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While it’s true that any drug can become deadly when abused, methamphetamine has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the most dangerous illicit drugs. Despite the warnings and severe risks associated with its use, the intense and long-lasting high keeps meth in great demand on the street.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is known by numerous names, including meth, chalk, ice and crystal. It increases the body’s metabolism and produces euphoria, heightens alertness and gives a sense of boosted energy. Meth is an odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

The drug was developed in 1893 from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Today it is primarily used as a recreational drug and less commonly as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity.

Methamphetamine is more potent than amphetamine, and it affects the brain more readily. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.

What Are the Symptoms of Meth Use?

Methamphetamine abuse has three general patterns: low intensity, binge and high intensity. Each of these patterns has similar signs, but as abuse intensity increases, more dramatic and severe symptoms will be present.

Typically, a low-intensity user is not psychologically addicted and takes the drug by swallowing or snorting it. Binge and high-intensity patterns involve much greater frequency of abuse and include psychological addiction, along with a preference to smoke or inject methamphetamine to achieve a faster and stronger high.

Meth has a long list of adverse effects and consequences, with the severity and danger rising exponentially with larger doses and increased frequency. Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • Irritability
  • Aggressive, violent behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Paranoia (delusions and psychosis)
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired speech
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Rotting teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acne, skin sores
  • Numbness

Because it is metabolized slowly in the body, the effects of a single dose of methamphetamine can last up to two days. Over time, the damage done to the body and brain accumulate, producing long-term and sometimes permanent adverse health effects, including:

  • Fatal kidney and lung disorders
  • Possible brain damage
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Behavior resembling paranoid schizophrenia
  • Malnutrition
  • Disturbance of personality development
  • Lowered resistance to illnesses
  • Liver damage
  • Stroke

How Prevalent is Meth in Texas?

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, meth is a significant drug threat to Texas. The predominant form of the drug is produced in Mexico, but the production of meth is increasing in Texas. The number of laboratories seized by law enforcement officials is also increasing.

Due to a readily available supply of high-purity, low-cost forms of the drug, law enforcement agencies throughout the state report high levels of abuse. Based on the responses to the National Drug Threat Survey, 47 percent of the law enforcement respondents rated meth abuse in their jurisdictions as high, and 30 precent reported medium levels of abuse.

In 2014, 6,219 Texans sought substance abuse treatment for methamphetamine and amphetamine addiction, up 590 from the previous year, according to the Treatment Episode Survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

What Are Treatment Options for Meth Addiction?

Although medications are helpful in treating some substance use disorders, there are currently no medications available that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prevent cravings for the drug. Therefore, the most effective treatments for meth addiction are various psychological behavioral therapies.

Cognitive behavioral treatment combines family education, individual counseling, 12-Step support, drug testing, and encouragement to engage in non-drug-related activities. This approach has been effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.

Other forms of therapy, such as contingency management interventions, provide motivational incentives to encourage those suffering from addiction to participate in treatment and maintain abstinence. Programs of this type have also reported effectiveness in treating methamphetamine addiction, according to the National Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network.

Recovery from any addiction requires hard work and diligence to maintain sobriety. However, due to its potent effects on mind and body, recovering from meth addiction requires even greater levels of commitment and discipline.

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