methamphetamine Amphetamines, particularly methamphetamine hydrochloride, have become increasingly popular around the world in recent years and are currently among the world’s most widely abused drugs. By some estimates there are 30 million amphetamines users worldwide, compared to 13 million for cocaine and 8 million users of heroin. And, while cocaine and heroin use have declined, amphetamine use has increased.
Amphetamines effects, which can last from 2 to 14 hours, include appetite suppression, euphoria, sexual arousal, dry mouth, tremors, and insomnia. People who take them feel alert, energetic and talkative. When they come down they often are agitated and irritable. The drug is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.
Amphetamines can be taken at work or for fun. Those that take them at work do so to stay awake or to make boring jobs more tolerable. They are also popular with students cramming for exams; truck drivers who spend long periods of time on the road; and are sometimes prescribed by doctors for obesity treatment and attention-deficient disorder. Some say they lowers sexual inhibitions.
Amphetamines increase blood pressure and heart rate, constrict blood vessels, dilate breathing tubes and increase body temperature. They can strain the heart, cause irregular heartbeats and are particularly dangerous when used by people who are exercising. Several professional cyclist have died by pushing themselves too hard while on amphetamines.
Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) refers to a range of drugs including amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylendioxy-methylamphetamin (MDMA and ecstasy), fenethylline, ephedrine and prescribed drugs containing methylphenidate such as Ritalin. There are estimated to be 27 million amphetamines (methamphetamine and amphetamine) users globally. Global Seizures in 2019: 1) methamphetamine: 325 tons, + 43 percent:; 2) amphetamine: 79 tons, + 309 percent; 3) “ecstasy”: 16 tons, + 38 percent; 4) other ATS: 36 tons, + 82 percent; 5) all ATS: 456 tons; + 64 percent. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]
According to the UNODC: It is estimated that in 2019, 0.5 percent of the global population aged 15–64, or 27 million people, had used amphetamines in the past year. The highest estimated past-year prevalence of use of amphetamines worldwide was that for North America (2.3 percent), followed by Oceania (1.3 percent), mainly reflecting the situation in the subregion of Australia and New Zealand. In the remaining subregions for which data were available, the estimated annual prevalence of use of amphetamines in 2019 was either below or similar to the global average. The type and form of amphetamines used vary considerably among regions and subregions. In North America, the non-medical use of pharmaceutical stimulants and methamphetamine is the most prevalent; in East and Southeast Asia and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), use of crystalline methamphetamine predominates in many countries; and in Western and Central Europe and in the Near and Middle East, it is the use of amphetamine, which in the Middle East is mainly in the form of “captagon” tablets. In many countries in South and Central America, especially those that have reported recent survey data, the non-medical use of pharmaceutical stimulants is more common than the use of other amphetamines. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]
See Separate Articles: HISTORY OF AMPHETAMINES AND METHAMPHETAMINES factsanddetails.com ; METHAMPHETAMINE PRODUCTION AND TRAFFICKING factsanddetails.com ; METHAMPHETAMINES, MYANMAR AND SOUTHEAST ASIA factsanddetails.com ; AMPHETAMINES, OPIUM, ECSTACY, RAVES AND FULL MOON PARTIES IN THAILAND factsanddetails.com
Websites and Resources: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) justice.gov/dea/concern ; Vaults of Erowid erowid.org ; United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) unodc.org ; Wikipedia article on illegal drug trade Wikipedia ; Frank’s A-to-Z on Drugs talktofrank.com ; Streetdrugs.org streetdrugs.org ; Illegal Drugs, country by country listing, CIA cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook Books: “Buzzed” by Cynthia Kuhn Ph.D. Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D. of the Duke University Medical Center (Norton, 2003); “Consuming Habits: Drugs in Anthropology and History” by Goodman, Sharratt and Lovejoy; “Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times and Places” by Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter (Cambridge University Press).
methamphetamine Methamphetamine is part of the amphetamine family of stimulant drugs. Known as meth in the U.S. and yaba in Southeast Asia, it gives an intense high, followed by a severe comedown and is highly addictive. It makes users feel very up, exhilarated, alert and awake. It can also make you feel agitated, paranoid, confused and aggressive. Methamphetamine affects the central nervous system. It is chemically similar to amphetamine
Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. Methamphetamine is known as "speed," "crystal," "crystal meth," or "crank" in the United States and “shabu” , “kakuseizai” or “ hirropon” in Japan and Asia. "Ice" technically is a free-base form of the drug that can be smoked. Methamphetamines have also been called Tina and Nazi Crank (so named because Hitler was rumored to have injected it every day).
