intense stomach pain
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
NOTE: If you believe that you or someone else is experiencing a crystal meth overdose, call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. If someone is having a seizure, hold their head to stop them from hurting themselves inadvertently. Don’t try to stop their arms and legs from seizing, but do attempt to turn their head to the side in case they vomit.
When you call emergency medical assistance, you may be asked to provide certain information, like the victim’s age, weight, dose of drug taken, method of ingestion, and how long it has been since the last dose. At the emergency room, vital signs will be monitored, life-saving measures will be implemented as needed, and tests will be done to determine what further treatments are necessary.
Crystal Meth and the Gay Community
Crystal meth is a significant issue in the gay community and a staple at many clubs and parties. With lowered inhibitions brought about by the drug, increased energy, and amplified sexual desire, the drug can lead to a bigger risk for transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
According to Reuters Health, recent studies have shown that young gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk for contracting HIV when they abuse crystal meth because they are more likely to choose riskier sex practices. The study further revealed that about 43 percent of gay and bisexual men have reported using crystal meth and these men were more likely to report choosing behaviors that increased their risk for the contraction of HIV.
Moms, Pregnancy, and Crystal Meth Dependency
Prenatal exposure to crystal meth can mean serious consequences for the unborn baby and for the baby’s experience during their first weeks of life. Premature delivery, abnormalities in the heart and brain development and function, lower birth weight, and placental abruption may all be related to the mother’s abuse of crystal meth, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research is ongoing to determine how well children who test positive for crystal meth at birth will fare in physical development, emotional development, and behavior development over the course of the childhoods.
Another issue among mothers concerning crystal meth is the increasingly common problem of crystal meth abuse among suburban mothers. Overwhelmed with the responsibilities that come with caring for multiple children, volunteering at school, getting kids to extracurricular activities, maintaining the household and, in some cases, working outside of the home as well, many resort to abusing the stimulant drug in an effort to regain energy, slim down, and stay focused. Unfortunately, the result is children who are often neglected when the drugs wear off and mothers who experience mood swings, health problems, and addiction issues that are impossible to conquer without treatment.
Get Help for Meth Dependency at Michael’s House
It’s not always easy to admit that crystal meth addiction is an issue, nor is it easy to choose crystal meth rehab to deal with the issue. If you or someone you love is fighting abuse of the drug, assistance is available. Comprehensive medical and psychotherapeutic care as well as ongoing sober living and support are necessary to learn how to live without relapse.
At Michael’s House, we have multiple addiction treatment options including inpatient care, detox assistance, and sober living to help you or your loved one begin the healing process. For the strength and support needed to defeat crystal meth addiction, contact Michael’s House today at 877-345-8494.