Among the risks associated with the drug are: 1) Increased heart rate and blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack; 2) evidence of brain damage with long-term use; and 3) severe psychoses. Overdoses can cause strokes, and lung, kidney and gastrointestinal damage. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria. However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the drug get into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. 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 misuse. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
Methamphetamine has been classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II stimulant, which makes it legally available only through a nonrefillable prescription. Medically it may be indicated for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term component of weight-loss treatments, but these uses are limited and it is rarely prescribed; also, the prescribed doses are far lower than those typically misused.40
Methamphetamine can be smoked, inhaled, swallowed or injected. It can come in the form of a pill, white powder or crystals. The preferred method of using the drug varies by geographical region and has changed over time. Smoking or injecting methamphetamine puts the drug very quickly into the bloodstream and brain, causing an immediate, intense "rush" and amplifying the drug’s addiction potential and adverse health consequences. The rush, or "flash," lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable, even orgasmic.
Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria — a high, but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within 3 to 5 minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes. Methamphetamine dissolves easily in water or alcohol. When it is injected the powder form is first dissolved in water or alcohol.
Users can be high for 12 to 24 hours at a time, and often feel they can handle anything and go long periods without sleep. Because the "high" from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a "binge and crash" pattern. As with many stimulants, the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine disappear even before the drug concentration in the blood falls significantly, users try to maintain the high by taking more of the drug. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a "run," giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.
Methamphetamines sell for about $75 to $100 a gram and the high usually lasts for about eight hours (compared to 10 minutes a for a crack hit). The high can be intense and exhilarating but it can also disrupt the brain’s production of dopamine. The amount of energy it gives users can be astonishing, Users sometimes go two weeks without sleeping. There are instances of users who have been shot several times by police yet continued advancing towards police.
In Asia, it has become increasingly popular to smoke methamphetamines sold in pill, powder or crystalline form. Describing what that is like, former heavy user Karl Taro Greenfeld wrote in Time, “I inhaled the smoke from smoothed-out tinfoil sheets folded in two, holding a lighter beneath the foil so that the shards of “shabu” liquified, turning a thick, pungent, milky vapor. The smoke tasted like a mixture of turpentine and model glue: to this day I can’t smell paint thinner without thinking of smoking speed.”
History of Amphetamines and Methamphetamines
Natural stimulants such as coca, caffeine and betel had been used for centuries. In 1892, Japanese scientists extracted ephedrine from mahuang, a Chinese drug long used as a pick-me-up and treatment for asthma and other breathing problems. In the 1920s, K.K. Chen of the Eli Lilly company identified the chemical composition of ephedrine. Ephedrine is difficult to extract and make. Scientists trying to make it in the laboratory invented amphetamines instead.
Methamphetamine was developed early in the 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Amphetamines in the form of Benzedrine were initially prescribed as decongestants but were also used as appetite suppressants. Users found that the drug also produced a pleasant, stimulating effect and kept them awake.
Scientists in Germany developed several kinds of amphetamines intended to help Nazi soldier fight longer. Amphetamines were issued to Japanese and British soldiers in World War II to keep them awake and alert when there were on missions or pulling night duty. The drugs continue to be used by soldiers today. Some of the friendly fire mistakes made by American pilots in Afghanistan were blamed on amphetamine use.
After World War II, there were huge stockpiles of amphetamines left over in Japan, and many of the drugs found their way onto Japanese streets. There was widespread abuses. Some abusers developed a form of madness called “amphetamine psychosis.” In the 1960s, portent speed could be purchased over the counter at Japanese pharmacies.
In the 1950s and 60s American housewives took amphetamines to lose weight. In the 1960s, hippies used it and called it speed. In Britain it was associated with youth movements, particularly with mods, who liked to mix amphetamines with barbiturates known as Purple Hearts.
A second wave of speed use occurred in 1980s when an inhaled form or methamphetamine called crank became poplar and a third wave occurred in the late 1990s when a smokable form (ice) caught the attention of drug users. In the United States, the drug was often manufactured and distributed by motorcycle gangs such as Hells Angels.
How Amphetamines Work
Unlike opiates which work mainly by stimulating pleasure-producing receptors, cocaine and amphetamines work by blocking receptors that tell the body to stop producing pleasure compounds and neurotransmitters like dopamine and adrenaline and the help them remains in the bloodstream to bring pleasure. Cocaine and amphetamines cause an abundance of dopamine to stay in the cleft between nerve cells, stimulating them.
Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical and neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. The methamphetamine molecule is structurally similar to amphetamine and to dopamine. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Amphetamines force dopamine out of vesicles, little sacs used by neurons to store dopamine. This increases the amount of dopamine in the blood makes it harder for the body to break it down, prolonging its effect. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.
Methamphetamine structural formulae Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include: 1) increased wakefulness and physical activity; 2) decreased appetite; 3) faster breathing; 4) rapid and/or irregular heartbeat; 5) increased blood pressure and body temperature.
Describing the affects of amphetamines, former heavy user Karl Taro Greenfeld wrote in Time, “When the brain is awash in dopamine, the whole cardiovascular system goes into sympathetic overdrive, increasing your heart rate, pulse, even your respiration. You become, after your first hit of speed, gloriously, brilliantly, vigorously awake. Your horizon of aspirations expands outward, just as your mind eye for capacity for taking effective action to your new, optimistic goals has also grown exponentially. Then, eventually, maybe in an hour, maybe in a day, maybe in a year, you run out of speed, and you crash.”
Methamphetamines Versus Cocaine
Methamphetamine is quite different from cocaine. Although these stimulants have similar behavioral and physiological effects, there are some major differences in the basic mechanisms of how they work. In contrast to cocaine, which is quickly removed from and almost completely metabolized in the body, methamphetamine has a much longer duration of action, and a larger percentage of the drug remains unchanged in the body. Methamphetamine therefore remains in the brain longer, which ultimately leads to prolonged stimulant effects. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
Although both methamphetamine and cocaine increase levels of dopamine, administration of methamphetamine in animal studies leads to much higher levels of dopamine, because nerve cells respond differently to the two drugs. Cocaine prolongs dopamine actions in the brain by blocking the re-absorption (re-uptake) of the neurotransmitter by signaling nerve cells. At low doses, methamphetamine also blocks the re-uptake of dopamine, but it also increases the release of dopamine, leading to much higher concentrations in the synapse (the gap between neurons), which can be toxic to nerve terminals.
Methamphetamine versus Cocaine
Stimulant — Stimulant and local anesthetic
Man-made — Plant-derived
Smoking produces a long-lasting high — Smoking produces a brief high
50 percent of the drug is removed from the body in 12 hours — 50 percent of the drug is removed from the body in 1 hour
Increases dopamine release and blocks dopamine re-uptake — Blocks dopamine re-uptake
Limited medical use for ADHD, narcolepsy, and weight loss — Limited medical use as a local anesthetic in some surgical procedures
Effects of Methamphetamines
methamphetamine Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant,, even in small doses, It can increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite. Methamphetamine can also cause a variety of cardiovascular problems, including rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and convulsions may occur with methamphetamine overdose, and if not treated immediately, can result in death. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
The exact mechanisms whereby drugs like methamphetamine produce euphoria (the pleasurable high) are still poorly understood. But along with euphoria, methamphetamine use releases very high levels of dopamine in the reward circuit, which "teaches" the brain to repeat the pleasurable activity of taking the drug. Dopamine is involved in motivation and motor function and its release in the reward circuit is a defining feature of addictive drugs. The elevated release of dopamine produced by methamphetamine is also thought to contribute to the drug's deleterious effects on nerve terminals in the brain.
Short-term effects of methamphetamines may include: 1) increased attention and decreased fatigue; 2) increased activity and wakefulness; 3) decreased appetite; 4) euphoria and rush; 5) increased respiration; 6) rapid/irregular heartbeat; and 7) hyperthermia
People who do a lot of meth sometimes stay up for four or five days straight; have open sores on their arms and hallucinations of transparent spiders; and are very thin. When they are high the often fidget uncontrollably; scratch themselves a lot; and do repetitive tasks over and over.
Since the crackdown on ephedrine-based cold remedies, the production of meth has changed, giving rise to newer chemical makeups like P2P meth. Replacing ephedrine, meth is now produced with chemicals like: acetone, cyanidelye, mercury, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitrostyerence and racing fuel.[Source: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, 2021]
According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Beyond just the ingredients, P2P meth also has a higher concentration of the isomer called d-methamphetamine. For reference, there are two forms of meth: d- and l-methamphetamine. Both are methamphetamines, obviously, but the two often come in different forms. The d-isomer is found in prescription drugs, whereas the l-isomer is found in over-the-counter products. And street drugs contain both, but generally contain more of the d-isomer because of its enhanced effects.
The d-isomer produces the high, and the l-isomer affects the body. So P2P, with its heavy concentrations of d-isomer, creates a different and very intense high for its users. Methamphetamine produced from ephedrine generally prompts those using it to stay up and socialize, sometimes for days, due to lower levels of the d-isomer. Whereas users of P2P meth experience very different effects, including severe mental illness, psychosis, the desire to isolate, and hallucinations or delusions.
Methamphetamine Overdoses and Deaths
In 2020, approximately 23,837 people died from an overdose involving psychostimulants with abuse potential other than cocaine (primarily methamphetamine). [Source: CDC WONDER Database]
Acute deaths caused solely by long term amphetamines use are very rare. Death is more likely to occur from the effects of a single dose. Lethal doses can cause seizures but more often they cause lethal cardiac effects and/or hypothermia. An overdose of methamphetamines occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.
In 2017, about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the methamphetamine category, and 50 percent of those deaths also involved an opioid, with half of those cases related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (CDC Wonder Multiple Causes of Death — see #42 on Meth RR.) It is important to note that cheap, dangerous synthetic opioids are sometimes added to street methamphetamine without the user knowing. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions, with the intent of: 1) restoring blood flow to the affected part of the brain (stroke); 2) restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack); 3) treating the organ problems
According to the UNODC: The spread of methamphetamine use within the United States to areas where the dangers related to the use of the substance have been less known, such as the north-east of the country, together with increases in purity and potency, appears to have further increased the risk of overdose and, ultimately, of death. The annual prevalence of methamphetamine use in the United States doubled, from 0.4 percent of the population aged 12 and above in 2010h to 0.8 percent in 2019,i while the number of deaths attributed to the use of psychostimulants (mostly methamphetamine) increased at a much faster pace (sixfold), from 1,214 to 7,525, over the same period. Including deaths attributed to the use of psychostimulants that also involved opioids such as fentanyls, the number of psychostimulant-related deaths increased even more (ninefold), from 1,854 to 16,167 deaths over the same period. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]
Long-Term Health Effects of Methamphetamines
Methamphetamine pills Long-term amphetamine use can cause psychosis, bursts of violence, numbness in the arms and legs, breathing problems, kidney problems, depression, and damage to the heart, brain, lungs and liver. Injecting amphetamines has a strong impact on the nerves. Excessive use can lead to large ulcers, which d not heal and result in high fatalities.
The negative consequences, of long-term methamphetamine use including: 1) extreme weight loss; 2) addiction; 3) severe dental problems; 4) intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; 5) anxiety; 6) changes in brain structure and function; 7) confusion; 8) memory loss; 9) sleeping problems; 10) paranoia — extreme and unreasonable distrust of others; and 11) hallucinations — sensations and images that seem real though they aren't
People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids that can remain on drug equipment. Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection. Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don't use the drug.1 Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.
In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain's dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory.2 This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems seen in those who use methamphetamine.
Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of time.3 A recent study even suggests that people who once used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.4
Problems with P2P Meth
According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Because the manufacturers of P2P meth often produce the drug in unhygienic environments and because the producers aren't professional chemists, the consumers often suffer from additional and significant side effects. Street manufacturers' main priority is making money, and they don't generally worry about delivering a quality product. [Source: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, 2021]
Put simply, this new type of meth is more dangerous, and users have an increased likelihood of developing severe mental illness and other adverse mental health effects. P2P meth tends to be laced with other drugs like fentanyl, and users who seek help for their addiction have reported a detox process of nearly six months. Additionally, a person who uses P2P meth will likely experience a rapid decline in physical health, including liver failure, after even short periods using the substance.
Symptoms and side effects of P2P meth are similar to those of ephedrine-based meth. Meth changes the physiological and psychological functioning of the body and brain. Meth abuse causes heightened blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Psychological signs that a person might be using meth include temporary euphoria and energy, and increased levels of anxiety, paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and mood disturbances when dopamine levels taper off after use.
According to data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 14.7 million people (5.4 percent of the population) have tried methamphetamine at least once. NSDUH also reports that almost 1.6 million people used methamphetamine in the year leading up to the survey, and it remains one of the most commonly misused stimulant drugs in the world. Methamphetamines is a major problem in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Thailand.
Among people aged 12 or older in the U.S. in 2020, 0.9 percent (or about 2.6 million people) reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months. In 2021, an estimated 0.2 percent of 8th graders, 0.2 percent of 10th graders, and 0.2 percent of 12th graders reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months.[Source: 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2021 Monitoring the Future Survey]
Before and after photographs of methamphetamine users can be quite striking. There are ones that show attractive young women turned into sour-faced hags in a couple of years. Years of hard core use speed up the aging process, turn the skin scabby, cause ths skin to recess, producing skeletal features, and rot the gums in what users call “meth mouth.” Many users constantly scratch themselves as toxins in their bodies seep through their skin.
One 36-year-old former methamphetamine user from Missouri told the Times of London that she first tried it when offered it by a female friend and became instantly hooked, “I felt good about me.” But it wasn’t long before the unpleasant side effects set in. “I was once awake for 16 days. I was in a zombied state doing things by instinct. There is a lot of sweating. I lost 60 pounds (27 kilograms) in a month, going from a size 14 to a 5. My eyes were sunk...I was skeletal. There was a time I picked myself so badly I looked like I had crusted mosquito bites all over my body. The stuff is trying to get outside of you. It’s toxic: it’s like drinking half a pint of battery acid.”
Brains of Methamphetamine Users
methamphetamine brain In a study published the Journal of Neuroscience, M.R.I. scans of the brains methamphetamine addicts who had abused the drug for more than a decade revealed that 8 to 11 percent of the crucial cells in their brain “were dead and gone.” The areas o the brain that suffered the greatest loss were ones associated with emotion and rewards (the limbic system) and memory (the hippocampus). The leader of the study, UCLA’s Dr. Paul Thompson, told the New York Times, the brains were “a forest fire of brain damage...We expected some brain changes but we didn’t expect so much tissue to be destroyed.”
Psychological tests taken by methamphetamine addicts revealed that the addicts were depressed, anxious, unable to concentrate and scored much worse than control subjects of the same age on memory tests. The addicts used an average of four grams of the drug a week and had been high at least 19 of the 30 days before the study began.
In a study on how drugs affect the mind certain illegal drugs were injected into spiders to see how their webs would turn out. When spiders was given "speed" their webs were tangled and irregular.
Devastation Caused by Methamphetamine
The misuse of methamphetamine remains an extremely serious problem in the United States. In some areas of the country, it poses an even greater threat than opioids, and it is the drug that most contributes to violent crime. The consequences of methamphetamine misuse are terrible for the individual — psychologically, medically, and socially (See Users and Effects Above) [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2019]
Beyond its devastating effects on individual health, methamphetamine misuse threatens whole communities, causing new waves of crime, unemployment, child neglect or abuse, and other social ills. A 2009 report from the RAND Corporation noted that methamphetamine misuse cost the nation approximately $23.4 billion in 2005.
Amphetamines are regarded as psychologically addictive not physically addictive like heroin. About 12 percent of meth users are considered dependent: (compared to more than 80 percent for nicotine). Among people aged 12 or older in the U.S. in 2020, an estimated 0.6 percent (or about 1.5 million people) had a methamphetamine use disorder in the past 12 months. Heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and nicotine are regarded as the five drugs hardest to give up. As of the late 2000s, 22 million Americans were hooked on at least one of these substances. [Source: 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health]
In contrast to opiates, cocaine withdrawal is much less dramatic, characterized by sleep disturbances and depression. Some researchers believe that no real withdrawal syndrome exists for cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, and hallucinogens, since withdrawal symptoms appeared to be psychological rather than physical. Even so, methamphetamines have been called the most addictive drug known. Jason Ashwood, head of the ACPO methamphetamine working group told the Times of London, “Not every meth user becomes addicted, but compared with cocaine, crack and heroin, meth is also associated with higher levels of addiction, antisocial behavior and crime rates. The addict’s brain were also 10 percent larger than normal as a result of the inflamation of nerve fibers connected to different parts of the brain. [Source: PBS, WGBH, Frontline 1998]
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms can include: 1) anxiety; 2) fatigue; 3) severe depression. psychosis; and 4) intense drug cravings A 36-year-old former methamphetamine user from Missouri told the Times of London, “The depression I have been through [since quitting] is quite unbelievable. It’s a horrible drug, but there are some times I wish I could do it. I loved the feeling. I’ve put on weight since I quit. I say there are three sides to me: before crystal meth, during it and after it. It ruined everything. It takes about a week to get it out of your system, but mentally it stays with you forever.”
Treating Methamphetamine Addiction
Methamphetamine addicts often take about four weeks to detox and often need anti-psychotic drugs. Addiction to the drug is often treated with behavioral therapies. The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies, such as: 1) cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations likely to trigger drug use; and 2) motivational incentives, which uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free
Research also continues toward development of new pharmacological and other treatments for methamphetamine use, including medications, vaccines, and noninvasive stimulation of the brain using magnetic fields. People can and do recover from methamphetamine addiction if they have ready access to effective treatments that address the multitude of medical and personal problems resulting from their long-term use of the drug. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]
Text Sources: 1) “Buzzed, the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” by Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center (W.W. Norton, New York, 2003); 2) National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 3) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and 4) National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, , Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.
Last updated April 2022